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Friends and enemies of the truth Friends and enemies of the truth
by Joseph Gatt
2021-01-20 10:17:56
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A few words on the world of research.

Academic research is about observing phenomena and reporting the highlights of what we observed.

If we can't observe certain things, that is if some things are invisible, we observe what goes on in the periphery of the mystery that we are trying to solve, and use logic to derive what might be happening in the mystery area.

Academic research then is about individuals, and each individual will have their preference when it comes to observing and reporting what they observe. Some people can be obsessed with details, others can look at the big picture. Some can choose to report some facts and not others.

trueti0001_400Obviously, when you're writing an academic research paper and that you're reporting the highlights of an event, there will be omissions (deliberate or not) and there will be some facts vaguely reported when there really should have been more details.

So I'd say the friends of the truth are those who observe and who report what they see or what they observe. There are different methods of observing. You can observe with a microscope or a telescope, you can observe by living as a guest with a community, you can observe by being a participant, you can observe on a computer screen and comfy desk chair, or you can observe by asking different people to report the different pieces of the puzzle that they observed.

But then research is about individuals and can also be about trying to avoid offending other people.

In many countries, especially third-world countries, leaders tend to reinvent the facts about the past so much that it's impossible for historians or political scientists to get any work done.

Imagine a country where the leader claims that he has always been the party leader, when the archives clearly show that he was not even listed in the party directory. Write a paper on that and you could be in trouble with that leader's gang.

Now imagine that you work at a University, let's call it US and A University, and that the Dean of the University does not want you to contradict his research on molecular biology, otherwise you're getting fired. So you're going to have to change your research area to something else to avoid being in trouble.

But to me, the enemy of the truth is not teaching people how to observe, and how to be comfortable, relaxed, stress-free while observing.

I've met too many professors and graduate students who can't observe much of anything. And yet observation means looking at a phenomenon over a prolonged period of time while taking notes (or mental notes) and reporting the notes in a paper (or orally at a conference, or in a thesis or dissertation).

So you have professors who never observed anything for a prolonged period of time teaching students how to observe. That's kind of like a dialogue between a deaf man and a blind man.

Let's be brutally honest. There's an atmosphere of “pretending” to observe at universities, where professors claim to be researching (or observing) crystal ants in Irkutsk, Siberia, when all they're doing is playing video games, doing crossword puzzles, drinking copious amounts of liquor, or obsessively studying their female students' social media profiles trying to see where the female students' weakness lies and how they can exploit them sexually.

Some serious prolonged observing needs to start taking place at universities.

Now why do research?

There could be urgent needs and there could be future needs. Maybe someone at the State Department is looking for information on family culture in Myanmar, and you're the guy who writes papers about family culture in Myanmar. If your papers are well-written, soon enough, all those diplomats with some kind of involvement with Myanmar will be reading your papers.

Maybe someone at Dunlop tires is looking for papers on all chemical reactions involving rubber, and you're the guy who does all the experiments and writes all the papers about chemical reactions and rubber.

You get the idea.

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