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The Retarding of Science

by John G. Cramer

Alternate View Column AV-04
Keywords: humor satire retarding science AARSE Award
Published in the Mid-December-1984 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine;
This column was written and submitted 6/1/84 and is copyrighted © 1984, John G. Cramer. All rights reserved.
No part may be reproduced in any form without the explicit permission of the author.

    In 1961 the distinguished theoretical physicist Leo Szilard published a work of science fiction, The Voice of the Dolphins. A short story in this book, "The Mark Gable Foundation", described the creation of an endowed non-profit foundation for the specific purpose of slowing the pace of scientific progress. The originator of this plan was a physicist who had emerged from cold-sleep 200 years in the future to find that most of his training was obsolete and that science was progressing altogether "too fast as it is". He therefore enlisted the help of the world's wealthiest man in creating a non-profit organization to retard scientific progress.

    His method of achieving this worthwhile objective was to create for each major field of scientific investigation a panel of distinguished scientists which would meet monthly to award prizes and grants for the best recent scientific work. This technique, it was explained, would keep the best of the older scientists away from their laboratories and busy with unproductive meetings and travel, and would cause the younger scientists in need of funds to go for the "sure thing" which would be certain to lead to publishable results, thereby channeling research in the direction of the safe, the fashionable, and the obvious and away from more risky innovations and seeking for breakthroughs at the frontiers of knowledge.

    As a matter of fact, well before Szilard's book was published his scheme was embodied in legislation by the 81st U. S. Congress with the creation of the National Science Foundation, an organization which has ever since played a key role in retarding scientific progress in this country. In addition, other new federal entities have been created including NASA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Energy (DOE). These agencies have devised improvements and embellishments of the basic scheme which Szilard never dreamed of. They have achieved remarkable effectiveness in this forefront area of bureaucracy, consistently producing new and more cost-effective innovations in their important work of retarding the progress of science and technology. The U.S. Congress, not to be outdone, has also made significant contributions to this work.

    But despite these efforts by a large number of individuals and organizations it has become increasingly clear that more must be done. The dismaying upward spiral of scientific accomplishments and progress continues at an alarming rate. Scientific progress continues to crop up in unexpected and previously stagnant research areas. And it has become increasingly clear that an international effort is necessary. Other countries misguidedly expend a far larger fraction of their national wealth on science than does the USA. And faster international communication of scientific results means that the older techniques for retarding international scientific progress through secrecy, ignorance, and duplication of effort are no longer working.

    The time has come for a new initiative. I would like to announce the creation of a new scientific organization, the American Association for the Retardation of Science and Engineering (acronym: AARSE), dedicated to the retardation of scientific progress wherever it may occur, in whatever field, in whatever place. AARSE is created for the specific purpose of encouraging the retardation of scientific progress and of giving appropriate recognition to those who have done the most in the recent times to further this goal.

    Membership in AARSE is free and is open to all. AARSE members are self-electing. One has only to make a photocopy of the membership card below and fill in the details to become a card-carrying AARSE member. It is the prerogative of all card-carrying AARSE members to present the Gold-Plated AARSE Certificate of Meritorious Effort to any and all who are worthy of recognition for their work toward the goals of the organization. The Gold-Plated AARSE certificate is printed on the facing page, and may be photocopied and used for appropriate presentation by all card-carrying AARSE members.

    But in addition to these important contributions to the awards process through the initiative of individual members of AARSE, there must be overall recognition of special and significant accomplishments in the retardation of science and engineering. We will therefore use this Alternate View column for the presentation of the initial Gold-Plated AARSE Awards. It is hoped that this kind of national recognition will be effective in furthering the goals of the Association. These awards are expected to become an annual feature of this column.

    At the mention of the phrase "retardation of science", a single name comes immediately to mind: that of Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin. His inspiring work in retarding progress wherever it may occur through his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee is very widely known and appreciated. But to my knowledge he has never been properly rewarded for his work. Senator Proxmire has pioneered an entirely new technique of retarding scientific progress, the "Proxmire Cheapshot". This innovative method involves identifying some legitimate scientific research effort which has a slightly comical title (e.g., "The Sex Life of the Screw Worm Fly" or "A Search for Extraterresterial Intelligence"), and using the title to hold the project, its originators, and its funding agency up to ridicule, thereby completely disrupting the project and greatly advancing the cause of retarding scientific progress. He has applied this technique with remarkable effectiveness over a number of years, and even lawsuits from disgruntled victims have not deterred him from advancing our cause. It is therefore with profound emotion that I present to Senator William Proxmire the first Gold-Plated AARSE Award of 1984.

    The second award also concerns a new technique. The cuckoo bird is well known in the avian world for its behavioral maneuver of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds, with the result that its hatchlings push the weaker offspring of the parent hosts out of the nest. A brilliant adaptation of this technique has been devised by administrators of Columbia University and Catholic University (CU-CU) with the assistance of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm of Schlossberg-Cassidy & Associates. It has been executed with devastating effectiveness on the floor of the House by Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill. The "CU-CU Maneuver" which they have created deserves recognition as a new and powerful technique for retarding science.

    In this case, a $10 million "nest egg" starting construction of $34 million worth of new buildings on the CU-CU campuses was unexpectedly "laid" in the DOE budget, preempting money intended for the support of ongoing research in nuclear and particle physics (fields which are clearly progressing altogether too fast as it is). We of AARSE commend this diversion of resources from science into real estate, bricks, and mortar. We are pleased to present Gold-Plated AARSE Awards to the administrations of Columbia and Catholic Universities, to the lobbying firm of Schlossberg-Cassidy & Associates, and particularly to Tip O'Neill for outstanding service in the retardation of scientific progress. We note that other universities have been quick to adapt the CU-CU Maneuver to their own campus construction projects, promoting the retardation of scientific progress in a number of other key areas.

    Finally, we wish to honor those who have been able to substantially retard scientific progress by fuzzing out the distinction between science and non-science. There have been several notable efforts in this area. For example, there has been a particularly effective campaign to associate the word "research" with the act of looking up some bit of information in a book where it happens to be written down. Thus: "I will have to get back to you after I research that in the World Almanac." Equally important is the effort to apply, without regard to training or education, the term "engineer" to anyone who gets his hands dirty in his work. Thus the janitor becomes a "Building Maintenance Engineer" and the garbage man a "Solid Waste Engineer". But perhaps the most significant effort in this area goes to those who have been attacking the meaning of the word "science" itself by labeling certain fundamentalist Christian beliefs with the appellation "Creation Science". This brilliant application of the technique at a stroke confounds the distinction between science and religious dogma and brings scientific research into direct conflict with religion in a way which has been sadly absent since the times of Galileo and Darwin. For this outstanding achievement in the retardation of science we are pleased to present Gold-Plated AARSE Awards to the Institute for Creation Research of El Cajon, California, to the State Legislatures of Arkansas and Louisiana, and to clergymen, laymen, and laywomen everywhere who have contributed to this massive and effective effort.

    Due to the space restrictions of this column we are not able to give public recognition to the many other individuals who richly deserve to receive a Gold-Plated AARSE Award for their contributions. However, we are confident that the active members of our organization will be able to give recognition to most of these individuals on a personal basis in the coming year. And we will be able to make a whole new set of Gold-Plated AARSE presentations in 1985.


REFERENCES:

The Mark Gable Foundation:
Leo Szilard, in The Voice of the Dolphins, Simon and Schuster, New York (1961).

The CU-CU Maneuver:
Science, p. 1024, 3 June, 1983.


The 1984 Gold-Plated AARSE AWARD

Whereas,
Science, Engineering, and Technology are progressing altogether too rapidly as it is,
and

Whereas,
it is all a person can do to become accustomed to the present technological changes without having even more scientific progress to get used to,
and

Whereas,
it is high time that someone did something about it;

We of AARSE, the American Association for the Retardation of Science and Engineering are proud to present to:

 

______________________________________________________________________

the 1984 Gold-Plated AARSE Award for Meritorious Accomplishment, in recognition or outstanding achievement in the Retardation of Scientific and Technical progress through cumulative efforts to delay, divert, discredit, obstruct, impede, and/or interfere with the work of scientists and engineers everywhere.

Members of AARSE
December 31, 1984


SF Novels by John Cramer:  my two hard SF novels, Twistor and Einstein's Bridge, are newly released as eBooks by Book View Cafe and are available at : http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/?s=Cramer .

AV Columns Online: Electronic reprints of about 177 "The Alternate View" columns by John G. Cramer, previously published in Analog , are available online at: http://www.npl.washington.edu/av.


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