Tuesday, October 11, 2005

GETTING THE FACTS: IIPM AND THE EMBELLISHMENT OF THE TRUTH...

I am a scientist. In science, freedom of speech and constant inquiry is of paramount importance, the bedrock on which progress stands. At the dawn of the atomic age, the father of the atomic bomb had said:

"There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors."
J. Robert Oppenheimer


One of the great things about science is that it is the great equalizer. Unlike human affairs, in science, rank or title does not ultimately matter. What matters are the facts, the foolproof experiments, and only those theories that agree with experiment. If a theory does not agree with experiment, it’s wrong. Period. As Richard Feynman said, it does not matter who developed the theory, what his name is, or whether he is a Nobel Prize winner or not. What matters is only whether his idea is consistent with experiment. Sometimes, somebody may embellish data and try to get away with it, using the privileges of his rank. But sooner or later, the facts make themselves known, and he is exposed. Because of the almost perfect test of experiment, the truth can never remain hidden for long in science. That is why science constitutes the great sobering and moderating sphere of human activity. The agreement with experiment is what allows, enables, and indeed, forces, scientists to stay honest.

Unfortunately, in the field of human affairs, things are not so simple. Rank frequently correlates with erudition, irrespective of past and present achievements. In many cases, achievements themselves can be embellished. Knowledge is judged by age and the time spent on government committees. Fame and success are frequently engendered by clever advertising, smooth talk, and sophistry. It would seem that the arena of human affairs is much too fickle to weed out the charlatans from the genuine achievers. However it’s also not all that difficult. Even in the fluid world of human fame and folly, facts are still of paramount importance. Reality still counts for a lot, and those who embellish reality and are caught doing it, suddenly became pariahs and usually stay so. After that, no matter how much their patrons might try to glorify their status, the facts have spoken, and for most of us who know the truth when they see it, these quacks will always remain ignoble and fallen from our good books. In science, falsification of data is regarded as a scientific crime of the highest degree. The case of Jan Hendrik Schon is well known and documented. Schon, a top scientist at Bell Labs, and a contender for the Nobel Prize in the eyes of many, published almost a hundred spectacular papers in three years, in the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. The papers were supposed to advance the cutting edge field of organic electronics in a path-breaking manner. It was when a diligent researcher suspected that something was eerie about his results that Schon was exposed; apparently, he had reproduced almost the exact same graph in sixteen of his papers and claimed every time that the results were new. Schon was instantly suspended, his papers were withdrawn from the journals, and from what I read, his PhD. was actually revoked. He probably won’t find a respectable job anywhere in the world during his lifetime after this. I feel somewhat sorry for him, because by many accounts, he did have a great talent for research and would have had a promising career ahead. But such are the draconian consequences of disguising the facts in science- permanent expulsion from the community for life.

Such attitudes are not lost to the stage of human affairs. And that is why the name of IIPM (Indian Institute of Planning and Management) will always be looked down upon after the fracas in which they almost intentionally embroiled themselves. By now, the IIPM story is probably known to every blogger and his sister. But in a nutshell, it is becoming apparent that IIPM embellished facts about their institute, if not actually falsified them, in newspaper advertisements. Gaurav and Rashmi, among others, wrote posts on their blogs, trying to set the record straight and expose IIPM's exalted depictions of their faculty credentials and facilities, among other things. The interesting thing is not that IIPM embellished facts, but how they responded to these posts; by threats in the form of legal summons and vulgar comments, which reflects unprofessional behaviour at the very least. If the facts had been true, then just as in science, they would have calmly submitted proof of their and their staff’s credentials to those people who they thought defamed them. In fact, going a step further, they probably wouldn’t have even done that. If their credentials were really true, why would erstwhile sensible students trust the rants of some debunkers writing posts on blogs? Why would IIPM even bother to bring their detractors to task? Do, say the IIMs, routinely send out legal summons to people who criticize them or even brazenly vilify them on their blogs? IIPM could have sat back and relaxed because if the reputation of their institute were really as solid as they claimed, a few blogs could never have destroyed it. Even if they had decided to take note, they could easily have flicked their critics aside by supplying them with the correct data, if they were really concerned about their institute's status.
But the fact is that, they did not do any of this. It seems that they simply sent out dubious (and hilarious at the time at least) summons to Gaurav, and some affiliated with the institute proceeded to write obscenities on Rashmi’s blog, among others. Especially in human affairs, it is well known that rhetoric is always a stand-in for hard facts. Brazen polemic is always rigged at winning people’s hearts and minds, precisely because the facts are absent. If facts are present, there is little need for such rhetoric. The fact (and this one surely seems to be one) that students of IIPM had to resort to so much rhetoric, speaks volumes for their lack of objective evidence. It seems clear by now that the facts about the institute were clearly embellished. In fact, even by reading the credentials printed in the advertisements, any thinking layman would probably have suspected that their sales pitch was an exalted piece of advertising, perhaps based on fragmentary information, half truths, and dubious facts.

Unfortunately, the episode roped in quite a few ugly incidents, including Gaurav resigning from his post at IBM, because of the litigations and threats carried out by IIPM against IBM. Gaurav resigned completely of his own accord, in large part to protect his right to freedom of speech, so that he would never take the post off from his blog. IIPM may think that have scored a minor victory. But I believe that they have been caught flagrante delicto, in the act. The correct thing to say is that they have largely exposed themselves without anybody having done so, and probably underestimated the power of Internet age liberal freedom of speech. Ironically, even if they had simply kept quiet, I think the damage done to them would have been far less. But by speaking out in overtones which themselves are largely unoriginal and which clearly look like excuses, they have given themselves away. It’s a real pity for them. They made a big mistake in vehemently, and quite unintelligently, participating in the debate. By now, their act has been described and condemned on hundreds of web sites and blogs. Ironically, they themselves created a virus which spread through the ultra thin but immensely wide medium of the Internet, and finally through an entire landscape which today calls itself the ‘blogsphere’, before finally infecting their own being. Whatever they do, I think that their standing has been seriously and perhaps permanently damaged now, and thanks to the Internet, has been condemned the world over. I think this may be one of the future textbook examples of the libertarian nature of the Internet, and blogging in particular. This is a fine instance of how the body and soul of the blogsphere reacts as a whole against what it sees as a threat to its cardinal right to freedom of speech. We kept on reading for many years that 'The Internet has connected people as never before'. Nowhere is this illustrated in a more deep and subtle way, than in such an outpouring of opinion to support a common and basic human right. Because of the Internet, we may take heart that the future Jan Schons of society will be quickly and definitively exposed.

6 Comments:

Blogger Patrix said...

Ashutosh, can you spread this in LiveJournal too?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Hirak said...

Don't know whether to laugh or take the IIPM and their threats seriously.
This needs to get out as far as possible since it violates the freedom of speech.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Siddharth Rege said...

Hey ashutosh,
I don't know this Gaurav Sabnis chap (although I ahve been reading his bog of late) but the guy sure has guts and I hope all turns out well for him.
I wish he could now sue IIPM for slandering him and causing him and his employer this much incovenience.
Sid

7:50 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Patrix: Done

Hirak, Sid: They are going to land on their butt with a resounding thud. I am pretty sure they never expected such a big almost global reaction.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Hank Kroll said...

Thank God for the Internet.
Galaxies make suns in dust clouds and send them out to make the body of the galaxy. After our sun was born and the earth formed from dust around the sun a billion years of volcanism gave earth a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere of 750 pounds per square inch. {The December Astronomy magazine mentions that early Earth had an atmosphere of 1,450 pounds per square inch and one third of that was carbon dioxide. Now Co2 is only .0033 percent and the government is using this as an excuse to control us?}
Earth was about one-third smaller diameter at that time. After that, we (our sun) drifted out into the cold of space for a billion years and earth had an ice age that lasted one billion years. All the oceans were frozen. Our sun didn’t burn as hot as it does today.
After a billion years of being covered with ice, earth and our sun drifted between Procyon and Sirius A and B which are over a billion years older than our sun. These giant stars orbit each other and each have about 8 times more gravity than our sun. When little, Sirius B orbiting Sirius A every 54 years came around, it grabbed hold of our sun and pulled it into orbit around Sirius A because it has 1.5 to 10 times more gravity than our sun. This was fortunate for us because the light and heat from these giant stars melted the ice on earth and started plants to grow in the oceans thereby releasing free oxygen. Our brother and sister stars kept going and are now 75 to 100 light years ahead of us toward the north and are known as the Constellation Ursa Major (Big Dipper).
Our fortunate capture by the Sirius system happened about 700 million years ago and this was the beginning of all complex multi-cellular life forms on earth. During the Carboniferous Era Sirus B laid down limestone layers up to 12,500 feet thick. The continental United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Carolinas was laid down at time with limestone layers on average over 2,500 feet thick. [Look up Carboniferous Era in Encyclopedia Britannica.] Carbon removed from the atmosphere during that era was laid down in Pennsylvania and Virginia as coal layers up to a hundred feet thick. Coal is made from grass and trees and plants of all kinds. Anthracite or hard coal is compressed from plant matter at a ration of 40 to 1. Soft coal is compressed down at a ration of about 20 to 1. The point is, coal, oil, and limestone are made from carbon dioxide using photosynthesis and ultraviolet light from space and the majority of it came from Sirius B. Our sun does not have enough power to keep us out of the ice ages otherwise we wouldn’t have them! If you want to know more please read my book. Go to my web site www.alaskapublishing.com and download it for $4.
The point is Earth is loosing its atmosphere. We have a limited time on earth. During Biblical times the Oxygen was 35%. Reference books list it as 20% but it is down to about 18% yet we go on burning things? At the time of the dinosaurs the atmospheric pressure was around 30 pounds per square inch. Now it is down to 14.5 pounds per square inch. Before our sun was captured by the Sirius system earth had an atmosphere of 750 pounds per square inch. Over time and it was laid down as limestone, coal and oil using photosynthesis in the oceans and light from these stars. We have a limited time to get our act together and get off the planet so that we can seed life in other biosphere’s.
Earth has lost over 98% of its atmosphere and is still currently in an ice age.

11,713 years ago the Anunnaki brought the Moon into orbit around Earth by bouncing it off the Arctic Ocean killing off all the tribes, camels, horses and mastodons in North America. This was done to tilt Earth 23.5 degrees thereby doubling arable land and doubling the productivity of the oceans for larger human populations. This gives us a few more thousand years to become conscious.

This is the last gasp for any kind of intelligence on this planet. My 385-page book book is titled, Cosmological Ice Ages.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Henry Kroll said...

The CO2 in our atmosphere is only .033%. Sorry about the above typo. Earth has lost 98% of its atmosphere down to 14.5 PSI at sea level. If humans were to some how double the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere it would still be a trace gas at .066%. The Moon was borught in to increase volcanism and plant growt in the oceans to replenish the atmosphere. The more people know this the better.

12:06 PM  

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