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  • agericodevilla

Obedience At Some Cost

“Let me be imprudent,” has been said by a junior faculty member addressing Dr. Jose V. Abueva, then UP president. The occasion has been a meeting between the president and his executive committee, on one hand, and over 50 members of the Junior Faculty Caucus, on the other hand.

I recall now Pres. Abueva calmly replying and saying he welcomes and encourages all such imprudent responses from the junior faculty throughout his term as president.

Dr. Jose V. Abueva. Photo by Ramon F. Velasquez

Cut the story short, under his term, thanks to the imprudent responses of the junior faculty at large on many occasions, Pres. Abueva has left the university the following by the end of this term.

  • Walk-up housing and split-type housing units in three locations within the campus

  • Faculty Manual, published for the first time

  • Grievance committee, established for the first time

  • Junior faculty grants and fellowships in so many forms, formerly mostly available only to senior faculty

  • Day care facility

  • Committee representation of junior faculty in all policy making committees

Many of those who have attended that meeting have stayed on with the university and have now become accomplished senior faculty members themselves.

As Batangas Eastern Colleges open for this school year, I have attended briefings of both faculty members and students. Highlighted in all these briefings as a matter of practice is the value of obedience expected of all students.

As president of the school, I am having second thoughts about this emphasis by the school on obedience.

Easy to understand why administrators before my term have had such emphasis. No need to explain.

Let me explain myself, however, about my second thoughts regarding this kind of emphasis. My attitude here is something I have picked-up from exposure to Pres. Abueva and his executive committee. I have had many dealings with them as spokesman of the Junior Faculty Caucus.

99% of eukaryotes reproduce sexually. Reason is simple, “more information.” Male and female chromosomal information together mean more information.

More information means more possibilities of creativity in terms of adjustment to demands of entropy. More survival chances.

Reason why inbreeding is pernicious. Opposite of more information.

Communities of scientists, by virtue of being communities, have common values and aspirations embodied by their paradigms. Thus can be distinguished physicists from biologists. Thus can be distinguished Newtonian physicists from Eisteinian physicists. Thus can be distinguished main stream economists from political economists.

When communities of scientists end up in crisis this is how it happens.

Some anomaly is discovered. This puts doubt on the community’s paradigm — paradigm being in the form of some algorithm, model, or case study, among others. Using the paradigm, one predicts some outcome. Observation is made that contradicts the prediction. The usual reaction of the community is to doubt the anomaly itself. Happens when the community thinks that some human error somewhere has occurred causing perception of some anomaly.

The anomaly itself may persist. More members of the community observe the anomaly reported. Other forms of anomalies emerge.

At this point, realization of the shortcomings of the paradigm cannot be denied. Crisis begins.

During a crisis, alternative paradigms are proposed that can give more reliable predictions. The old paradigm and all the alternatives compete.

Incommensurability between proponents of competing paradigms, however, occurs. Music for some, noise for others. Empirical evidence, though still necessary, become insufficient arbiter between competitors.

At some point, the crisis ends, one way or the other. A new paradigm that explains the anomaly and promises better prediction comes about. This anomaly dominates the community and a new normal begins.

What is telling here is that what may be acceptable once in a community, may later be unacceptable to this same community. Reason why generalizations in science are never considered true, only useful for predicting. As time goes by, new discoveries are made, new instruments are invented, more data is at hand. New interpretations of old data become possible.

Generalizations is science are called theories precisely for this reason. They are expected to be revised or rejected in favor better theories. Never true.

Communities tend to take on some steady state, like all systems, happy with their equilibrium. This when everyone sees the same music, so to speak.

When everyone sees the same music, life of the community becomes vulnerable. Inbreeding is at hand. Creativity is stymied. Adaptation to the demands of entropy becomes difficult.

Not all communities survive. Phlogistic theorists of combustion are nowhere around. The same with caloric theorists of heat and temperature.

Too much belief, too much obedience, in some truth upheld within a community may tend to prevent recognition of anomalies beyond human error. Recognition of crises becomes difficult. Less chances of changes of paradigms, less chances of seeing the universe in new light.

More information is less possible. Not compatible with demands of entropy.

If I were to be scientific about how I go about managing our school, I need to temper emphasis on obedience. There.

Maraming salamat po, Dr. Jose V. Abueva.

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