Attorneys invade science

 

Purple flowers at Temple Square
Irrelevant, but congruent with this post’s color scheme.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

I admire the legal profession.  I nearly decided to go to law school myself, and, even now, I occasionally experience wistful regrets that I didn’t.  The study of the law seems to me, at its best, a remarkable kind of training in logic, reasoning, the sifting of evidence, and precise expression.  And the practice of the law can occasionally even be noble.

 

Of course, I probably would have made relatively little money at it.  I would have ended up as an academic, in the environment that I find most congenial.

 

For all my admiration, though, I lament how litigious, how attorney-ridden and bureaucratic, American society has become.

 

And now that litigiousness is invading science, and it’s having a negative impact, not merely on scientific research but, in some areas, potentially on our health:

 

Why a Lot of Important Research Is Not Being Done: Lawsuits have an intimidating effect on an already difficult enterprise.”

 

And this, I think, is a genuinely repulsive case:

 

“Why are scientists filing lawsuits against their critics?  When fellow scientists critiqued Mark Jacobson, he took their dispute to court”

 

There are scientific ways of resolving disputes in science.

 

Years ago, Steve Young had earned a law degree and was still playing quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.  His center (whose name, alas, I’ve forgotten) was also a Latter-day Saint and a lawyer, and there was a joke going the rounds that the two Mormon attorneys were prepared to take the opposing defensive line to court if any of the other team’s players so much as laid a hand on them.

 

Nothing ever happened along those lines, of course.  Because there are ways of competition that are specific to football, too.

 

I know something about the costs of being taken to court.  Decades ago, an anti-Mormon preacher in California sued me for $4.5 million.  In the end, his case went nowhere — which was precisely where it deserved to go.  (Someday, I’ll tell the story in more detail.  But, of course, that very litigious fellow is still out there.)  But, in the meantime, it loomed over me, my wife, and my family, as well as several co-defendants (originally including someone named Gordon B. Hinckley) for a year or two.  It was absurd.  But far worse than merely absurd.  The complaint had absolutely no merit, but I learned that merit was irrelevant, at least at the beginning.  Just about anybody can sue just about anybody for just about anything — and can make the life of even an undeserving victim hell, subjecting him to the risk of economic ruin (and to the virtual certainty of heavy legal expenses).

 

***

 

But I don’t want you to wind up depressed, so here’s a video that one of my sons brought to my attention a couple of nights ago.  It’s a woman singing Mariah Carey’s hit song “Without You” in, umm, a different language.  Sort of:

 

 

No I can’t forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way
The story goes

You always smile but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes it shows
No I can’t forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrow
When I had you there
But then I let you go
And now it’s only fair
That I should let you know
What you should know
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore
Well I can’t forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that’s just the way
The story goes
You always smile but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes it shows
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore
Ohh uah… No, No, No…
I can’t live
If living is without you
I can’t give
I can’t give anymore
I can’t live

 

 

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