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Comment: Re:Movies (Score 1) 529 529

I agree with your basic premise, but many people DO take religion far more seriously, especially in an historical context. Think of StarTrek fans: swearing at someone in Klingon for insulting your favourite show is utterly benign (and amusing for all concerned) compared with the Spanish Inquisition. :-)

Comment: Re:Just bought a puppy (Score 1) 279 279

If there's a university veterinary clinic near you, go to them for answers. University clinics are normally a level above most practices in terms of their knowledge about latest research and methods.

Here in Australia, I know of vet practices which had a bad name (among vets, I mean!) because they were cutting corners and ultimately both doing and charging too little per client so that they could cram in more consults. This included things like not giving vets enough time to conduct proper physical exams of the patients, not wearing gloves during surgeries, and re-using syringes and other equipment that should be single-use. Consequently, the staff turn-over of these places was huge (they always had job ads for vets, that everyone knew to avoid). However, they were rated very highly by clients (or by The Internet, which is where I looked for that information) for seeming efficient and cheap.

In the case of one of these practices, minor complaints from employees stacked up enough over the years that the vet board stepped in and enforced proper procedures. However, it takes a lot of complaints before something like that will happen, and of course the vet industry is so small that nobody likes burning bridges with a former employer, even a dodgy one.

Comment: Re:Just bought a puppy (Score 1) 279 279

It somewhat depends on how nicely you'd like to treat your companion animals. Before modern medical care, average post-infant human lifespan was around 30 years (note: average, NOT maximum). I agree with your basic premise, but you could equally say that human medical care is also unnecessary, if you're willing to accept the decreased average lifespan, much greater susceptibility to infection and disease, etc. I do find it amazing that anything the medical establishment advocates actually works, but the figures speak for themselves.

Comment: Re:700+$ per year ? (Score 2) 279 279

The figures come from a "pet owners survey", run by an association of pet product manufacturers. They aren't actual veterinary industry figures and have nothing to do with professional veterinary bodies.

For reference, my wife is a vet (in Australia), and her practice charges $45 for a consult. Even including routine meds, a client would probably have to visit her four times per year to reach the "non surgical" amount quoted in that survey, which would be quite rare except perhaps for puppies and geriatrics.

Comment: Re:Just bought a puppy (Score 5, Insightful) 279 279

So wait, you're advocating going to people with even less knowledge than an average vet?

The main problem with your suggestion is that, in the early stages of virtually every disease, you and your farm supply store buddies will have no idea whether a condition is serious or not. In fact, in many cases, neither will a vet without the aid of special equipment or serial monitoring. Are your cats "goopy eyes" an infection or a corneal ulcer? Is your supply store dude just gonna whip out his ophthalmoscope and some staining compound to check that for you? What about lumps on your dog? Gonna change its diet, or actually get a biopsy done to check for cancer? How about grass seed injuries? You just gonna whip out a flick knife and cut that bastard out, or do you think your dog might want some pain killers with its skin incision? Etc, etc, etc.

On another topic, your advice won't work in countries like Australia or the UK, where antibiotics are unavailable without prescription (you know, because of this annoying thing called antibiotic resistance).

Comment: Par for the course... (Score 1) 279 279

I have a PhD from a veterinary school in Australia, but I've also worked extensively on research in humans, including work funded by a branch of the US military. My undergraduate degree was Mechanical Engineering; I work in biomechanics. My wife is a vet.

My response to this article is that this guy ought to do more digging in human medicine. He clearly cares about his dog, and that has prompted his discovery of just how little actual science is being done. Good start! However, the situation is not dramatically different in human medicine, especially in areas without major financial drivers. Sure, more papers are being published for humans, but the actual rate of progress and clinical evidence for many practices is roughly comparable. His observation that human medicine leads the veterinary world is entirely correct, but that's simply because more people are able to get funding for research in humans, which is reflective of the vastly larger human medical industry in comparison with the veterinary one. Welcome to the world of research!

Instead of complaining about vets, who are under-paid by the standards of other medical professionals (just Google the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, for example), the author should be advocating MORE money be spent on animal care, which would then increase the industrial incentives for research. As someone in the business of getting grants in the veterinary world, I can attest to the fact that there simply isn't money available to pay for most of what we would like to do. So sure, this is something to complain about, but complaining about the veterinary profession itself for the shortcoming, while simultaneously accusing them of disinterest or financial motives, is just plain stupid.

Comment: Re:What could possibly go wrong??? (Score 1) 518 518

I can't comment on the occurrence of backyard human surgery, but my wife is a veterinarian, and I can certainly attest to the fact that very minimal equipment is required for actual (and normally successful) surgery in someone's physical back yard...

Comment: Re:Boys and girls are different (Score 1) 489 489

The basic answer to this is that the observed innate statistical differences between (say) genders do not account for the observed outcomes in terms of things like employment rates.

There are reported differences between male and female capabilities and aptitudes. However, these differences are FAR too small (seriously, spend some time Googling them), and have far too great a spread to account for the observed differences in outcomes. Furthermore, as others have pointed out, the outcomes (employment rates, etc.) vary far more by country than the "intrinsic" gender differences, so even a cursory examination of the problem makes it ludicrous to claim that gender capabilities are driving the outcomes.

You bring up a valid point of course, but it really has been addressed.

Comment: Re:Privatise it (Score 1) 97 97

I hear calls for privatisation of organisations like NASA all the time, and I definitely understand (even support) the motivation for it. However, you need to understand the way these things work first, to understand the down-side of privatisation.

It's all about RISK. Many of the good programs that organisations like NASA are running are risky, in a financial sense. The idea of public funding in these cases (not the only reason for public funding, btw) is to spread the risk. When people claim that private industry can achieve the same things as NASA, they will often be wrong by default. This is because private industry will not accept the high risk of failure and conjectural returns of many blue-sky ideas, so they won't even consider investing in them. Industry is good at slow incremental progress (like iPhone 4 to iPhone 4s), but not so good at revolutionary progress. While many advances can be made incrementally, albeit more slowly, there are plenty of examples of non-incremental advances (like... the advent of microbiology, which wouldn't have followed in any incremental way from miasma theory without the input from optics).

So, you might ask: what are the benefits? I'm going to assume that you don't see scientific knowledge as an end in itself, and I assume that the one-off consumer products that we hear about don't excite you, so I'll restrict myself to a very specific, generic industrial method: Finite Element Analysis. FEA is something that was developed in universities alongside the earliest computers. Early FEA codes were specialised, sometimes buggy, and treated with scepticism by industry. Within NASA, these early codes began to be applied to certain problems, but NASA groups recognised the need for a more centralised, methodological approach. So, they threw some hard-earned-taxpayer-money at the problem (yes, YOUR money!) and NASTRAN was born: the first "industrial-strength", validated, quality FEA code set. Fast forward, and these days, FEA is considered both essential and central to a huge range of Engineering work: the design of everything from bridges to cars involves FEA in a key role. However, the vast majority of people who understand the history of FEA will acknowledge that we'd be far behind our current position without NASTRAN and the early NASA support. This is what public funding gets you: an acceptance of early risk and willingness to take on "blue sky" projects that may become central to industry within only a few decades. You just won't get that from private enterprise, even a "Kickstarter-driven" kind of private enterprise.

Comment: Re:Anti-science? See, now you have proof! (Score 5, Informative) 316 316

You really have no idea how 'publish or perish' is involved?

Here's a clue: when was the last time you delayed publication (of eminently publishable results) to run some extra tests, or perform alternative forms of verification? I've never had a supervisor allow such things in my entire career. It's always a case of publishing as soon as possible (i.e. as soon as a study has the remotest chance of getting past reviewers).

I tend to be very cautious in my approach to things, and I've often wanted to do additional verification work. Not to target a better journal or a second publication, but just for the sake of more solid conclusions. I'm never allowed to do this, and I even recognise that it's not part of my job to cause any problems over it, for the very economic reasons that you mention. This bothers me deeply, but it doesn't seem to bother the kind of people who care more about their careers than about the veracity of their results. I've even been told on a few occasions that my reticence to publish some of my own simulation work that "should already be out there" is bad for my career.

In my perception, those who are more career-driven have an advantage in gaming the system. They are rewarded for publishing multiple papers of shallow scope and relatively minor significance; spreading what should be presented once as thin as possible across multiple publications. We all know it's a game to be played; that those evaluating our early-career performance really have no clue whether a publication is important or not. By the time they find out, those who've gamed the system well will already have tenure.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.

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