ALL BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS COPYRIGHT (C) 2003-2014 VOX DAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Scientists are stupidshort-sighted

And biologists are the dumbest of the lot.  Seriously, given their constant yammering about how America so desperately needs "moar science edification", it is abundantly clear that the sort of individuals who go into the life sciences don't even understand the most simple basics of supply and demand.  Keep that in mind the next time you're hearing someone wax eloquent about the supposed brilliance of Richard Dawkins or, for crying out loud, the Fowl Atheist, PZ Myers:
How seriously can you possibly take people who are dumb enough to spend more than seven years and go into serious student loan debt in order to have a less than one in five chance at getting a job doing what they've studied for?  And since the chart goes back to 1991, these scientific geniuses don't even have the excuse of claiming that they had no way of knowing that there was no significant employment demand for their highly educated services.

If you ever wondered why the Pharyngulans seemed unusually bitter for a blog readership, even a heavily atheist one, the chart above explains why.  They put their faith in an education god, who proved to be a false and unreliable idol.

The fact of the matter is that America needs LESS science education.  I've pointed out that it is ridiculous to teach evolution to kids who can't read and write properly, but it is even more absurd to give out PhDs to people who, despite nearly 20 years of formal schooling, remain entirely innocent of the concepts of supply and demand.

Labels: ,

59 Comments:

Anonymous The other skeptic February 24, 2013 1:03 PM  

OT: Interesting media report of "racist" bullying

Anonymous Outlaw X February 24, 2013 1:11 PM  

put their faith in an education god, who proved to be a false and unreliable idol.

Love it especially during this season of Lent. Going to forward it to my Bro who understands the value of labor.

Blogger mmaier2112 February 24, 2013 1:28 PM  

BUT THEY CAN ALWAYS TEACH!!!!

......

Anonymous Stickwick February 24, 2013 1:40 PM  

How seriously can you possibly take people who are dumb enough to spend more than seven years and go into serious student loan debt in order to have a less than one in five chance at getting a job doing what they've studied for?

One point of clarification. In the natural sciences (and engineering), just about every doctoral candidate gets tuition waivers, a stipend for research assistantship or teaching, and full benefits. If you're careful with your money, you can come out of graduate school debt-free or even a little bit ahead. This is certainly one factor contributing to the glut of PhDs. Makes it a lot more enticing to go to grad school in the first place, plus the salary and benefits for all those years of study makes the whole endeavor seem a lot more promising than it actually is.

Anonymous DanG February 24, 2013 1:41 PM  

It's not so much ignorance of supply and demand as it is delusion: "I'll be one of the few who beats the odds".

You also must realize that economic issues are low on the priorities of the idealistic young scientist. Grad students and post-docs generally love what they are doing. There is hardly anything more fun than going to the lab and doing experiments. People don't get biology PhD's because they think it will lead to a good paying job. They do it because that is what that they like, and then hope it will work out.

Anonymous Matt February 24, 2013 1:49 PM  

The fact of the matter is that America needs LESS science education.

I would correct this to "needs fewer science degrees". It's not as though our country is saturated with people who have a good understanding of how nature works.

Anonymous AG February 24, 2013 2:25 PM  

[b]One point of clarification. In the natural sciences (and engineering), just about every doctoral candidate gets tuition waivers, a stipend for research assistantship or teaching, and full benefits. If you're careful with your money, you can come out of graduate school debt-free or even a little bit ahead. This is certainly one factor contributing to the glut of PhDs. Makes it a lot more enticing to go to grad school in the first place, plus the salary and benefits for all those years of study makes the whole endeavor seem a lot more promising than it actually is. [/b]

Depending on the school, PhDs in the sciences can get paid 30k - 40k / year to go to school. Even if the employment prospects are not amazing, these people are still better off than most people graduating college these days. In fact, the compensation is probably the main reason why the chart looks so abysmal.

Anonymous Will Best February 24, 2013 2:33 PM  

Funding the next new thing requires so much money that there are very few places for these PhD's to go to be genuinely productive. And it doesn't help that industry, pensions, and individual savers have some $8 trillion in idle capital because the markets stop making sense when the Fed started its QE policies.

I will second Stickwick. Worst case scenario is these PhD students just wasted a bunch of time. Bad that individual level I suppose, but we currently have too much human labor.

ZIRP has nicely caused retirees to get back into the labor force on a part time basis to supplement the income their savings were supposed to provide. And on the other end fewer children means more available workers in the 25-35 crowd.

Anonymous Steveo February 24, 2013 2:56 PM  

Maybe the life sciences doctors aren't diverse enough.

Blogger kurt9 February 24, 2013 3:02 PM  

The employment situation would be even worse without government funding of science and technology. The problem is that much of the government funded science and technology has led to very little real technological innovation, aside from the Manhattan Project.

NASA has not developed any technology useful for commercial space development, let alone that necessary for building O'neill's space colonies. The ITER tokamak fusion program has not resulted in commercial fusion power and has no prospect of doing so, despite the billions of dollars poured into it. Most government-funded medical research is completely worthless.

I think much of government-funded science is little more than public works programs for PhD's.

Blogger kurt9 February 24, 2013 3:04 PM  

P.S. You need to take a cue from "Godless" and start calling PZ Myers PC Myers.

Blogger Michael February 24, 2013 3:10 PM  

When I was in college, I started out as a biology major with an interest in genetics. I was hoping to go to Medical School. However, my advisor told me that with a B average (hey I worked about 50 hours a week at UPS) that I wouldn't get into med school. However, if I were special, I had a good chance. He said that unless I wanted to spend my life in a lab somewhere, I should find something else to do. At that time, biologist made about $5,000 per year, and accountants made about $11,000. Now I knew enough about "game" that I knew what I had to do. I canned the biology and moved over into business. It was a very wise move. I cannot thank my advisor enough. I have been told that today, I wouldn't get the same advice, they would want me to go on. So, I would be in the world, struggling. And for what it's worth, the ratio remains about the same. I know a PhD in Biology that is tenured who makes about $60,000 and I make, well, more. School is for learning a trade. Do something that makes you a living. My father in law once told me, when I was in school, find out what the average person makes in a profession, then determine if you can live on that. You can get the info from the bureau of labor statistics ---. More money, more honey.

Blogger IM2L844 February 24, 2013 3:16 PM  

I have to admit that I've never used my geology degree for anything other than occasionally looking over well logs, free of charge, for friends of mine, my rock collecting hobby, being able to answer a few usless triva questions and impressing girls by pointing out things like "That isn't marble. It's fossiliferous limestone. See that little half moon looking thing? That's part of a shell. Now, if you'll lean forward and skooch back just a little bit..." The latter turned out to be more of a pay off than you might think.

Honestly, in hindsight, highschool level trigonometry and accounting would have been completly sufficient for my eventual entrepreneurial endeavors. In the grand scheme of things, it was networking that was the most useful bit.

Anonymous 691 February 24, 2013 3:57 PM  

Your analysis of the career decision to pursue a PhD and research position is somewhat flawed. It's better to consider the expected value of this decision, to which supply and demand contribute, than S/D on its own. Attempting to get a professorship is a risk, not a transaction, and so you have to weigh the benefits of achieving that goal with the costs of failing, factoring in the probability of each.

And to accurately evaluate the expected value, you can't simply look at dollars earned over a career. You need to consider your personal sense of utility. If that is measured in dollars, then run the numbers and choose accordingly. But for many people, the value of the position is the sinecure of a stable position, with moderate but above average pay, some social status and intellectual autonomy (plus maybe access to 18-25 year old women).

The potential costs have been well-covered here and elsewhere: debt, the opportunity cost of lost wages and experience, permanent adjunction.

The recent trends, however, suggest that the benefits are declining while the downsides are more grave, along with the chance of success decreasing.

I made the decision to pursue a Phd after sitting down and evaluating whether it was worth the risk. I had some advantages, including no debt and rich parents, a generous fellowship, and concluded it was. I continued to evaluate whether each successive year was worth the risk, being committed to leaving ASAP if it wasn't, damn the sunk costs. Thankfully, each of these mini-risks generally paid off. But I have friends who haven't been so lucky; some are prepared to move on and some aren't.

Anonymous Ain February 24, 2013 4:21 PM  

Matt: "I would correct this to "needs fewer science degrees". It's not as though our country is saturated with people who have a good understanding of how nature works."

It's also amazing how few Americans can do very basic math.

Anonymous Andy February 24, 2013 4:30 PM  

I like your commentary because you do tend to put your finger on those cracks in the atheist world.

If they were so clever why are they unemployed(able?)?

Of course deep down they know they are useless and not needed and it grates so much. PZ even knows he is a looser in life, a waste of space, a parasite, hence the obnoxiousness.

Fuck em.

Anonymous cheddarman February 24, 2013 4:42 PM  

Try explaining this to women going into science, and the rationalization Hamster will just go in to over drive...I know, I've tried.

Sincerely

cheddarman

Anonymous MendoScot February 24, 2013 4:53 PM  

Did you see Megan McArdle's article on PhD's in the social sciences? The bottom line is the same - a doctorate is a professional qualification for academia, and by the time you get there, it is very likely that you are incapable of anything else.

I'm proud that my graduate student got a job in industry and is now earning more than I am.

Anonymous MendoScot February 24, 2013 5:00 PM  

Correct link.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza February 24, 2013 5:02 PM  

None and nothing. Scientists are not taken seriously b/c they give into absurd theories without a understanding of the applications/consequences of their 'work', many of them left rational thought for a social agenda.

The outcome of all those pointless busy work papers and the trendy schooly schools equate to a strong possibility of longterm unemployment.

Anonymous DrTorch February 24, 2013 5:04 PM  

In all fairness to Dawkins and Myers...they graduated years ago when the market was much different. Furthermore, they have jobs, so they're not the stupid ones.

However, listening to them does take some suspension of belief.

As Stickwick said most grad students get stipends and don't go further into debt. I did interview one student (chemistry) who didn't. She was waiting tables trying to pay off tuition to her private college. Wow. That was reason enough for me to be skeptical about hiring her.

Anonymous Lulabelle February 24, 2013 5:13 PM  

Need "rabbitology" tag under the topics section on the left. I had to click "McRapey" then find a "rabbitology" tag on one of those posts.
Sorry for the OT.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 24, 2013 5:14 PM  

When I was ten, I wanted to be an oceanographer like Jacques Cousteau. I'd have my own ship, seaplane, and cool submarine, it would be awesome.

Then I grew up.

Well, mostly.

Blogger Doom February 24, 2013 5:33 PM  

I have to read here. Just to understand that the visions in my head have some basis in fact. Actually, what you present is far nicer, cleaner, and friendlier. Or, at least, you don't get into the nitty gritty that most people will be left with, or what that will truly do to those who are optimistic based on the lies they have eaten like candy. Thankfully, most are too weak from merely trying to fit into an egalitarian world to be much of an individual threat. But there are going to be a LOT of them. Day of the Living Dead lot of them.

Blogger JACIII February 24, 2013 5:52 PM  

...people who, despite nearly 20 years of formal schooling, remain entirely innocent of the concepts of supply and demand.

"Innocence" is gilding the lily a bit in academe's favor. It is not as if they can credibly claim to have never encountered the concept. What they are is rock stupid.

Anonymous JI February 24, 2013 6:16 PM  

What is the employment rate for those who have done a postdoc or two? Maybe they do pretty well, the chart doesn't say.

Also, my experience back in grad school was that those who were majoring in the "fun" sciences like marine biology, astronomy, and so forth, tended to be brats who had rich parents to fall back upon if things ever went south. So for them, employment is not really an issue.

Anonymous MendoScot February 24, 2013 6:56 PM  

...people who, despite nearly 20 years of formal schooling, remain entirely innocent of the concepts of supply and demand.

"Innocence" is gilding the lily a bit in academe's favor. It is not as if they can credibly claim to have never encountered the concept. What they are is rock stupid.


No, it's not gilding the lily. There are many concepts that you will never find in academe, or only presented in a manner that assumes the outcome. As a lifelong academic with a great deal of experience outside, I still had to lose my life's savings before I gave any attentions to economics.

Anonymous Noah B. February 24, 2013 7:44 PM  

I would guess that main problem here is simply denial rather than lack of understanding of supply and demand. These students see all of their peers doing something they rationally know to be stupid, so they tell themselves that everything will work out somehow.

Anonymous Jimmy February 24, 2013 8:42 PM  

PhD's are an academic track, not an employment track. Getting 1 in 5 jobs should be considered the norm. No one really is employed much for what they go to school. It is always a stepping stone to something else. Nonetheless, I always thought most degrees are the minimum qualification for education and employment. Nothing more.

Anonymous Edjamacator February 24, 2013 8:49 PM  

it is even more absurd to give out PhDs to people who, despite nearly 20 years of formal schooling, remain entirely innocent of the concepts of supply and demand.

"your rong!11!!!!!11!1"

- Peer reviewed science journal

Anonymous Azimus February 24, 2013 9:00 PM  

If the theory is "too many scientists", it would be far better not to display data in per cent but stick with the raw count. I understand The Atlantic made the chart. Using % is an un-necessary watering down of the data that implies there's something they're not saying.

Anonymous Unending Improvement February 24, 2013 9:06 PM  

Dawkins was also a brilliant evolutionary biologist who realized there was more value in writing about science than actually conducting it, so he was able to leverage that. Most PhD's simply do not have that gift.

Anonymous clk February 24, 2013 9:16 PM  

Come on Theo ... economics and eastern studies ... and now you write fantasy books.

How much less would the world be if all decisions were made solely on a profit and loss.

Anonymous Faust February 24, 2013 9:21 PM  

clk-

Sure, but Vox isn't 50,000$ in debt and waiting tables.

Anonymous CLK February 24, 2013 9:24 PM  

and its not like there a bands of marauding life science Phds running around burning the crops.. they all get jobs and companies are glad to have them...

I once went to talk at a local college to a group of graduate students (physics) who were complaining about the lack of university jobs -- I told them to stop whining and remember that they represent the smartest people on the planet and are qualified for many more things than just teaching at university.. there are all sorts of other things that they can do and have a great career and life...



Anonymous CLK February 24, 2013 9:42 PM  

"Sure, but Vox isn't 50,000$ in debt and waiting tables"

I cant speak for VD's current economic status but its self evident to be able survive as a writer he must have other sources of income ... he does not like to talk about his private life here (and rightfully so) but I think we can agree that he had benefits growing up most people didn't and that allows a whole different supply and demand analysis for his life.


Anonymous cannibal_animal February 24, 2013 10:26 PM  

Just remember, as bad as it is for life science PhDs, it's FAR worse for people with degrees in the humanities. Most of them are slaving away in one adjunct professorship after the next, holding on for dear life and being paid approximately minimum wage. In the unlikely event that they manage to get a decent tenure-track position (and remember, in academia you go down or sideways in the prestige ladder, very rarely up), all joy for their field has been ground out by years of dealing with crappy, apathetic students at second-rate universities.

They're not stupid people in a lot of cases, but they were too innocent and trusting in the lie that more education would bring a good life. The glamorous idea they have of professorship that involves them spending a lot of time on the pretty campus teaching bright young scholars and reading old books in pursuit of additional literary nuance simply is not the reality. It's like basing your desire to go into law school on the lives on TV lawyers. The truly successful lawyers in New York work for BigLaw, which is mostly just another arm of the financial services industry, and they work 80+-hour weeks and mostly hate their lives.

The ONLY PhD program that looks like it's a good gig right now (and it probably won't be forever) is accounting. Why? Schools need a certain number of PhDs on hand for accreditation and the accounting majors who are rocking GMATs north of 700 mostly want to transition into the elite MBA programs or try to ride the Big Four train to partner, where they'll be making $500k/year or more. However, the fun side effect of this shortage of accounting PhDs is that the ones who do have that credential are fought over viciously by universities, who will try to woo new professors with awesome benefits, fairly low workloads, and salaries that are in excess of $170k a year. Not a bad gig at all if you're into having a high-prestige, high-pay, low-stress position and having enough time to watch your kids grow up.

Anonymous Outlaw X February 24, 2013 10:27 PM  

but I think we can agree that he had benefits growing up most people didn't and that allows a whole different supply and demand analysis for his life.


I don't think we can, ya see I was born into a farm family and worked my ass off for everything I have. I moved time and time again. My Brother called me Nomad. It is not what your born with but is self respect and knowing that the line don't end where you came from. We are the line of life and we make our choices which we live and die with. You make money your god of success? I let God make me.

Blogger tz February 24, 2013 10:45 PM  

Women going into science - the rationalization hamster becomes the lab rat. Then mourning becomes electra-shock. Neill before eugenics!

Anonymous TMQ Fanboy February 24, 2013 11:44 PM  

To be fair, most students go into a life-science PhD program not looking for a job at the other end, but a postdoc position, which is only marginally better than nothing.

Anonymous The other skeptic February 24, 2013 11:54 PM  

Surprise, surprise. Hollywood is an arm of the Executive.

(Maybe they really are going to run Moochelle for President in 2016.)

Anonymous Outlaw X February 25, 2013 12:23 AM  

Surprise, surprise. Hollywood is an arm of the Executive.

(Maybe they really are going to run Moochelle for President in 2016.)


God didn't make fools, but the TV did.

Anonymous whatever February 25, 2013 1:06 AM  

Oh, there is plenty for them to do.

But only the lowest, and stupidest ways are tolerated in America now.

Anonymous Unending Improvement February 25, 2013 1:08 AM  

Certainly there are fields aside from Medicine itself that Life Sciences majors can leverage their way into, but going for a PhD in any of it is a waste of time.

The current academics sure as hell are not going to retire anytime soon. There's only so many spaces in academia. It's as close to a zero-sum game as it gets.

Anonymous Beau February 25, 2013 1:40 AM  

Yesterday a few of us were passing out free bread and praying with people. A guy in his sixties was so deeply moved that strangers would pray for him, he could barely contain the waves of relief washing over him. It seemed the weight of the world rolled off of him.

Today we traveled to Albuquerque to attend the graduation of two friends from a six-month residential Christian rehab program. One of these told me, regarding our trip on his behalf, "This is one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me in my life." How do you answer that? I just thanked God it wasn't too hard to make a difference for Mitch. He returns Tuesday home to Roswell and our fellowship.

I'm reminded of the scripture, "My Father is working even until now, and I am working." (John 5:17) My friend Jim jokes, "If it was easy, anyone could do it." It is. It is sublime joy to realize I'm working with my Father on outcomes that please Him.

Anonymous DrTorch February 25, 2013 6:49 AM  

Oh, and very related

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2013/01/too-many-scientists

Anonymous Porky February 25, 2013 12:55 PM  

That's a lot of education just to scrape rat turds off the bottom of the cages.

Anonymous Noah B. February 25, 2013 2:28 PM  

"That's a lot of education just to scrape rat turds off the bottom of the cages."

It's a highly refined technique, Porky.

Anonymous clk February 25, 2013 3:16 PM  

"I don't think we can, ya see I was born into a farm family and worked my ass off for everything I have."

Yes and "I was born a poor black child" :)

... but we were talking about VD ...

The reality is that many of the degrees one can study in school have little direct real world application - art, music, history, english, woman studies, languages, natural science, some life sciences, economics .. I am sure the list is much bigger than that... there are a relatively few professional degrees... eng, tech, comp sci, accounting, nursing.. but if mom and dad are footing the bill you don't need to worry about the upfront cost so the payback period or any other analysis is irrelevant .. that's how we end up with art majors, music majors, woman studies majors etc..

Its hard because one can make arguments for both sides...

Anonymous Anonymous February 25, 2013 5:26 PM  

so less education is better? huh?

Blogger Markku February 25, 2013 11:10 PM  

so less education is better? huh?

Exactly. It frees up time to do something productive.

Blogger Markku February 25, 2013 11:18 PM  

But before you try to come up with a self-serving counterexample of, say, hillbillies, watch out for selection bias. You'll have selected based on other factors, such as intelligence and industriousness which affect both the probability of education, and of putting the time to good use.

The real question is, given a particular person with particular skills, would he have been better served by getting more or less education.

Anonymous Anonymous February 26, 2013 1:29 AM  

Longtime reader, first time commenter, love your blog VD, et cetera. As someone pursuing a (technically) biology PhD, I think that the graph (and the Atlantic article itself) is missing something. Specifically, 'Life Sciences' is a really broad group of scientists (I use the term loosely). Life Sci would include the Nutrition majors (who become nutritionists or go to med school), the Exercise and Physiology majors (who become personal trainers or go to med school), and everyone in Biology. Biology itself is usually split up into multiple subsections-at my institution, the three are Ecology and Evolution, Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience (mine). Even the Ecology people know that they're unemployable, and they usually have rich parents (or I'm the only schmuck with a $20k/year employment that doesn't get a $40k car my first year). People like me in Neuroscience or Molecular Biology are better suited for biotech/pharmaceutical companies. If all the jobs I've been applying to are any indication, there is a market for someone with my skills. However, Merck, Roche, and others don't really care if you know the latest statistical methods for analyzing the slow movement of tree fungus (though maybe that chick in HR will listen). That said, I would love to see the data for employment when 'Life Sciences' is broken down into respective groups. I would predict that unemployment would be higher for Nutrition, Exercise and Physiology, and Ecology and Evolution than for Molecular Biology. Not sure where Neuroscience would fit-I've made myself into more of a Molecular Biology student, anyway.

I also understand that I'm already an outlier for being willing to work in industry and that I don't worship professors (many are pricks, some are really nice and make you wonder why they are there, and others really really want the security of tenure; not a life I want to lead).

And to refer to a later post, I loved TIA. -JC

Blogger sysadmn February 27, 2013 3:40 PM  

Others have pointed out that most STEM grad students are funded, and graduate with little or no debt. What those students tend to overlook is the opportunity cost of their degree. In my field (computer engineering), students forego $25K or more a year to go to graduate school. Average starting salaries are $50-60K, graduate stipends run $15 - $25K (plus tuition and fees). The sort of American student who is competitive for a grad school slot is likely to make much more than an average wage. To top it off, salaries for MS and PhD engineers aren't that much higher, although the type of work done can differ.

Blogger ישראל יחיאל March 22, 2013 2:50 PM  

if you think that they are stupid then you are what we in israel call 'ערס מטומטם' and you suld stup use the compiuter because the person how make the program that your compiuter is besed on is a gay atheist!

Blogger Secretquest March 28, 2013 7:01 AM  

My friend is doing a PHD which involves serious research into helping blind children see - her team have had fantastic results which will have a real impact on eye care medcine and real implications for the medical world. She turned down a 50k starting position in optometry to do this.

She's not in it to get a lot of money but to help people.

Anonymous Anonymous June 01, 2013 8:48 PM  

Hey... Israel dude. I speed a little Hebrew, and that wasn't very nice of you. I am a very religious person, and I frown upon gays, and atheists, but I would like to let you know, THAT I MAKE THE PROGRAMS ON YOUR COMPUTER. I am a software engineer, and a highly devoted programmer, it makes money to feed my family, and thank you very much, I AM NOT GAY!

Don't call someone a "Dumb ars" that you don't even know!

Anonymous Anonymous June 01, 2013 8:49 PM  

Yes I know "NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS"!

Anonymous Anonymous June 17, 2013 10:53 PM  

This article is terrible. Seriously? Scientists, of all people, are stupid? Besides, there's more to life than money and scientists actually realize it.

Post a Comment

NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. Anonymous comments will be deleted.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts