Letters to the Editor
I appreciate Joan O'Connell Hamilton's coverage of John P.A. Ioannidis's studies of medical research ("Something Doesn't Add Up," May/June). Many components can flaw research and findings: statistical errors, insufficient analysis, tunnel vision and human ambitions, to name a few. These are understandable and part of what we may accept. Also, there will always be risk in plunging ahead to apply research. However, financial incentive is simply unacceptable. It's the same as bribing a judge. It would be foolish not to acknowledge the prevalence of this influence. As the article says: "Studies underwritten by drug or medical device companies aren't the only research that risks being biased by financial incentives.
Competition for funding from any source can influence researchers to focus on designing a study that is more likely to produce a positive outcome." Corporate influence overpowers research and universities everywhere today. In many respects, universities have in recent decades made themselves into adjuncts of the corporations that fund them.
Howard C. Anawalt, '60
Monte Sereno, California
When I was a medical resident at Stanford long ago, we learned that the staff of Aesculapius—one snake, no wings—was the symbol of medicine from the ancient Greek world. Aesculapius and his sons were mentioned in the Iliad, a minor story about a war about, oh, say, three millennia ago.
The staff of Aesculapius is the symbol of medicine worldwide, and in the United States it is used in the logo of the American Medical Association.
Imagine my embarrassment when the cover of the May/June issue has as the symbol of medicine the Caduceus—the symbol of Hermes, guide to the underworld (read: dead). The Caduceus, with its two snakes and wings, is not the symbol of medicine. And Stanford, with its esteemed traditions and long interest in medical history, should know better. We should not be making the common mistake of the proletariat and use the dreaded Caduceus.
Timothy Leigh Rodgers
Internal Medicine Resident '75
Santa Barbara, California
It is no surprise that the science around drugs and biomedical research is often biased to produce the desired outcomes, given the large sums of money involved. It is comforting to learn that John P.A. Ioannidis is applying real scientific methodology to examine this faulty research, which should lower costs, produce better outcomes and, it is hoped, in the long run improve the objectivity of medical research.
But medical research isn't the only realm where Ioannidis's methods could be applied. Climate science and those who promote anthropogenic global warming have ignored the scientific method because of the money to be had by perpetuating the questionable theory. Although Michael Mann's famous "hockey stick" analysis in 1998 that kicked off the mania was proven completely invalid, the triumvirate of the media, academia and governments continues to divert billions of dollars from the world economy that could be much better spent solving real problems.
As Ioannidis states in the article, "In science we always start with the possibility that we can be wrong. If we don't start there, we are just dogmatizing." But dogmatizing is exactly what the climate change industry does when it marginalizes scientists that disagree with them by calling them "deniers" and insists that the "science is settled" or there is a "consensus" on the matter. As with health care, billions of dollars are being spent on cures to retard global warming that will likely have no remedial effect. Society would be well served if someone like Ioannidis could investigate the climate change science, because as [the headline] states, "Something Doesn't Add Up."
Ted Arbuckle, '69
San Francisco, California
Electricity and GDP
Dimitri Dadiomov's article, "Power Trips" (May/June), is a reminder of how important electricity is to a nation's welfare. In research I've done, electricity is the only resource I've found whose per capita usage curve parallels, with minor fluctuations, the per capita GDP curve. Petroleum usage per capita has a similar curve to the GDP curve for the poorer half of the world's nations, but has wild fluctuations among the wealthier nations. No other resource that I've found comes close to the GDP curve.
Dana Johnson, '51
I believe that the current redesign of students' distribution requirements should include some instruction in negotiating compromises ("Overhauling Requirements for Freshmen," Farm Report, May/June). We need a generation of leaders who realize that no one will share the exact values of another. We can wallow in gridlock, or we can first find common ground and then forge compromises that a majority is willing to support. For example, states with civil war suffer more due to famines and poor delivery of basic health care than those states with functional governments enduring the same natural disasters or diseases. Our national government is sitting idle while the national debt skyrockets. We need to teach our students more than just the ability to analyze previous generations' mistakes. Our leaders need to be able to quickly and nonviolently come to workable agreements on decisive issues.
John Donovan, '82
The student hand-wringing over proposed curriculum changes shows yet again that students should be kept as far away as possible from decisions about degree requirements. You report that a student coalition decries the notion of "difference" as being based on straight, white males, and evangelizes for an emphasis on "identity," which "levels the playing field."
First, I assert that no student gets to Stanford unless someone in that student's world has applied the "differences" discussed by Aristotle, Locke, Adam Smith, Montesquieu and Ludwig von Mises.
Second, that the notion of "differences" reflects the physical reality that no two humans are entirely alike.
Third, that "identity" has no concrete external reality, and is a psychosocial construct.
Fourth, that on the micro level, believing that a lawyer in San Francisco is indistinguishable from a lawyer in Nashville is a shortcut to maladaptive consequences.
And finally, on the macro level, enabling and ennobling the dehumanizing nature of "identity" thinking empowers and excuses results ranging from the racist violence of the New Black Panther Party in Pennsylvania to the jihadist epidemic of honor killings, misogyny and mass murder in the United States and around the world.
David Altschul, MA '76
Old China Hand
In his May/June column, President John Hennessy discusses Stanford's interactions with China for the last 40 years, and their current cooperation ("Our Strong China Connection Gains a Firmer Foothold"). But Stanford's relationship with China can be traced back to the early 1900s, when its most famous alumnus, Herbert Hoover, Class of 1895, graduated as a mining engineer. After mucking in a mine in the Sierra Gold Country, he took a job with mine managers Bewick, Moreing & Co. of London, managing gold mines in Australia, and then, as their leading engineer, their coal mines in China. Hoover arrived there with his new wife, Lou Henry, Class of 1898, and [in Tientsin] helped repulse the Boxer uprising against "foreign elements."
George W. Parker, MBA '46
Your readers should have been comfortable in knowing that my diatribe against Stanford's choice of Oprah Winfrey as commencement speaker ("Commencement Choices," Letters, September/October 2008) was sufficient to keep me silent on the matter ("Speak, Memory," Farm Report, May/June). But that was not to be, for the confluence of two events force me to violate my silence. One is the wise choice of Cory Booker, '91, MA '92, as the speaker for 2012. I am not able to add anything to his public luster and will allow his renown to speak for itself. The other is the chance reading of Will and Ariel Durant's Age of Napoleon, in which they paraphrase Hegel as follows: "Life is not made for happiness but for accomplishment." What follows from the current philosophy du jour of seeking happiness through self is simply diversion, distraction, entertainment and frivolity, which are accomplishments indeed for those who create and supply them but result in nothing of value in the recipients.
Myron Gananian, '51, MD '59
Menlo Park, California
Please tell me that the Stanford history department had nothing to do with the ridiculous review of Hoover's ridiculous Freedom Betrayed ("Don't Believe Everything They Tell You," Farm Report, March/April). The United States was supposed to sit out World War II behind its oceans. Weird. How old is the reviewer? Fourteen?
James Queen, Gr. '62
San Francisco, California
Bay Area Water
Thank you so much for printing my letter to the editor ("Water in the West," March/April) regarding the article "Water Course" (January/February). I really appreciated the fact that you published the majority of my rather extensive letter.
I did have one minor correction to an error I made in my letter. Metropolitan Water District actually serves six counties (not five): Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego—nearly 19 million people.
Nevertheless, two sentences that you did edit out were quite critical in demonstrating the hypocrisy or "hoodwinking" done by the San Francisco Bay Area [authorities] when it comes to complicity with water supply controversies. These sentences were: "In the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay has its distant Mokelumne River supplies. The South Bay has its far-flung Shasta Dam, Oroville Dam and San Francisco Bay-Delta supplies." From my experience of having previously lived in the Bay Area for 13 years, the vast majority of Bay Area residents are unaware that nearly 70 percent of their water supply is imported, some from distances equal to or greater than Metropolitan's 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct link to Lake Havasu. (Shasta Dam is part of the Central Valley Project serving Santa Clara Valley Water District, whose service area includes Stanford. The water travels a path of close to 300 miles!)
I strongly feel at some point the magazine should consider taking an honest, unbiased look at the water supply situation within the state. Our Northern California brethren may be a bit surprised how misinformed they have been.
Don Bentley, MS '82
La Puente, California
Don't Forget Doodles
With regards to your sidebar "Star Chart" ("The Show Goes On," November/December), I am afraid that those who remember the classic pranks of Winstead Sheffield "Doodles" Weaver, '35, are aging quickly and may not be around much longer for interviews.
Although I was of the next younger generation, I heard of some of his tricks during the 1950s, and they were brilliant and very funny. One time, perhaps 30 years ago, a Stanford publication had an article on famous Stanford pranks and did not even mention Doodles! So it is time to rectify this oversight.
Here are several pranks that people talked about back when I was a kid.
On registration day, when the hall was packed and lines were long, students heard trumpets and turned to see men in Egyptian garb carrying Doodles on a palanquin. Other men rolled a red carpet in front of the palanquin bearers up to the registration counter, where Doodles hopped out and registered while the others in line gaped in amazement.
On the day when two fine marble statues of seated figures were to be unveiled on the porch of what is now the Cantor museum, many important people and the donors attended the ceremony. The covers were ripped off the statues, only to find Doodles seated on one of the figure's laps, a beer bottle in hand.
One evening, fellow students were gathered in Doodles's room, I think in Encina Hall. An argument broke out between Doodles and someone else. Doodles pretended to be so upset that he leaped out of his second-story window; his friends rushed to look out the window and found Doodles sitting comfortably on a sturdy branch of a tree next to the building.
I am sure there are many more escapades, but only his classmates of the '30s would be able to tell them. The ones I have described may not be completely accurate because I just heard them second- or third-hand.
My point is that Doodles was famous among the Stanford crowd back then for his audacity and well-planned pranks—and it is a shame they are not being shared with this generation of Stanford students and alums.
Merry Lee Eilers, '81, MA '84
Los Altos Hills, California
The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.
I was pleased to read Jackie Leonard-Dimmick’s letter concerning world population (“Water Pressure,” May/June). In my opinion, overpopulation is the root cause of many of our world’s problems. More people [means] more consumption, more natural resources
depleted, more waste products produced, more water shortages, more deforestation, more wildlife habitat destroyed, more generated energy used, more vehicles, more pollution, more greenhouse gases produced, and the list goes on. There is a trade-off: more people, lower quality of life.
It appears that many publications avoid the issue of overpopulation. It is time that publications such as Stanford have open discussions of this topic, including possible ways of addressing overpopulation.
Phil Rogers, MS ’58
University Place, Washington
All or Nothing
David Sobelsohn’s comment that he’s a “flexitarian—mostly a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat” (“Up With Vegetables,” Letters, May/June) is as (in)valid and (un)ethical as that of someone who says that s/he’s a virgin who occasionally has sex.
Stephen Finn, PD ’80
Pretoria, South Africa
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The Effort Effect
Let Me Introduce Myself
Seeing at the Speed of Sound
Dunder Mifflin Going Out of Business
Data is from the past two weeks.