[P. J.] [RU] [FR]


Many people feel the sacred piety towards all kinds of titles (PhD, Professor, Academician, prize winner, top-ten hitter etc.) awarded by numerous national and international committees. A person with a certificate or a license is generally considered as superior to those who cannot present any decoration. Is there any sense? Is there any real distinction?

Let's admit for a while that any titles are awarded according to the merits of the person thus distinguished. Consider the same person a second before awarding the title and a second after that. What has been changed? Did the merits of that person grow any higher in two seconds? Nonsense. But the market value of the person has jumped up. Doesn't it indicate the absurdity of the market value?

Now, is there anything reliable in the official recognition? Does it provide any grounds for judging about somebody's virtues?

As a rule, the official bodies authorized to award honors and issue certificates are rarely competent enough to properly evaluate one's achievements. They have to give credit to those who have nominated the candidate, and these people are never disinterested. Thus the whole business becomes a sheer political game.

Take the Nobel Prize for an immediate example. The Committee is very sensitive to the nationality of the applicants; they try to keep an intricate balance between preserving the absolute leadership of the USA and Western Europe on one hand and fooling the public by showcase democracy on the other. It is not enough for the dummies picked from the outskirts of the Western civilization just to be loyal to the traditional values of the Western bourgeoisie; they must actively promote them in their countries of origin, undermining the regimes disliked by the high patrons. For instance the very few Russians that have ever been awarded the Nobel Prize (like Bunin, Solzhenitsyn, or Sakharov) were selected exclusively for their anticommunism rather than for aesthetic or scientific excellence of their work. The subject areas of the works nominated for Nobel Prize is also a matter of careful choice. They cannot allow even a slightest contradiction with the official ideology.

Let us admit that somebody merits indeed the award. As a rule, this means that this person had certain achievements in the past, but nothing can be said about the present, or the future. What you were before may have little to do with what you are now, and what you are going to be. For example, academic honors often come too late, when the one's scientific career has long since been completed. Being a prize-winner says nothing about the laureate's creativity and ability to contribute to the cultural development.

Further, excellence in one area does not imply any competence in another. A good physicist can be very poor philosopher; a good programmer can be absolutely no teacher etc. Even within a narrow subject area, there are different levels of specialization, and, say, being a specialist in computing photoionization cross sections does not make one any better in computing cross sections for ion impact ionization. Distinctions are no reason for piety.

The only reasonable judgment is concerned with the present activities of the people and the usability of their current results. One may appreciate somebody's past services, still never taking anything for granted. The obvious corollary is that one does not need to know the position and titles of the interlocutor to form one's opinion and decide on the possibility of further cooperation. And, of course, the assessment of any act should not depend on the personality of the agent.

[Assorted Notes] [Unism]