From: Dr. Blake Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Feb 07 2003 - 13:25:30 EST
This all depends on what basis you think it
appropriate to give someone a letter of
Implicit in this person's description on the web of
under what circumstances he will give a recommendation
for even medical school was, "if you are some
religious nut who thinks that praying for some one is
the way to heal them, I don't trust that you will do
your job as a doctor with the tools of modern
medicine." He does not say that, but that is the only
way you can take it.
Let's use an engineering analogy rather than a physics
analogy for medical school since being a doctor, or
design prosthetics, is an applied science. Lots of
engineers model things using linear equations, even
though they know the real world processes are
non-linear. Why? It is less computing intensive. I
can do a job as an engineer in applying the science
whether I believe that particular foundations of that
science are true or not.
If I don't follow the prescribed rules for
engineering, I don't get out of school, or I don't
pass my licensing exams, or I get fired and/or my
certification revoked because I did not design a
building -- or whatever -- properly.
Now, because I may not do one of those things should
someone not give me a letter of recommendation? Well,
I think the prudent person wouldn't want this guy to
recommend them anyway. But a letter of
recommendation, depending on the field covers a very
limited set of areas 1) how well you know the person,
2) the person's intellectual and social skills that
pertain to the course of study, and 3) their promise
to successfully complete a course of study and
contribute to their field. It seems that no. 3 is the
only area where a litmus test might be applicable and
I find it dubious that this particular litmus test is
applicable there for a variety of reasons: a) it is
not really clear what he considers problematic -- is a
believer in some sort of theistic evolution
disqualified? b) do I have to subscribe to a
particular evolutionary mechanism? c) if not, can I
believe that some supernatural force intervenes from
time to time? (not that I do) d) If I believe in
speciation, but a young earth, is that good enough?
If not, why not since I don't deny genetic mechanisms?
Etc. This is just a silly polemical stand by this
I think George's comment about the interpretation of
different data is a good point, but I think it cuts
strongly against this fellow. Whereas George seems to
be saying that evolution as a fact is different than
the interpretation of quantum indeterminancy, I think
that both are interpretive for the reasons described
in 3(a)-(d), this professor seems to have an
ill-defined response that is certainly not applicable
to an applied science like medicine.
If I am a republican/conservative, should that
disqualify me from being recommended for graduate
school in political science, because I do not share
the ideological bent of 80%+ of the
professors/researchers out there in academia? I
actually know people who have tried to deny tenure to
someone because they were a republican. I have heard
well-respected, nationally known professors say that
so-and-so is one of the few republicans that actually
does good research in political science. I actually
know some people who think being a conservative would
make it highly unlikely (if not disqualify you) that
you will do good research in political science.
Is that a correct stand? Can I deny a letter of
recommendation to graduate school in political science
because I know the student is conservative?
Should I deny a letter of recommendation to law school
because they believe that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly
decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and the right of
privacy was made up out of whole cloth by a crazily
activist Justice Douglas? Or is the law the law and
if he thinks that Roe v. Wade is wrong he is
unqualified to be a lawyer? In these cases the answer
is obviously (I hope) not.
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Fri Feb 07 2003 - 13:26:11 EST