From Robin Hanson’s Overcoming Bias, a discussion on the social function of academia. This is Hanson:
“Academics get support from students, foundations, governments, media, and consulting clients. Yes academics mainly publish papers, books, lectures, etc.; the question is why academics are paid to do this. The standard idealistic answer is that academics know useful and important things, things which students want to learn, media want to report, consulting clients want to apply, and which foundations and governments want to promote the creation and spread of, for the good of the everyone. (..) But not only are these idealistic theories pretty implausible from an evolutionary point of view, they also have detailed problems (…) it seems far simpler to me to just postulate that people care primarily about affiliating with others who have been certified as prestigious.”
But Andrew Gelman emphatically disagrees…
You can read the complete post here.