Horse running through field

Science v. Liebman

by Roger Lyons

If the language police were out rounding up suspected oxymorons, then the term “inexact science,” if not subject to immediate arrest, would at the very least be hauled in for questioning. No doubt, after his recent “What’s Going On Here” (The Blood-Horse, January 30, 2010, p. 491), Dan Liebman, Editor of The Blood-Horse, would be the key witness for the defense if the case were to go to trial.

Dan reasons that the new Speed Gene Test now being offered by Equinome is too exact to be useful to thoroughbred breeders. Why? Because thoroughbred breeding is “an inexact science.” Considering the formidable array of prosecution witnesses that could be lined up against him, it might be best for Dan to take the fifth.

First among them. Jim Bolger and Emmaline Hill of the company Equinome. Does it really matter much if your DNA sequencing is off a bit?

Then let’s bring in Frank Mitchell. When you’re taking structural measurements, what difference could it possibly make if the length of the horse is off by an inch or two?

Next, Andy Beyer. That track variant thing–that’s just a wild guess, isn’t it?

And, if Bill Oppenheim were to give testimony, what are the odds he would say something like this? When I order my APEX numbers from TJCIS, I just tell them to give me approximate counts. This isn’t rocket science. Fat chance.

As star witness, let’s call to the stand Ray Paulick, former Blood-Horse Editor-turned-blogger, and let’s ask him how much is at stake for a real journalist, who deals first and foremost with facts, in getting even the most incidental ones absolutely right.

Maybe after hearing Ray’s testimony Dan will want to cop a plea to a lesser offense–say, misdemeanor banality.

Never mind Dan’s offenses against language and good sense. With last year’s advertorial plug for Blood-Horse Publications’ nick rating system on his rap sheet, he’s going down this time on a major editorial hypocrisy beef. Here’s the smoking gun. Blood-Horse editorial opinion expresses unmitigated approval of its own dubiously cloned product while pooh-poohing a truly original, pioneering genetic research effort.

Bolger and Hill are indeed pioneers, and they’ve come up with a legitimate entrepreneurial angle obviously intended to enable a research program driven by curiosity–yes, a program that might one day compete with Blood-Horse Publications’ new array of pedigree advisory products. Equinome has made modest claims for its first achievement. After all, science progresses methodically, even if always tempted to over-reach as it struggles to survive in a radically commercialized melieu.

The Blood-Horse was born and bred during the heyday of the scientific age. For many decades it well served the mission of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association by way of a disinterested appreciation and treatment of scientific discovery, especially in the area of veterinary science. That legacy has since been consumed by hegemonic commercial ambition. What would have aroused the curiosity of previous editors is lost on what has become TOBA’s intellectually flaccid house organ.