August 21, 2007

Testing Never Fixes Structural Problems

The photo above is of the Benedict Chapel. It was built more than 100 years ago. Here is a link to St. Paul's Episcopal Church that is connected to the Benedict Chapel.

Has the chapel ever been tested for structural soundness? I doubt it. After all, this is a private chapel attached to an Episcopalian Church established in 1818. And the church vestry would need to be the one who initiated the request to test for structural soundness. There are no church building engineers until the churchs are sold as new age condos.
But this story about the church illuminates lots of questions for me. When is testing useful? When is testing used by statisticians to stall? Do tests ever fix the problems they test for? Who should do the testing? The local homeowner, the jurisdiction whose population use a defective bridge, the state, the government? Whose ox is going to be gored? Do you fix the problem and pay the price? Or, as is too often today, stall by testing and retesting until the problem goes away or becomes overtaken by events as in Minnesota?
The Minneapolis bridge disaster had plenty of people wringing their hands on the state of the bridge. Plenty of testing. I am really sure they wanted the bridge to be well, to work. Good wishes, good testing and good intentions on a scale of the bridge collapse really don't work. Fixing the problem works.

My bigger question is this: Do we ever willingly do the tough stuff of protecting and caring for others before they die? On a personal the issue of the abandoned cat. I had people coming up to me wringing their hands..."I have cats already," they'd say. "I just don't know what to do," they'd say. "My husband would kill me if I did anything to help." they'd say. Why don't you take care of him? they'd say. So I did because they weren't going to put themselves out of pocket for $300+ in vet bills or in doing a good deed. They say, they say, they say...makes me sick.
Fixing the problems the Bridge had certainly would have been more than $300 in vet bills but it would have saved the victims' lives. And that surely is priceless.

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