What prostitution is to love is that prostitution is an artificial and contrived version of the real thing.
This is spot on for academia too.
I’ll give two examples:
First, I once listened to a recent doctoral graduate give a thirty minute talk on his dissertation.
He talked about designing, building, and testing a model for determining where new freeways should be built.
It had over 80 variables included in it.
At the end of the talk he flippantly mentioned that you could get the exact results that he got by only looking at population growth in various areas of the city.
Second, a professor once told me the key to getting grant funding was to work in climate change somehow.
He had recently finished a study but the data did not show him what he needed for more funding, so he was going to have to “look at the data” until he got a different conclusion.
Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to a nonsucker, not exactly the same thing.