Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What good is science blogging?

Science blogging can create a new type of geek chic--where scientists are more than just the people you didn't talk to in high school.

Probably most scientists will eschew such plebeian pleasures. After all, who wants to be Paris Hilton? But if we want to bring people to our side, we have to connect first. Would we expect understanding and support for science if we always spoke latin in public? Oh wait, we do that, nevermind.

The tech industry boom brought us a geek chic that hasn't totally faded with the stock prices. For a while it was cool to ride first class unshaven in grubby clothes. Jacques Cousteau created oceanographique chic, and suddenly everyone wanted to study marine biology. Decades later, marine biologists are supposed to have a french accent.

So why not a new chic of the week, science bloggers? It'll do more for public understanding and support for science than any amount of scholarly conferences.
Now for the roar that we're above such things, and "the facts" should speak for themselves.

Such talk reminds me of friends from Earth First! who would shout "no compromise in defense of mother earth" but wouldn't take out their facial piercings when trying to talk to rural residents about forest conservation. Is it better to stay pure to some ideal? Or to find a way to change minds? I guess it depends on whether you really do want to change the world.


Greg Laden said...

I think the debate here can be exemplified by expanding your excellent example:

The Earth Firsters who do not take out their hardware out of ignorance are ingorant. The The Earth Firsters who refuse to drive from house to house in the suburbs, but walk instead to avoid expanding their carbon footprints (even though walking around in the suburbs will disturb the suburbanites) are sticking by their principles. But, the earth firsters who keep the hardware in because it represents some principle are , well, we're back to ignorant again.

From another angle: Taking out the hardware is "good framing" because it removes an impediment that is absurd and irrelevant. Driving around from house to house in Hum Vee because you will fit in better in the suburbs is unacceptable and counterproductive pandering, possibly immoral.

The difference between the two (hardware vs Hum Vee) is the crux of the debate amongst the science bloggers.

Mark Powell said...


Thanks for checking in, I've been reading your work and it's superb!!! I'm embarassed that there's no link on blogfish (since corrected).

I'm glad to get your incisive expansion of the example, and I agree that using a Hum Vee to fit in is wrong. That would be taking "framing" too far.

I'm going to offer more thoughts on framing from the perspective of a scientist turned advocate, and I've been pondering just where I can contribute to this now overblown debate.

What we need right now is not more polemic but some steps forward, IMHO, so I'll try that approach.