Category Archives: Framing Science

Unscientific America Related Items

I was sick Sunday, and I’m a bit off today, so everything is 36 to 48 hours off. So, my review of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future will be delayed. In the mean time you can have a look at these items:

1) An interesting post by David Dobbs places the current discussion regarding religion and science in an historical context: PZ Myers, Chris Mooney, Asa Gray, and the religion-science divide

2) Stephanie Zvan at Almost Diamonds discusses the Mooney/Kirshenbaum strategy.

3) Stephanie also addresses this issue a bit more circumspectly in a post on “Mere Factual Accuracy” at Quiche Moraine.

Are the “new atheists” not civil enough?

There is an interesting post on The Intersection called Civility and the New Atheists, by Chris Mooney. In the post, Chris reviews Barbara Forrest’s statements that in engaging int he cross-world-view debate (scientists vs. creationists, atheists, vs religion, etc.) one should maintian etiquette, respect and understand diversity, and practice humility.

Atheist and pro-science writer Mooney notes in speaking of a talk by Forrest:

Forrest therefore concluded her talk by saying that we need are “epistemological and civic humility”-providing the groundwork for “civic friendship.” To which I can only say: Amen.

This is, of course, going to make certain commenters including Jason Rosenhouse cringe (see: Coyne is Right, Mooney is Wrong). It makes me cringe too, in a way .. the Amen part (OMG, Chris, a little OTT????). But I actually do agree that the conversation should always be done in the context of these three virtues. But at the same time, I believe it is possible to practice Etiquette while kicking someone’s balls up into their throat if necessary. Diversity is to be respected, but the far right needs at this point to be simply cut out of the conversation.

And Humility is good. As long as you understand that it is, like, my tenth or eleventh greatest quality.

But seriously, I agree completely with what Chris is trying to say here. At the same time, I do not want to see any compromise whatsoever in the science and the law. The trick is, how to do that. Without occasionally kicking someone’s balls up into their throat, diversely, and with humility.

Meanwhile, I eagerly await the chance to read Crhis and Sheril’s new book on a related topic (scientific illiteracy) … maybe it’s in the mailbox now…

Don’t be such a scientist

Randy Olson is a film maker and marine biologist who has focused in recent years on the critique of science communication. You may know him from his documentary work on the sexual practices of barnacles, the evolution-creation debate, or global warming.

Randy is coming out with a new book, Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. It will be available sometimes in August.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

“Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style” has been 30 years in the making. It draws on Randy Olson’s 15 years as a scientist (Ph.D. Harvard University, tenured professor at University of New Hampshire), followed by 15 years of making films (In 1994 he resigned from his marine biology professorship in, moved to Hollywood, entered film school, and took acting classes). The book opens with the pivotal moment in his journey — his first night of acting class when his psychotic acting teacher screamed her lungs out at him for being, “too cerebral.” Thus began his journey of realization that came full circle when he returned to working with scientists and science communicators, and began to concede his acting teacher wasn’t as crazy as he originally thought.

In this short book he draws together what he’s learned about communicating science to the general public, and offers up his observations in the form of four main chapters which he calls, “The Admonitions.” They are:

  1. Don’t Be So Cerebral
  2. Don’t Be So Literal Minded
  3. Don’t Be Such a Poor Storyteller
  4. Don’t Be So Unlikeable

In an effort to practice what he preaches, Olson infuses the book with plenty of humor, storytelling, and even a little bit of emotion.

My review copy is on the way, and I’m looking forward to reading it and letting you know more!

First it was bear paternity tests, now it is volcano monitoring

When will the madness end? When the Republicans dry up and blow away, of course.

In the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union 2.0 address, by Bobby Jindal, governer of Louisiana, we heard this:

“Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.,”

The reason why volcanoes have been picked out of some speech writer’s anal sphincter zone is because they erupt and they wanted the metaphor. Or because Jindal believes he has no volcanoes in his state (but he would be wrong) or because of some other rhetorical reason. This is the same exact device as the bear paternity test complaint we heard spewing forth from the Hypocrite McCain and the Moron Palin during the campaign.

Maria Brumm is talking about it: “Something Called Volcano Monitoring”: Bobby Jindal Needs a Geology Lesson

Do Republicans (or moderates who don’t have a kneejerk anti-Republican reflex) also feel like he’s talking to the nation as though we were all kindergarteners? I was flabbergasted, but I don’t know how to properly account for my rather strong political biases here.

Scientific American is talking about it: Bobby Jindal and volcano monitoring: What was he talking about?

“Why does Bobby Jindal think monitoring volcanoes is a bad thing for the government to be doing?” Nick Baumann writes in Mother Jones. “There doesn’t seem to be any immediate way for private enterprise to profit from monitoring volcanoes (maybe selling volcano insurance?), but there is obviously a huge public benefit from making sure volcanoes are monitored: warning people if a volcano is going to erupt. Isn’t that obvious?”

OK, so clearly the Republicans are mean spirited knowledge-free hypocrites and Jindal is therefore a great spokesperson (or should I say spokesman) for them. And Maria and Sciam are right. But everyone is missing the true irony here.

The true irony is this: Remember New Orleans? Remember Katrina? Scientific research on disaster prediction predicted Katrina and its effects on New Orleans perfectly. PERFECTLY I SAY!!!! But those predictions were ignored (and continue to be ingnored).

But scientific monitoring does not always get ignored. The roads are laid out in many places with consideration for evacuation in the case of certain events. As Maria pointed out, large numbers of lives and dollars were saved from the effects of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo … which was a (say it with me now) a volcano … Because. Of. Scientific. Monitoring. And so on. Katrina is seen as an immeasurably large disaster of public policy because the clear warnings from the scientific research were ignored. Had they not been ignored, we would not be talking about this.

Teh Irony, then, is that the biggest disaster happened in the most third world of the states because of the boobs that run that place, and Bobby Jindal is Head Boob. And he is telling us what we need to do regarding scientific monitoring of potential natural disasters.

The metaphors! They are everywhere!

The fox is giving us a lesson on how to close the chicken coop. The farmer who left the barn door open is telling us about how to take care of your horses. The pot is explaining to the kettle how to clean off the soot. Chicken little is giving us a lesson on framing. The little Dutch boy is taking piano lessons. The Republican is telling us how to manage scientific priorities.

Oh, no, wait, that last one is not a metaphor. It is a TRAGEDY!!!!

The Framing Critique (Dawkins-Myers-Expelled!-Gate)

Here is an updated set of links to postings on the critique of Myers and Dawkins’ response to Myers-Dawkins-Expelled!-Gate. The point of these links is to provide quick access to the critiques coming from The Intersection and Framing Science blogs, and responses to them. I’m not going to keep updating this entry, so if you have any links please add them in the comments.If your comment gets moderated it is probably because links with comments get tossed automatically in the dungeon, sometimes. I’ll be checking the dungeon now and then and freeing such links. Continue reading The Framing Critique (Dawkins-Myers-Expelled!-Gate)