A Blog Around The Clock

Just Science?

So, RPM, Razib and Chris are promoting the idea of Just Science, meaning that from Monday, February 5, till the end of Sunday, February 11, we should write only about science itself, and not about pseudoscience, quackery, religion, politics of science etc.

This is my 1864th post on this blog. Out of that, there are perhaps 4-5 debunking some kind of Creationism, and 4-5 debunking some other pseudoscience. A drop in the ocean! There is a little bit more politics (but usually not of science), and several posts on religion/atheism. Everything else is either science or “chatter”, i.e., links to other people, personal stuff, meta-blogging of some kind, the conference/anthology announcements, etc. Thinking that people here would be quite unhappy if I blogged daily about politics (especially with my open support for John Edwards), I do most of that on my old blog.

Right now, I am in the midst of the last-minute preparations for the Science Blogging Conference. After that, I’ll sleep for a day or two. Then, I will eagerly return to my Dissertation and that is where my serious science writing will be focused.

For the blog, I’ll do whatever hits me on any particular day/hour/minute. I can refrain from bashing Creationists during the designated week, but I will not promise anything. I may write serious science or I may not. I have a few books I still need to write reviews of (including Dawkins and Dennett – so that violates the Just Science principle right there). Perhaps I can write one of the Basics posts during that week. I can try. But no promises. I blog at a whim.

But you tell me what you want to see…


  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    January 17, 2007

    Well, it’s your blog and you can do what you want. However, I have considerable sympathy for the “just science” notion. My favourite ScienceBlog? The Loom – just substantial science posts … no filler, no noise.

    And I can’t resist tossing just a bit of gasoline on the fire – I’m bemused by how many working scientists can write about science in a precise, balanced, interesting, and even elegant manner … but who become fuzzy, one-sided, and polemical (and much less interesting) when they stray into other areas. Politics and religion are not the only examples, but I suppose they’re the two obvious ones.

  2. #2 The Ridger
    January 17, 2007

    I’m not sure what else you expect. Politics and religion are fuzzy and polemical subjects – unlike science.

    Besides, scientists are just people. :-)

  3. #3 Zuska
    January 17, 2007

    Okay, then why do we have a whole channel for Policy and Politics, and another whole channel for Culture Wars? And another for Philosophy of Science, and another for Academia? Who are they to tell us we should spend a whole week blogging about “Just Science”? And why?

    And what am I supposed to do during that week over at Thus Spake Zuska? Just shut up? Where does gender and science fit into “Just Science?

    This is a political move disguised as a plea to be non-political.

  4. #4 jamie
    January 17, 2007

    So is someone gonna write a “basic concepts” post defining what is “just” science, then? ‘Cause that ought to be easy. Or boring. Or meaningless. Or rather narrow at least.

    (Kick ass, Zuzka!)

  5. #5 Zuska
    January 17, 2007

    I would like to add: I think RPM, Razib, and Chris are motivated by an understandable reaction – fatigue at dealing with the anti-science camp – which is not unlike the fatigue I often experience in dealing with the anti-feminist/misogynists over on my blog. But I think what the world needs is MORE of scientists engaging the popular imagination and tackling the misconceptions and falsehoods that keep people from understanding the world scientifically, not LESS of that. That is, I don’t think non-scientists need more of “pure science” (if there is such a thing), they need more of “engaged science”, which means engaging with the things that are keeping them from understanding science, and understanding the world scientifically.

    We can talk “just science” in the labs and in our classrooms and to our colleagues. Science journalism – which is what we are doing, in blogging – is a different sort of thing. Unless your blog is meant to communicate only to other scientists in your field, I don’t see why it should be arbitrarily restricted to “just science” for any given period of time.

    I also think it would be interesting, from a philosophical point of view, to question why, and how, one can actually make the attempt – and can one be successful? – to separate out the “just science” from everything else. What happens when you strip away all the context? Who do you stop speaking to? What are you no longer able to say? How is your ability to communicate changed? What are the consequences?

  6. #6 RPM
    January 17, 2007

    Zuska, it’s voluntary for people who enjoy blogging about science. not everyone blogs about science, and we don’t expect it to apply to everyone. it’s an invitation not an order.

    I agree that there is a need to engage the general public. But on whose grounds do we engage them? Do we do it by describing all the things that are wrong with the bullshit some people spew? Or do we just give them the science stripped free of all the bullshit? We’re gonna try the second way for a week. We’re not stripping away the context; we’re seperating the anti-science from the science.

    We think it’s a good idea. We don’t expect everyone to play, but if people want to join, we’ll be glad to have the on board.

  7. #7 Chris
    January 17, 2007

    Zuska, once again, I’m not sure you’ve actually read what we’ve written before responding to it. This seems to be a habit with you.

    If you go to the page that Bora has kindly linked for you, you will see that we dealt with people who don’t actually write about science (philosophers of science, policy people, and the like). We didn’t exclude them, nor would we think of doing so. We’re not scientistic elitists. We leave that to a few other SBers.

    Hontestly, I think some Science Bloggers have started to rationalize what they do, and lost touch with what’s important. You’re correct to say that we need to engage the public, but I think you can look through the archives of Pharyngula, Respectful Insolence, etc., and find all the information you need (or at least links to such information) to combat creationists, anti-vaccine people, etc.. The creationists, to take one example, aren’t coming up with new stuff, so any and every post on it is a repeat of something already said. They’ve done that, and while it’s important that PZ, Ed, Orac, and the others who fight anti-science movements continue to remain vocal as long as the anti-science movements are vocal, beating people over the head with the errors, misrepresentations, and inaccuracies of those movements is far from the best way to engage and educate the public about science (forgetting, for the moment, that at this point, those blogs are either preaching to the choir or to inconvincible trolls). The best way to educate the public is to talk about science directly, show them how it’s done, the reasoning behind it, and how real debates within science take place. And that’s all we’re asking people to do. Nothing we’re suggesting precludes them from talking about issues that will have wider appeal than just among fellow scientists. Hell, my blog, while it isn’t as big as some of the other SB blogs, has gotten plenty of attention and interest just by talking about actual cognitive science, and I know there are more people interested in actual biology than actual cognitive science (just look at the difference in how many people major in the two fields in college).

    So I really don’t see the problem. Ultimately, if you’re a science blogger, and not someone who just happens to blog on ScienceBlogs, it shouldn’t be a problem. Really, I think that once you’ve got a forum like this, you should feel responsible to be educating people about science. Or, for bloggers who deal more with policy or science-related issues, educating them about how those issues are approached, and where things stand with them. There’s a place in that for dealing with anti-science, but it should be but a small part of it. Instead, it’s become almost all of it in some cases.

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