Gene Expression

Why blog about science?

Chris has an excellent post up about the “why” and “what” in regards to science blogs. I have already sketched out why I blog in the generalities, it is really a function of my egoism. The one thing I would add, or elaborate, in regards to Chris’ post is that I do think science blogs play a very important role in adding a layer of intellectual granularity to the understanding of educated and science savvy folk of specific fields. If you encounter science purely through popularizations, no matter how well written they are you might get a distorted sense. As an illustration, as Chris has noted himself, George Lakoff is probably the eminent cognitive psychologist/linguist in the minds of most well educated people who take an interest in the sciences of the mind (especially on the Left where his “framing” analysis has become popular). ’nuff said.

Update: Chris responds to my response by reiterating his point about reaching out toward a broader audience. I generally agree with the tactics he advises, but, I would add one thing: Chris and I focus on fields which are contingent upon findings and assumptions derived from other fields. So, I see Mark Chu-Carroll (Math), Chemblog (Chemistry) and Janet (Philosophy) as more relevant targets for outreach. Myself, I address a topic (genetics) of great interest, but to really get what I’m talking about a basic (very basic!) understanding of probability is a necessary precondition.


  1. #1 Chris
    June 25, 2006

    Razib, I agree with the points you make in the update, as well. In fact, as I was writing my post, I was trying to think about the issues that I should be educating a broader public, and I could only think of one: recovered memories. It’s the primary issue in cognitive science that has a broad impact on people’s lives.

    I used third-person personal pronouns through most of my post because I didn’t want to sound like I was accusing others of doing something that I don’t do. But as I was writing it, I had blogs like Pharyngula and Deltoid in mind more than blogs like yours and mine.

  2. #2 razib
    June 25, 2006

    yes, too bad our content (or topic) elicits more excitement in the modal human than what you see in pharyngula or deltoid :) e.g., you need to really have a general sense of the central limit theorem to get why quantitative behavior genetics works the way it does, but quant. beh. genetics is a lot more interesting than the CLT so people just want to skip to the good stuff :)

  3. #3 IndianCowboy
    June 26, 2006

    do what I do/did and amass a collection of links that explain basic points you might bring up and don’t want to discuss fully. send them there. They wont’ go there at first of course, but after skimming your entry with any luck they might just be interested enough to try for a more full understanding (and then click the link).

    Or you can just reach to their level (personally i have almost as much fun teaching science as contemplating it…as long as i get to put my slightly insane primatologist spin on it).

    Or, you can do what i’ve odne in recent weeks and just stop science blogging…

    gah, i suck.

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