After taking some time to mull over the events of last week–when I saw a side of Scienceblogs.com I’ve not seen before, and that troubled me a great deal–I felt a strong need to clear the air. So let me say, at the outset of this first post in a series, that I speak for myself alone. There has been plenty of confusion of late about what Sheril thinks, what I think, and whether either is the same as what Matt Nisbet thinks, but at least with this post there can be no mistake. It is by its author and no others.
Reading over all the comments we managed to generate here last week–in which we set a volume record with this post and then quickly broke it with this one–I saw much that I didn’t like. I saw the serious and important concept of “framing” dissed and dismissed by people who didn’t always seem to understand it. I saw myself disparaged, including the outlandish suggestion that I might be a creationist. I saw my talented co-blogger, Sheril, nastily attacked.
I also saw juvenile, profanity-laden comments of a sort that torpedo the quality of discussion for everyone, and that from now on won’t be tolerated on this blog.
All of this dismayed me a great deal. Over time, however, one major theme in the comments also seemed to make a lot of sense–and convinced me that while there’s much that I want to criticize, it would be best to begin by confessing where I myself am at fault. Which leads to my promised mea culpa:
When I teamed up with Matthew Nisbet a year ago to talk about the subject of framing science–which I still believe to be a very important one–it was not my goal to alienate or outrage a group that I consider one of my most important audiences, namely, ScienceBlogs bloggers and readers. And yet when you look at the latest blowup over what I have posted, Sheril has posted, and Nisbet has posted about Expelled, it’s undeniable that there is now an audience that reacts very negatively even to any basic mention of the concept of framing.
And there’s just no other way to spin it–this is a painfully ironic communication failure on the part of those of us who wanted to introduce what I view as a very important communication tool to the science world. If we can’t explain something so useful to an important segment of our own audience, how can we possibly hope to use it to counter the other side?
Now, to be sure, the concept of framing has been quite influential already for many people who care about science, but who are not seemingly well represented on ScienceBlogs. When I go around lecturing with Matt Nisbet, we constantly encounter enthusiastic, receptive scientist-laden audiences at universities. There is simply nothing like the response that we’ve seen here over the last week. Indeed, I believe the reactions at lectures may have skewed my perceptions, and made me neglect or dismiss, to a significant extent, the way our ideas were faring in the science blogosphere.
But no success on the lecture circuit can change the fact that somehow–and I’ll have ideas about how it happened in later posts–the concept of framing has been blackened on Scienceblogs, which I consider a truly tragic occurrence. And while I’m hardly the only guilty party here, I certainly played a role in that, whether actively or by omission.
For starters, I didn’t always take enough time to explain what I meant by framing, or why I felt it mattered. Furthermore, I took the show on the road without necessarily spelling everything out here at my Internet home. I paid a lot more attention to receptivity for my lectures than to criticisms of my blog posts.
Most of all, I helped contribute to making this a polarizing and divisive battle over how to communicate about science and religion, when it didn’t have to be–especially considering that science-religion issues are only one tiny facet of the broader framing science thesis.
For all of this, I apologize. We have become nastily divided here, and I deserve some share of the blame. I still think that the concept of framing is a very useful one, and that Matt Nisbet’s scholarship and research is cutting-edge and important. But I also think that I–we–have done a pretty poor job of convincing Scienceblogs folks of this fact.
In the remainder of my posts this week (and perhaps stretching into next), I hope to explain more fully how I think all of this happened, and why we must rise above the current polarization and nasty discourse on ScienceBlogs–for the good of everyone. With this apology I take the first step, and I sincerely hope others will follow.