Why write a science blog?
I’m quite frightened by the level of scientific illiteracy in the US and feel that the field as a whole needs to do a better job communicating important findings not only to the general public, but also the politicians, policy makers and paper pushers upon whom we depend to continue funding the research. This blog is my humble effort to enter the fray. It seems that bloggers play an important role in the science communication ecosystem. This mostly unpaid army of intelligent, passionate writer/scientists fills the wide gap between the professional science journal, too thick with technical jargon to be understood by the average joe, and much of what passes for popular science journalism; that is, science reduced to its most salacious and headline worthy form, often incorrectly presented and overly generalized. Perhaps because I spent so many years of my adult life in a non-science field, I’m sensitive to how science research is thought of and understood by the general public. I’m particularly inclined to think of scientific ideas in terms of their evolutionary adaptability; that is, the means by which one given idea of the untold number that are borne daily, is somehow able to survive, permeate and spread throughout the culture in such a way that it becomes an accepted piece of wisdom, while another dies on the vine. The writer, in his/her guise as idea merchant plays an important role in this process and is capable of exerting either a positive or negative influence on the science meme pool. One who puts number-of-eyeballs-captured over truth value could be said to be working on the dark side, as would one who attempts to further a personal or political agenda while claiming objectivity. A more insiduous form of bad science journalism, but equally or perhaps even more dangerous, is where a false dichotomy is created in order to allow “both sides” of a story to be presented (e.g., validating Jenny McCarthy and her ultra dangerous anti-vaccine movement by presenting their views as one side of a two-sided coin). It’s important not to let up in our effort to combat “bad memes.” If we don’t, the research we produce, no matter how stellar, won’t have the impact it deserves. Blogs can serve a valuable purpose here.