Guest bloggers on Pharyngula

I’ll tell you more later.

It’s later now. I’m teaching a course in neurobiology, and one of the things I’m doing is having the students blog, to recount their experiences with neurobiology outside the classroom. In past years, I’ve set up a separate blog space for them to use, but I had a conversation with Beth Noveck of the Cairns blog at Sci Foo, and she recommended just throwing the students into the hurly-burly of the wider conversation. And after thinking about it for a while, I think she’s right — toss ’em into the shark tank, and let’s see how well they do. So beginning later this week, my six students will begin putting up roughly one article a week here on Pharyngula.

I still feel a little protective, though, so a few words of warning. The students had the option of posting under a pseudonym, and most have taken one. Please don’t try to invade their privacy. Another important factor to take into account is that all these students have in common is that they’re smart enough to be UMM upperclassmen and they are interested in neuroscience — do not assume that they share my political and religious views and jump on them as proxies for me. I don’t even know what their political and religious views are. For all I know, it’s a class full of devout Reaganites … and I don’t care. They can even use this space to publicly disagree with me on something, and it won’t hurt their grades.

Most important of all, be nice. This is an experiment, and they’re the guinea pigs, and give them time to find their space and their voice. I am reserving the right to pull the plug if the obnoxiousness exceeds the productive discussion, and I will police comments to their articles a little bit more ruthlessly than the comments on my own.


  1. Dale says

    I think you must have been channelling me. I was wondering only today if/when you would be doing this.

    Could we have Richard Dawkins as first contributor?

  2. Nick Martin says

    What? No way. It’ll obviously be someone from AiG to balance out all this knowledge with some nonsense.

  3. Northern Virginia says

    Great idea! I was describing the best blogs that I regularly read, to a colleague, and in addition to good content and active feedback, they have a strong primary blogger with a hand-full of alternate bloggers.

  4. says

    C’mon, at least penalize them a little bit for their beliefs, otherwise the paranoiacs on the right won’t be able to bitch…oh, wait, they’ll bitch anyway, so forget it…be fair.

  5. llewelly says

    … devout Reaganites …

    At this point I imagined a giant crucifix, with Reagan in place of Christ, flanked by ICBMs, with an enormous cowboy church behind.

  6. Carl_PDX says

    Very cool! Thank you for sharing your students and their knowledge and exploration with us. Please pass the thank you on to the students, as well. It takes a bit of confidence to put it out into the “hurly-burly of the wider conversation.”

  7. Big Dave says

    What a good idea! Good luck to them all. Let’s hope there’s no need to do the policing you’re preparing for.

  8. says


    I think that is a GREAT idea. I will join you in kicking the ass of anyone who gives them an unnecessarily hard time. It’s a shame that so many people feel driven to anonymity on the web, not just your students but major science bloggers.

    (Although you personally probably do more to pull down the reputation of bloggers in general and science bloggers in particular with 60% of the American Populous, … that’s why we all read and enjoy your blog….)

    I’m looking forward to some interesting, challenging, and substantive essays!!!!

  9. Lana says

    I’m hoping to learn something. Your dullest student knows far more about neurobiology than I do. Heck, the person who sweeps your classroom at night probably knows more about neurobiology than I do. Not all your readers are science nerds. Some of us are other nerds.

  10. llewelly says

    You know, PZ, if you’d just give your guest bloggers the basic equipment necessary to defend themselves – you know, install head-mounted lasers, attack tentacles, and a shark-munching beak & radula you wouldn’t need to worry about them at all.

  11. Odonata says

    What a wonderful opportunity for the students to get to post on such a top notch science blog and get feedback from around the world!!!

  12. says

    Aw, I wish you were my biology professor. :(

    My current biology professor doesn’t have a high-traffic blog that I can linkwhore post on. :(

    I’m not a biology major, though; I’m just trying to fulfill a requirement, and the class is mainly geared towards destroying misconceptions and instilling a general ability to comprehend what scientists are talking about; it’s not a “proper” biology course.