Stop using the lens of your preconceptions

Well. There’s another paper out discussing science blogs, which is a good thing, I suppose. I just find the conclusion a bit disappointing. Bora has an exhaustive dissection, and both The Panda’s Thumb and Cosmic Variance have briefer (they’d have to be! Bora got loquacious) discussions of the topic.

Where the author loses me is with this summary.

To become a tool for non-scientist participation, science blogs need to stabilize as a genre or as a set of subgenres where smaller conversations may facilitate more meaningful participation from members of the public. Science bloggers need to become more aware of their audience, welcome non-scientists, and focus on explanatory, interpretative, and critical modes of communication rather than on reporting and opinionating.

We don’t need to ‘stabilize’ on anything: the virtue of this medium is unfettered diversity. Pharyngula is not to everybody’s taste (really!), but is just right for some others — the wonderful part of the science blogosphere is that we have so many different ideas bouncing around out here. Why, there are even people who disagree with me!

I also think I am pretty aware of my audience, and if you look at the comment threads here, they aren’t just scientists. This is the gladiatorial arena of the science blogosphere, and we don’t restrict attendance to the prissy ol’ patricians — everyone likes a good bloody rhetorical battle now and then. I know my readers like it when the bestiarii take on those animals, the creationists, and they also like the gladiatorial competitions between equals. And then we often break into homilies and tutorials. If that isn’t appealing to a wide audience, I don’t know what is.

I can’t help but think that the author had some preconceptions about how a science blog should be (which usually means antiseptic, pure, aloof, esoteric, and technical) and found that they are rarely that way at all. And was a bit disappointed.


  1. says

    Stephen Colbert just got done with a bit about Karl Rove

    Watching the same damned thing.

    Going on now:

    “Some really smart people believe some really dumb things”.

    I have such a pointless crush on you, it’s not even funny.

  2. says

    Rev, I know — after a while on there, I just want to sit in a corner and rock back and forth.

    It just reeks of dumb.

  3. Carlie says

    Well, it looks like I was wrong, and it’s all my own fault. Gaythia over at intersection linked to what I thought was a NYTimes series on female genital mutilation that came out awhile back, but it’s really the wartime rape series. So I take back my assertion of what she was saying, because I was wrong at #475. I saw the title, thought I remembered that was the title of the fgm series, and wrote before checking it to be sure. Absolutely, totally my own fault.

  4. Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM says

    It does reek of dumb and disgusting but Deepak Shetty rocks!

  5. Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM says

    Carlie, I think some people should take a lesson from you.

  6. jenbphillips says

    FGM is an action of the construct which reinforces the absolute evil of women, a construct supposedly from god, in which it is always the woman who is unclean, filthy, a temptation which cannot possibly be ignored or averted…

    I totally agree, of course, that it’s all that–and more. There’s all sorts of fucked up superstition behind this abominable practice, some god-related, some not, but at the center is an undeniable belief–a preference, even–that women should not be sexual beings. As such, it is perfectly justifiable to hack away the parts of their bodies that function as organs of sexual pleasure, thus ensuring that they will never dishonor their families by having sex for any reason but procreation–or to serve the pleasure of their husbands.

    Stu: thanks for cross-posting your comments over here, whether or not they ever appear at the pile-up, I appreciate the time and effort you took to speak on behalf of the Pharyngulistas.

    And, just for a little extra perspective: so far we’ve been face-palming over the inapt comparisons between anonymous blog insults and real life violence. Here is an example of a comment, directed at me, that was far, far creepier–verging on threatening–than anything being discussed at Chez Colgate right now. Notably, it contains no profanity whatsoever. Make of that what you will.

  7. Caine, Fleur du mal says

    Carlie, not a problem, we got some good conversation out of it. The mere fact you corrected yourself puts you massively higher than any one of the Pearltown moral police.

  8. Carlie says

    jen – sorry, I remembered something wrong, didn’t double-check, and brought up worse than they were really doing.

    But wow. That comment you linked to is about ten ways of creepy. That’s how you do threatening and scary to women, right there. I’d take a dozen rusty knife comments over that any day.

  9. Caine, Fleur du mal says

    From Jen’s link:

    Can I ask you a rhetorical question? Since you talk like a man, can you behave like a man? If you were walking down the street would you talk to a strange man the way you talk to strange men on the internet from the safety of where ever you are?

    I would advise against it. You never know if people are from your social grouping or not. Maybe the person you are acting like a man with is from a culture where they physically chastise people who say nasty things.

    Holy cow. I remember that particular asshole. That is seriously creepy, with that subcurrent of “I hope this happens to you and shows you the error of your ways, woman!” Nasty, very nasty. Of course, that would most likely pass as good advice on a certain crossroad.

  10. Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM says

    Jen, that was breath taking and not in a good way. Implying that one should act and talk in a certain way because of gender was bad enough. But that was the point of that story? It is good that Orac did the right thing.

  11. The Laughing Man says

    I was told very recently that Kinsey’s methods of research were rather poor, in particular sampling prisons (homosexuality being a jail-able offence) and bathhouses (need i say more?). This is what i have heard, and i’m quite bothered to find a proper rebuttal :-/

    In addition i’m rather worried that no one bothered to even address my other post other than for presentation problems. *sigh* Oh well. I am not the master of the universe i suppose

  12. jenbphillips says

    Carlie–no worries at all. I appreciate you correcting your original assumption, and as others have pointed out it is a damn sight more than we could ever expect from anyone in that nest of tone trolls.

    Yeah, that comment was more than a bit chilling, especially as it came in the same week I had decided to come out from behind my ‘Danio’ ‘nym and start posting comments under my real (full) name.

    Back on point, though, can you imagine a greater departure from the tone and content of StuV’s offending post? There’s just no comparison. Sheril & Co are fucking insane.*

    *by which I mean their behavior is exceedingly irrational, not that they are fornicating with the mentally ill.

  13. Caine, Fleur du mal says

    The Laughing Man, don’t be dismayed. Your post didn’t go unnoticed, people just get busy with conversations around these parts. Keep joining in.

    As for Kinsey, I don’t know enough to say. I do think his scale idea is sound; I think people’s sexuality is more fluid than perhaps they would like to think.

  14. Paul says

    By the way, Deepak Shetty posted the same rebuttal in the previous thread when they were complaining about SEED’s terms being violated and SEED being responsible for the content (that is, that they state explicitly that they have no obligation to censor content). It was post 476. Note that they completely ignored it and started parroting the same talking points in the new thread.

    By the way, Stu, re: “can’t we all go to Pharyngula?”. The Intersection regulars have previously admitted to trolling merely to get post count up (the example that comes to mind is McCarthy, who was “just trying to hit 700 comments on that thread”). Makes you wonder about the relationship between commenters, blog hosts, and traffic flow in situations like this. Do they allow trollish, intellectually dishonest morons to continuously spew their tripe merely because they drive people to the site via rampant SIWOTI who are otherwise sick and tired of M&K’s contentless blather? One wonders.

  15. Caine, Fleur du mal says


    Makes you wonder about the relationship between commenters, blog hosts, and traffic flow in situations like this.

    Well, Laden recently used Pharyngula to his advantage, giving him a comment volume he’d never had before. Now that the fuss is over, he shows up and trolls here. It’s pathetic.

  16. Paul says

    Sorry, I hate uncited hearsay, even when it’s tangential. McCarthy said:

    Big Dumb, you need to get another line. I’m just here trying to get the comments up to 650 so I can mention it to Coyne’s boy, NEB, someday.

    While knee deep in garbage finding the exact quote, I found that Kwok gem regarding the camera blackmail:

    A few friends of mine caught onto my “threat” over at Pharyngula and realized immediately that I was joking (I had no idea that they were reading it until I found out a few days later.). But the point remains that even I admitted to PZ that it was a joke, he still insisted – and apparently still does – that it wasn’t. IMHO for him to still insist means that he’s lying.

    Just including it since I mentioned it earlier, and someone was surprised and unfamiliar with the excuse. Good stuff. “My friends knew I was joking, so PZ is lying because he took my blackmail (sent to many people so they would insist he pay up) at face value”.

  17. Paul says

    Well, Laden recently used Pharyngula to his advantage, giving him a comment volume he’d never had before. Now that the fuss is over, he shows up and trolls here. It’s pathetic.

    Yeah, but his link in his username is still broken and won’t actually take people to his site (and it’s been like that for over a year, and it has been mentioned to him). I think at this point he’s just defensive, chronically unable to own up to how badly he handled himself, and hoping if he contributes on other issues people will forget how morally bankrupt he acted.

  18. Feynmaniac says

    A total of 3 of Pharyngula’s banned (Kw*k, Bilbo and J.J. Ramsey) appear in The Intersection‘s latest train wreck of a tread.

    Not bad, but it doesn’t beat its own record of 5*.

    * Kw*k, Pete R**ke, J*hn D**ison, M**bus, and S*lver F*x. Many other kooks who weren’t banned appear on that thread as well. Enter at own risk.

  19. Caine, Fleur du mal says

    Hmmm, the last few times I bothered to mouse over his username, the link was there. Maybe it’s gone again.

    hoping if he contributes on other issues people will forget how morally bankrupt he acted.

    Thing is, he doesn’t contribute – that’s apparent in this thread (Laden’s post @ 193 and following and his username links to his blog). All he does trolling here is to continually attempt to justify his sleazy behaviour and actions.

  20. Gyeong Hwa Pak, Tai Dam lum Pun says

    I haven’t been around long enough to know the troll commenters at the intersection. But from my visit there, I get the impression that they are doing what Ham does (I think it was in the Ken Ham is baffled post where he quote-mine and distort peoples comment without linking and attribution). Which would be very dishonest of them. But again I don’t know them so I can only infer.

  21. The Laughing Man says

    Actually i used to be semi-regular here under a different psuedomymn but i thought if i HAD to sign up i would take a name that i preferred

  22. Bastion Of Sass says

    You know, I lurked here for ages before I commented, and I continue to be surprised by the amount of idjits who assume there are no women on Pharyngula.

    Nod. I think a number of us have had the experience of being referred to as “he.”

  23. jenbphillips says

    Laughing Man @512:

    These criticisms aren’t new, and are, in some ways, valid. There was no randomization because all participants in the survey were volunteers. Kinsey answered this charge with the claim that a more random sample wouldn’t have necessarily given more representative results because people would have been afraid to answer honestly.

    The important thing to keep in mind, IMO, is that Kinsey & colleagues were the first to even attempt to collect these kind of data. Even if the methods were flawed from a scientific point of view, the end result was that a huge taboo was lifted, and a sea change occurred in cultural acceptance of talking about sex, and in particular talking about homosexuality. Sex surveys, which had never, ever been done before, became increasingly commonplace, to the point where today it’s quite straightforward to take a random population cross section and be reasonably assured of honest responses to such intimate questions. At this point, literally thousands of such surveys have been done, and none of them appear to conflict with Kinsey’s original findings in any meaningful way.

  24. SC OM says

    I just want to say, belatedly, that I’m sorry you’re having to go through this, Stu. Believe me, I can sympathize. FWIW, your “What is wrong with you?” posts are showing them up for the sleazy, irrational defamers they are.

  25. Sven DiMilo says

    bourbon and Panic and jazz and pork and hoppy beers

    I so want to be at El Chimpo’s house. Pretty much all the time.
    I’ve seen pix of his beer fridge.

  26. says

    SC: thanks. I’m done though — it’s now down to trolling for more comments by a few sockpuppets. What a boring, boring, boring and depressing place it is over there.

  27. Brownian, OM says

    I just read johnq’s comment about the whole dustup:

    I’d call it sophomoric if I weren’t worried about triggering a thousand posts arguing about whether I’d been overly insulting to sophomores.

    He’s a bit off the mark. It’s not that those at The Intersection would worry about being overly insulting to sophomores, it’s that they’d start complaining that johnq was actually suggesting they all be immediately enrolled in a second year of high school or university. Claiming someone be forced to enrol in remedial education against their will may be fine for governments, but is almost certainly a violation of Discover Blogs’ Terms of Service. As someone who’s seen A Clockwork Orange, I can only weepily imagine what someone who’s been the victim of the Ludovico technique might feel upon having read that filth.

    I am angrily typing a letter.

  28. says

    The latest from Kwok, without comment:

    Just noticed this as a breaking news headline:

    A man in Atlanta, GA was arrested for posting over on YouTube on February 28th a video of himself urging that Elton John should be killed:

    While I won’t equate that man’s act with the comments over at Pharyngula, I think it is quite clear that SEED Media needs to do something to PZ Myers and Pharyngula. IMHO a mere slap on the wrist would be a most unsatisfactory response.

  29. The Laughing Man says

    jenbphillips, I was hoping you may actually have a paper in mind :-p

    There is an entire Kinsey Institute. I don’t believe that there Wouldn’t have been other surveys of this kind….

  30. jenbphillips says

    Well, LM what is is that you want to ‘rebut’, exactly? That the methods were ‘poor’? Guilty as charged for values of ‘poor’ that include the use of data from non-randomized subjects.

    If there’s a particular area of his findings (on male sexuality? on female sexuality? what?) that you are interested in learning more about, you should plug whatever that is into the PubMed search engine and see what comes up. I just plugged in ‘human sexuality’ and got a bunch of titles, which, if nothing else, proves that a shitload of sex surveys have been done over the years.

  31. Ichthyic says

    note the Kwokster’s choice of phrasing:

    I think it is quite clear that SEED Media needs to do something to PZ Myers

    John’s all into physical punishment I guess.

    what a fucking sociopathic little twit he is.

  32. truth machine, OM says

    what a strange thing to say on a blog

    No stranger than “I blocked your emails? I think not” or, more to the point, “And your true self emerges. I dodged a bullet there…. So sorry we won’t be meeting up.”