Portrait of the blogger

The most amusing coverage of the Nature top science blogs article comes from The Technology Chronicles, which begins by calling scientists “sober, dispassionate, precise” and suggests that we’ve abandoned “Olympian impartiality” to compete with Cute Overload. I get the impression the author hasn’t ever met a real scientist. Nick will love being called a “budding Matt Drudge.”

We need more cute, huh? OK, I can do cute. I had to run my photo through a face transformer to do it, but here I am, rendered a bit more adorably than in real life.


Now I just sit back and wait for the fans to roll in.

(Thanks to Lindsay, who took the original photo.)

Evolution of Hormone Signaling


Last week, I received some delusional e-mail from Phil Skell, who claims that modern biology has no use for evolutionary theory.

This will raise hysterical screeches from its true-believers. But, instead they should take a deep breath and tell us how the theory is relevant to the modern biology. For examples let them tell the relevance of the theory to learning…the discovery and function of hormones…[long list of scientific disciplines truncated]

Dr Skell is a sad case. He apparently repeats his mantra that biology has no need of evolution everywhere he goes, and has never bothered to actually crack a biology journal open to see if biologists actually do use the theory. In my reply to him, I did briefly list how evolution is used in every single one of his numerous examples, but today I’m going to focus on just the one I quoted above: hormones.

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I blush to mention it

Declan Butler has a short article in this week’s Nature on the “Top 5 Science Blogs”. This was determined by identifying blogs written by scientists and determining their rank on Technorati. The top five are:

  1. Pharyngula, at #179
  2. The Panda’s Thumb, at #1647
  3. RealClimate, at #1884
  4. Cosmic Variance, at #2174
  5. The Scientific Activist, at #3429

Declan asked each of us to say a little bit about why we were succeeding in this medium, and that’s given in a short summary. It’s seriously edited down, though—I have no complaints at all about what he wrote, but he didn’t use one part I wrote to him. I can’t blame him, since it undercuts the premise of the article, but I wanted to mention it here, at least.

Hmmm, reasons for my “success”…well, first of all, I have to say that I don’t measure success in terms of Technorati rank or traffic. There are great science blogs out there (check out the list at scienceblogs.com) that are more focused than mine and certainly do a better job of more sharply elucidating the niche they occupy. I’d say I have wider popularity because I do tend to wander off into many different topics, so there is a more diffuse field of potential interest, tapping into the broader areas of liberal politics and atheism. I think, also, I’ve tapped into a fair amount of resentment against the reactionary religious nature of American culture—to some, I suspect I’m one representative of opposition to the excesses of our dominant political regime. This country is strongly polarized, and my position makes it easy for many to identify with me…and those who disagree find it easy to characterize me.

Nature has made available a list of the top 50 science blogs, which will make for a useful start for anyone trying to fill up a blogroll. As Sciencebase notes, though, it does have some omissions.

Coturnix turns up a publicly accessible copy of the article.

Butler D (2006) Top five science blogs. Nature 442(7098):9.

Dire warnings

Reading some of my favorite blogs today, I can’t help but feel the looming hand of fate preparing to destroy us all.

  • Jon Voisey is praising a director of the Oklahoma ACLU, Joanne Bell. You’re in Kansas, Jon. It’s not that far from Oklahoma. What happened to Bell could happen to you.
  • Ophelia Benson is saying harsh words about Mother Theresa. An uppity woman criticizing an icon of Christian charity? Someday, you could be in a hospital with a hatchet-faced nun looming over you, contemplating how best to chastise your body before your immortal soul meets the god who will fling you into the flames of Hell.
  • General JC Christian dares to mock those who would sic Jew-haters on the home of the Dobrich family. You’re anonymous, old boy—wouldn’t it be a fine coup for some winger somewhere to publish your home address and phone number? Let’s see how funny you are when a manly Christian fellow shows up at your door with a demand to give your inner Frenchman a workout.
  • Cream Pickle Pups? Oh, no—it’s fair time in the Midwest, when the most obscene foods appear in greasy carts on dirt paths in places that reek of farm animals. We’re all gonna die.

Despite the horrible possibilities, though, I can’t help but hope that everyone keeps it up. Well, except for Diablo Cody—no one really needs to OD on fried fats in grease, do they?

Creationist email to the fraternity

One more piece of creationist email for you: this one was addressed to me and all of my fraternity of Godless Atheists, which I think means you readers here. Never mind protesting that some of you are Christian—get used to it, to these guys you will never be truly Christian.

Anyway, it’s not a very entertaining letter. It was, as usual, amusingly formatted (Outlook Express is evil software), but I’ve stripped all that gunky Microsoft html out of it to simplify posting it. It’s your usual argument from poorly understood physics: the Big Bang is evidence of Jesus, really tiny numbers prove Jesus, mangled information theory proves Jesus. It does have one novel argument I haven’t seen before, that a kitchen spray bottle proves Jesus, but I don’t think it’s going to get much traction in the scientific community. I haven’t bothered to reply to it, but if anyone wants to shred the nonsense in the comments, maybe the authors will find it online.

Oh, and welcome to the Atheist Fraternity! Remember, we’re getting together with the Atheist Sorority on Friday night for a Toga Party!

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