All Hell Breaks Loose In Sci-Blog Land!

Filed as Features, News on April 19, 2007 8:55 am

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The science blogging community has been inundated over the last week-plus with commentary on the subject of “framing” and whether scientists should be framing things in easy-to-digest sound-bytes for consumption by the general public. It started with an article in Science Magazine by Matthew Nisbet and Chris Mooney, entitled “Framing Science.”

This was followed by an NPR On the Media segment and another article by Nisbet and Mooney in Sunday’s Washington Post titled Thanks for the Facts. Now Sell Them., and it seems like everyone who is anyone has weighed in on the topic.

From his own blog ‘Framing Science’, Nisbet wrote that Framing Science sparks a seismic blog debate, listing some of the blogs talking about the issue, whose support might come in handy for jacket endorsements if he ever writes a book about it. He includes Randy Olsen’s strong endorsement as detailed on Mooney’s blog in Of intertia, Ostriches, and Science Duds – Randy Olsen’s Take on “Framing Science”, UWisc professor Dietram Scheufele’s praise on the blog ‘nanopublic’ with Standing on the shoulders of disciplinary dwarves? , and some irony from Chad Orzel of ‘Uncertain Principles’ with Framing and Arrogance. There are many more blog reactions linked in Nisbet’s post, so if the subject interests you, do some clicking and reading!

Chris Mooney links a few blog reactions as well in his blog ‘The Intersection’ in a post entitled Framing Science: Blog Overload. One of the most interesting comes from Gavin Schmidt of ‘RealClimate’ in A Tale of Three Interviews. Schmidt is a climate scientist. Most of us science groupies are aware that climate scientists are in the news a lot, trying to frame the global warming issues so the public and politicians can know what’s going on. Obviously not the easiest job on the planet, though we’ve all got a stake.

Of course, our stake in such issues doesn’t necessarily come couched in the terminology of civil unrest and nasty rhetoric, as the framing debate has managed to descend to on the blogs of some of the most notorious culture warriors. Mooney responds in “Framing Science”, Round II to PZ Myers’ self-defensive rhetoric in his response to the WaPo article, Nisbet and Mooney in the WaPo: snake oil for the snake oil salesmen.

Or, as Coturnix of A Blog Around The Clock said in a response in PZ’s thread – “In the meantime, we’ll try to work on their kids so in 20 years this entire discussion becomes unnecessary.”

It’s all the usual atheism vs. theism rants using threaty rhetoric, along with some very revealing strategic and tactical outlines that should interest people no matter what side of that divide they stand. A little bit of framing on the issues is offered by Mike the Mad Biologist in his post, Actually, Biologists Have Done That. who takes Pope Benedict to task for his recent statements about evolution and the limits on useful experimentation in those fields.

Dave Munger wrote a piece on ‘Cognitive Daily’ that should have been read by more of the culture warriors before they decided to make this bruhaha overtly public. It’s called Casual readers read more closely than you think, and comes with a nice graph showing how much attention the reader actually does pay when he’s taken the trouble to load the page.

Meanwhile, a few science bloggers did write about science. Jeremy Bruno of ‘The Voltage Gate’ offered The Earth Day Issue with a link to the web page the Sierra Student Coalition at FSU has put up to outline their Earth Day themes and events. Chad Orzel at ‘Uncertain Principles’ tells us Newton: Still Right. He cites some recent experiments in Physical Review Letters that have confirmed Newton’s Second Law of Motion [F=ma], reminding us that Relativity didn’t supersede ol’ Isaac completely.

Finally, Jennifer Jacquet of ‘Shifting Baselines’ answers the whole framing issue by pointing out how comedian Stephen Colbert managed to get around public apathy with his namesake sea turtle, promoting the Great Turtle Race from Costa Rica to the Galapagos. Turtle Tactics: From Stephanie Colburtle to Entourage, How to Meet the Mainstream (Likeably) is short and sweet, and contains a link to Randy Olson’s similar take on helping mainstream America to pay attention.

Have fun perusing the science blogs’ religious and political meltdown, but don’t take any of it more seriously than it deserves. They’re not really coming after you and your children in jackboots and black leather. At this point, they’re only at the strategy phase for converting you and your children to their exclusive ideology (and the signs are that no one’s agreeing on the proper strategy!).

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  1. By coturnix posted on April 19, 2007 at 9:09 am
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    Nice round-up. Interesting that you link to an irrelevant post of mine instead of any of the nine posts on the subject I wrote over the past two weeks….

  2. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 19, 2007 at 10:40 am
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    The issue of “framing” has always been one of interest for me, as a writer and a science lover. You’ve given me a ton to pour through on the subject. THANK YOU!

  3. James Governor’s Monkchips » links for 2007-04-20April 20, 2007 at 6:32 pm
  4. By Kenneth Stein posted on April 21, 2007 at 8:52 am
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    As a Lawyer, how I present content is as important as the content itself.
    Aileen, you might have a look at my post detailing an exchange between Steven Harnad and John Searle. Cognitive Science vs Philosophy.
    Lorelle, you might look into Milton Erickson and Paul Ekman for additional materials.