Discussion

September 5, 2013

It’s been a bit since I pontificated on discourse. (I know PhysioProffe really misses these types of blather.) I do recommend you read those prior comments.

For today though, a more conciliatory note.

While we might ferociously stick to our position, talking points and arguments in certain scenarios, if we really genuinely want to advance a discussion this can be unwise.

It is essential to drop your position and pugnacity for a second or two and really, genuinely consider where the other person is coming from.

To walk the proverbial mile in their shoes.

And above all else, to think hard about how your stance and opinions appear to other people. This requires including how they perceive you instead of how you perceive yourself.

It can also help to credit the other person’s concerns as if they were as important to them as your concerns are to you. Because chances are this is indeed the case.

I find myself in yet another knock down argument with a guy who, I am pretty sure, I share a lot of fundamental concerns with. On the face of it.

Yet I am convinced this guy is almost pathologically unable to genuinely recognize and consider the viewpoint and circumstances of other people.

There are generally two reasons for this.

First, a sort of overweening personal arrogance that, I am sad to report, is endemic to academics. This is the sort of arrogance born of a lifetime of being smarter than most other people, burnished by happening into a position of (modest, this is academics, mind) power in which many people do not challenge you. Underscored by a profession in which, despite the credit being supposed to come from the work you have done, obsessively views accomplishments as the subsidiary outcome of personal worth.

I don’t think, after a few go-rounds with this fine chap, that this is the problem.

This leaves me with the second problem. Wherein the inability to budge off talking points, the refusal to see complexity of human trajectories and the blindness to others’ lived experience comes from a theological adherence to a higher calling.

Religion, in essence.

It does funny things to people.

I do my fair share of preaching around this blog. And I do my fair share of sticking to my talking points.

But anyone who has been around long knows that what I’m really addicted to is the differential lived experiences of those of you more or less in the broader envelopes of academics, academic science and particularly the subfields that fall under the broad scope of Biology.

I am addicted to walking the mile in your smelly-arsed shoes folks.

They sure do get huffy when they themselves are the ones being subjected to open peer review.

Open Thread

February 14, 2013

If you just can’t wait for us to get our Scientopia domain back in action…..

The phones are open. (As they used to say, kids. GOML)

Is it just me or does the average “free thought”, skeptical / atheist blog comment thread resemble 20 Jack Russell sized dogs simultaneously attempting to ineffectually hump the same person’s leg?

Open Thred

October 7, 2011

Yeah….

I’m getting bored with current conversations around and about. And I’m not feeling the blog muse.

What do YOU want to talk about?

Innocence

September 26, 2011

As you are probably aware there was a lot of hoopla from the lefty libby dirty hippies in the US and kibitzing OldEuro types on social media because the State of Georgia killed this guy. The reasons are pretty well captured in the accompanying article

Davis has repeatedly said he did not kill MacPhail, and seven out of nine witnesses who gave evidence at his trial in 1991 have recanted or changed their testimony.

No murder weapon was ever found, no DNA evidence or fingerprints tie him to the crime, and other witnesses have since said the murder was committed by another man — a state’s witness who testified against him.

This is not hard to grasp.

I have donated to the Innocence Project because I believe in this part of their mission statement.

The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

I did not do so because I oppose capital punishment. As it happens, another unhappy soul was also executed recently, this time in the State of Texas.

Texas executed Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist who was unquestionably guilty of the gruesome dragging death slaying of a black man in 1998.

I intentionally linked to the leftie-libby DFH argument that these are morally and ethically the same events because I disagree. here’s his crux:

The death of James Byrd Jr. — the black man who was tied to the back of a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas and dragged to his death — is shocking to recall, almost 15 years later. His murder is almost unimaginably cruel; it is impossible to read the details without being overcome with anger and revulsion. Yet this is what James Byrd’s sister had to say on the eve of Lawrence Brewer’s execution: “If I saw him face to face, I’d tell him I forgive him for what he did. Otherwise I’d be like him.”

I pay exactly as much attention to victims’ pleas for mercy as I do to their pleas for vengeance. The reason we have a rule of law in the first place is that justice and punishment have to come from a reasonably detached (blind lady justice?), societal point of view. Remember Dukakis and his famous flail on the question of what he would do if his wife were raped? I think Kerry managed to ass that one up too. The real answer Dems should espouse is my answer.

“I’d want to go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. Are you fucking kidding? Anyone would. And given half a chance I damn well would. But there is no place for that sort of gutter, BronzeAge revenge-of-the-powerful jurisprudence in a just society. And THAT is why I support the rule of law.”

But in a democratic society we also meander towards approximations via what is, at root, barely managed democracy. The will of the people, so to speak. And the will of this person is that we, as a society and after due process, execute a guy like Lawrence Brewer. And this asshole too. People like this. maybe this gang of assholes.

But I also think our crime solving and crime convicting systems suck and are tremendously error prone. And have incredibly naked and thoroughly established racial and socio-economic biases.

So I donate to a project that wants to improve that. Even if they do, at root, have goals that are at odds with my support of capital punishment as a valid societal option.

Pick 'em

March 17, 2011

When people opine:

“You have to pick your battles”

it isn’t that I disagree. Really.

I just always want to know,

“So which battle *did* you pick?”

For some reason this is not well received.

I’m thinking I should start a Feel Good Friday series.
Isn’t this great? The cable guy? Freaky movie dude. Annoying because the 8-12 window means he shows up at 2pm?
Awww.

A pit bull belonging to the babysitter’s son attacked the babysitter as she held the infant just as [Cableguy] Dargan arrived for a routine call. Dargan jumped on the dog and held it down while Skyler called 911.
Police soon arrived and fatally shot the dog.
Jordan was hospitalized for serious bite wounds, but his mother told the Daily Freeman of Kingston that her son is expected to make a full recovery.

Isn’t that great? I mean, that kid coulda been killed. Bravo, Cableguy, bravo.

Query

March 4, 2011

What animals could you take in hand to hand* combat?

*damn pedantic scientists

I previously mentioned a new website, The Third Reviewer, dedicated to online discussion of the neuroscience literature.

This brings me to a new internet creation: The Third Reviewer

ThirdReviewGrab.png

The first thing you will notice is the list of journals which publish scientific articles in the neurosciences in the tabs at the top. The site grabs a Table of Contents feed and lists each article as a commentable link/entry. The comprehensive coverage problem is solved.

The site allows anonymous commenting. This is huge.

The site has now expanded from neuroscience to cover microbiology topics.

Poor Matt Nisbet takes his lumps around these parts because his academic field is spin, sorry framing. This is the process within professional communication whereby the strictest and most precise depiction of the current state of knowledge about objective reality is…undervalued. Undervalued relative to driving home whatever broader themes and ideas the communicator happens to favor. Undervalued relative to rounding up votes on “your side”, regardless of why such voters may favor your position.
This annoys some scientists. The process of doing this in the news media or political setting annoys scientists to no end. Telling them that they need to start doing it themselves absolutely infuriates them.
Well, Nisbet has another version of his communication expert doucherocketry up today and it made me realize something. In this post, Nisbet declares war on that online discussion standby, the pseudonymous/anonymous commenter.

Over the next year, I have plans to invest in various content features at Framing Science, and one of the improvements I am looking forward to is an end to anonymous commenting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Longtime blogfriend bill is laughing right about now. Or he will be soon.
I’ve been a considerable skeptic that Web2.0 has anything serious to offer the pursuit of science itself. Not a theological skeptic who can’t see the potential, just one who doesn’t think we’re there yet and can’t necessarily see the path to full Web2.0 / Science integration.
Nevertheless I see potential for the public outreach mission of Web2.0 adoption by scientists. Obviously- since I haven’t stopped blogging yet.
Getting my feet wet allows me a little greater latitude and perspective in trying to think about what needs to be done to realize broader Web2.0 adoption in the daily conduct of science. And I have some ideas.
When you have an idea, the best thing to do is to figure out how to test it, right? To figure out what preliminary data you need, what literature is most relevant and what experts you need to consult. In the design stage, you can use all of these factors to check your assumptions. See where your gut might be leading you astray.
As you proceed along, you can try to see what parts of your protocol are working, what needs to be tweaked and what needs to be junked.
Like I said, I have some ideas. I share the broadest goals of what NPG is trying to accomplish in terms of using the more interactive internet technologies to enhance the conduct of science. I’m working on a couple of projects.
This is by way of lengthy preamble to why I would be gazing upon the cockup that is the Nature Network introspection exercise with some dismay.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m elevating a comment I made in a prior thread. We’re chatting about the Nature Network exercise in self-reflection about the insularity of their blog community. I made two points.
True that there is a population for any blog that should theoretically be in the audience but that departs because of the “tone”. Allegedly I, for example, lost some readers because I extend latitude to certain antediluvian commenters. It should be a consideration.
What should also be a consideration is who is being excluded because they simply do not know you exist- individual blog, blog consortium or even the whole science blogosphere.

It was a good critique, but there are always going to be tradeoffs.I happen to think that one of the good features here at Sb is that we start with a very open approach from which individuals bloggers can tighten up if desired. This can be incredibly fine grained. I’ve had a commenter or three that others of my readers object to and want to know why I don’t ban them. Other Sb blogs that I share readership with may have done so. To the extent that we overlap in blog-interest, readers can find the content without being exposed to the ‘clownery of some of my commenters. Perhaps I lose a few voices, and I regret that, but I have to draw my own lines in making what I think of as my blog’s tone what it is.
There are other types of commenters who pervade other Sb blogs that simply don’t come around here and if they did express that type of behavior here would be moderated or banned. Yet I don’t think Sb is the weaker for the Pharyngaloids, ERV’s selfconsciously outre fanbois, Laden’s “the real” neandertals or even Ed Brayton’s libertardian halfthinkers. I think we are the stronger for it- as a collective blog enterprise.
There was a comment at that NN thread (see problem? I have no idea which blog it is on, see Munger’s comment about individualizing the blogs) about writing for her own peeps and not giving a hang about traffic. Why have a public blog? There are more private social media and fora. More generally, why have the NN blogs visible to anyone other than those who register and login?
The very fact one engages in *public* blogging says that one is interested in reaching new people. Period. After that we are merely discussing whether you are doing a good job meeting performance goals…

Right? Why are you putting stuff out there for the entire Internet to see if you don’t mean to reach people who might be interested in what you have to say, but you have no other way to reach them. In a word, perfect strangers. There are a plethora of controlled-access technologies that would serve the same purpose if all you were after was a private circle of friends.

The Nature Network of blogs announced reaching a 50,000 comment milestone today.

Yes, that’s right, we’ve reached the impressive though totally arbitrary milestone of 50,000 comments on the blogs. Congratulations to Richard Grant, who unwittingly tipped the threshold with his remark ‘Wintlito? Is that like Wintle Lite?’ on this post.

As you know, I’m of the opinion that blogging is mostly about the comments so cheers to them!
A related Twitt from @NatNetNews asked:

Is Nature Network too insular? How would you like us to improve? Have your say in the comment thread: http://bit.ly/8GDI7b

So if you have any opinion on that, go comment.

Read the rest of this entry »