Sunday, September 19, 2010


I was about to write something that was rather self absorbed. I'll leave that for a private piece of writing sometime. A few days ago Jerry Coyne, wrote a piece on a question that he gets asked quite often.

I find it sad, that these are not the questions I get asked. The questions I get asked usually revolve around segments that people see on programs like 60 minutes, 20/20 or close up. They are usually about drugs that the government won't fund, sprays that are supposedly causing major health problems, people regrowing fingers or miracle cures that the evil pharmaceutical companies are trying to prevent people from finding out about.

And then one offers the opinion, that, perhaps, one shouldn't be relying on a 10 minute segment from shows that are based around trying to achieve ratings rather than educating people, there's that wonderful slide off into "scientists don't know everything" and "it's just a theory isn't it".

Which just makes me want to scream. I'm not the best at coming up with arguments on the fly. I've spent the past year or so trying to drill some common responses to some of the more common questions into my woeful memory, but I generally prefer to take my time, mull things over, make sure what I'm thinking has some sort of valid structure to it. Which is why I generally refuse to talk science when I'm out socially.

There are exceptions, good and bad. The good being when there are other scientists at the party. I'm fairly lucky with this, my social circle (outside of school) has, randomly, probably a higher percentage of scientists than one would expect to find elsewhere. One can usually be guaranteed that there will be a modicum of logic behind whatever position they advance.

The other side of the coin, is the believers in psychic woo, occasionally blindside me with conversations that start out innocuous and end up with me trying to point out very basic flaws in their thinking. I have to say though, I still have difficulty getting over my incredulity at individuals that in all other resepcts appear sane, who believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

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