06 January, 2009

Our Ugly Response to Fundamentalism

Science blogs can be fascinating. At least, that's when they're (mercifully) discussing science. The New Scientist's own blog, Short Sharp Science, is fairly reliable. Investigation of Scienceblogs.com can be both entertaining and rewarding. Its posterchild, Pharyngula, was pretty good, was quite consistently so for at least a few years.

Looking at Pharyngula today, I'm hugely disappointed. There is no science discussion here, no analysis of new findings. You would say that one post on the whole front page makes a scientific point, as opposed to discussing 'Science' as a cultural/political meta-subject. Most of Myer's posts, for a long time, have been about creationists and the political battleground. Of course, it's just the one guy, and his current thoughts. But there's a worrying overall trend.

A quick browse of related columns and channels on Scienceblogs, Blogger, Youtube and all over the web confirms: we spend as much time 'bashing down fundies' as we do discussing mankinds attempts to push forward the frontiers of our knowledge.

It's a pattern as seductive as it is ugly. Seeing our irrational 'enemy' out of their depth, we point, laugh and deride. I've indulged in it many times before and doubtless will again. I'll feel bad about it afterwards, but I still take that amount of pleasure in seeing extreme views dissected.

Additionally, it's entirely unproductive: I hesitate to use the clich├ęd term 'straw man,' but we mustn't be misled by the ease with which these positions are ridiculed. Religious fundamentalists can't be considered representative of faith, just as I wouldn't welcome the 'Professors' that frequently speak on their behalf.

There are, I suppose, two things I'd like to see. A degree of restraint on our part as scientists; having fun at the expense of other's ignorance is unlikely to reduce the gulf emerging between scientists and the general population. A more considered response is clearly required. And secondly, for scientists to use online resources to rediscover their love of discovery - and display it once in a while, too.

Edit: Just to add some positive to this post, here's the kind of science blogging that I do consider helpful, courtesy of Gene Expression (one of my favourites). In these articles the author tackles a subject that does get people thinking. They're a good example of how clear explanation can explain everyday phenomena that would otherwise be notched up to superstition. Now we just need to equip the population to understand such excellent writing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here, bloody here. I don't think people like Myers have any idea how to persuade anyone of anything.