Nature editor Henry Gee goes all anti-science « Why Evolution Is True

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Henry Gee is a powerful man in science: he’s an editor of Nature.  And that means that every young or ambitious scientist is afraid of him, for Gee is one of those people who decides whether your paper gets published in one of the world’s two most influential scientific journals—something that can make or break the career of a researcher.

But I’m at the tail end of my career, and while I might not have criticized Gee’s ideas when I was younger (I was a bit cowardly!), I have nothing to fear from doing so now.  Let me first add, before I take apart his claims, that Gee appears to be a cat-lover, so there’s at least one good point on his scorecard.

That, however, is more than offset by his piece at the latest “Occam’s Corner” section of the Guardian, “Science, the religion that must not be questioned.“  Actually, I’m quite surprised at Gee’s long-ish essay, because it’s bascially anti-science—and by that I don’t mean that it’s an attack on scientism. Rather, it’s an attack on science itself and the people who practice it.  Nevertheless, Gee makes many of the points that accommodationists and religious people make against science. Finally, he levels the ultimate insult at science, comparing it to a religion in its authoritative priesthood of researchers who, claims Gee, can’t brook criticism. It is absolutely unbelievable that an editor of a major scientific journal can say things like this.

Written By: Jerry Coyne
continue to source article at whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com

32 COMMENTS

  1. I looked at the original source article and I agree it’s terrible. Early on there is this paragraph:

    The problem is that we (not the royal we, but the great unwashed lay public who won’t know the difference between an eppendorf tube and an entrenching tool) are told, very often, and by people who ought to know better, that science is a one-way street of ever-advancing progress, a zero-sum game in which facts are accumulated and ignorance dispelled. In reality, the more we discover, the more we realise we don’t know. Science is not so much about knowledge as doubt. Never in the field of human inquiry have so many known so little about so much.

    I hate it when people do this: state some strawman position that is clearly foolish but without giving a single quote as to who is promoting such an idea. Who in the world does Gee think would advocate this view of science? Are there really scientists who claim that “science is a one-way street of ever-advancing progress”? Because if there are I have never read their work. I haven’t even read any science writers who claim this. I have a lot of issues with bad science writing but even in the worst examples I can’t recall reading anyone who claimed that science wasn’t fraught with dead ends, wrong turns, and corrections. And if no one is really making claims like that what is the point of writing a long article refuting them, except to play into the popular misconception that scientists are arrogant and think they are never wrong?

    • In reply to #1 by Red Dog:

      I looked at the original source article and I agree it’s terrible. Early on there is this paragraph:

      The problem is that we (not the royal we, but the great unwashed lay public who won’t know the difference between an eppendorf tube and an entrenching tool) are told, very often, and by people who o…

      I didn’t read the entire original, but I did read the extracts Coyne posted in his reply. I also read the extract from the second update of that same article, in which an extract from Gee’s article on The God Delusion was presented. In that extract, Gee explicitly calls himself a person of faith, arguing that religion “is one of the few things that makes us human”, and other such half-baked assertions:

      Yes, the scientific process is not a parade of absolutes. Science is relative. Faith, however, is absolute.

      . . .I am one of those people for whom Dawkins would no doubt reserve his most trenchant criticism. Dawkins thinks that science itself provides sufficient awe and wonder to replace an instinct for the supernatural. I don’t. Religion, for all its ills and inequities, is one of the few things that makes us human: I am with the scientists of an earlier age, who found that their motivation in advancing the cause of knowledge was to magnify the name of the Creator.

      For me, Dawkins’ single good point — the only one in 374 pages of secular sermonizing — is that the creation of the Creator is itself inexplicable. As a person of faith, I feel myself sufficiently humble to accept this, and just leave it at that. Science is meant to be humbler still, to bend its findings with the evidence.

      Given the partisan stance (assuming there is a Creator, for one) and appeals to consequences and emotions (saying religion makes us human, whatever uplifting message that was supposed to convey, rather than saying religious beliefs are actually correct), I think we’ve established his motivations are not going to be honest anyway. Strawmanning is practically inevitable, as is the unpleasant barrage of insults and put-downs he substitutes for an actual defence, shown here.

  2. After Coyne posted this, Gee claimed he wasn’t being serious. I know about this only because Coyne took issue with this assertion. I thought that was worth people here knowing about.

    Never in the field of human inquiry have so many known so little about so much.

    This one statement by Gee tells us most of what we need to know about what is wrong with his piece’s attitude toward science, whether or not Gee himself has the attitude in question. The things is, although the ratio of what we know to what we know we don’t know may be falling, what we know is certainly rising, because we’re gaining knowledge without losing old knowledge. Even the fact that scientific conclusions are provisional doesn’t damage this argument; in fact it bolsters it, because it implies what we only thought we knew doesn’t count towards knowledge, which thereby reduces the amount we knew in the past. The only way we could know less later is if we wrongly overturned an idea that was actually right. I fail to see in the falsification method how that’s meant to happen routinely enough for our total knowledge to be in decline.

  3. I’m going to go slighty off-piste here moderators, so I apologize in advance.

    I’ve had this emailed direct from Why Evolution Is True about half a dozen times.

    But I’ve received emails about the cost of American health care from WEIT about two hundred times in batches of about twenty.

    This causes me great inconvenience having to sift through my messages moving personal and professional ones to my drafts folder and deleting the WEIT ones.

    I’ve tried repeatedly to unsubscribe but they just keep snow storming in. I’ve posted messages on the comments thread and also contacted a moderator on RDFRS asking him to contact Jerry Coyne’s outfit to request my account be closed, but to no avail.

    So, I’m now trying this avenue as a last resort; has anyone else had this problem please?

    • In reply to #3 by Stafford Gordon:

      I’m going to go slighty off-piste here moderators, so I apologize in advance.

      I’ve had this emailed direct from Why Evolution Is True about half a dozen times.

      But I’ve received emails about the cost of American health care from WEIT about two hundred times in batches of about twenty.

      This causes…

      I haven’t had that experience with Coyne but I have with other sites. It isn’t necessarily anything nefarious, its just bad IT most likely, the system that is supposed to process your unsubscribe isn’t working and there isn’t a lot of incentive to make those systems work perfectly (I’m sure the systems to process add revenue and get donations get lots more attention). Have you tried just using the Spam filter on your email? I’ve done that with other sites that I unsubscribe to and that still send me emails, just mark it as Spam and that has worked for me.

  4. “Henry Gee is a powerful man in science: he’s an editor of Nature. And that means that every young or ambitious scientist is afraid of him”
    What a great system. Thanks for reminding me why I didn’t go into science, which I love dearly, and still do thanks to not going into it as a career.

  5. What on Earth is the fuss about? I just read Gee’s article and most of it seems perfectly reasonable to me. He makes several worthwhile points, in particular the ridiculously dumbed-down way that science is presented on television (and by journalists in general). Only his final paragraph is a little unfair to some scientists (though not all).

  6. Did Gee get paid to write this stuff ? Obviously. The man’s attitude towards science, which I don’t believe to be either humorous or ironic, is distinctly hostile. As Jerry puts it, a latter day William Paley. A man with a mission to find the Creator. Apparently he got a panning on the Guardian, and I’m so glad Jerry has called him out.

    Science is a tool, just like any other tool, and it can be used for good and evil purposes. Do I blame my razor if I cut myself whilst shaving ? Gee apparently does.

  7. ” As a person of faith “

    Nature editor or not this says it all about this Gee person. Any time you hear ” I am a person of faith ” you can expect that you will not like much of what you hear after that. ( or read in this case )

    ” that Gee appears to be a cat-lover, so there’s at least one good point on his scorecard.”

    That’s two bad points on mu score card!

  8. In reply to #6 by A3Kr0n:

    “Henry Gee is a powerful man in science: he’s an editor of Nature. And that means that every young or ambitious scientist is afraid of him” What a great system. Thanks for reminding me why I didn’t go into science, which I love dearly, and still do thanks to not going into it as a career.

    So what career did you find where the system is free of any problems like this? There certainly isn’t less of this kind of thing in the business world, at least not in my experience.

  9. Science is not able to make accurate observations, yet is able to be used as a way to, “magnify the name of the creator.” Well, Mr. Gee I would like to know (if it’s not too sanctimonious to want to know) how scientific claims are able to be without any truth whatsoever and still magnify the name of a god? How could this pointless pile of datum possibly contribute to the magnification of anything, yet alone an unknown prime mover? Absolutes are for the weak-willed, for those who lack the ability to be proven wrong and smile, for mindless bronze-aged fathers who would rather slay their own children than disobey a deity. Men such as you actually dictate what findings are published? The most apparent flaw in science, in your article, is your involvement in any facet of it. I would say it was senility, but age cannot swallow the burden of your flagrant stupidity, or your awful prose.

  10. Unlike some of the other posters here, I have just read Mr. Gee’s article from top to bottom.

    Mr. Gee is clearly writing with his proverbial tongue in his cheek. He’s having a laugh.

    Unfortunately as Mr. Gee has treated writing for The Guardian like a day out at the Seaside (compared to his usual job at Nature), he made some minor (relatively speaking) errors.

    I say “clearly”, but I will concede that as Mr. Gee and I are British we share a certain detailed understanding of irony. I do know that this skill is not universal, and I therefore naturally forgive those who are – through no fault of their own – incompetent in this regard. Also, some of the clues to his ironic tone are very specifically British (Example: a reference to the Home Service, a radio channel that became defunct in the 1960s).

    Mr. Gee is also making a serious point: He is explaining why science reporting is so poor in non-specialist media. He explains this from a historical perspective, from a journalistic and publishing culture perspective and from a ‘reality-of-science’ perspective (using a link to another column that sets out the full and serious view of scientists).

    Jerry Coyne has fallen into the trap of two cultures separated by a ‘common language’.

    Because he didn’t recognise the columns antecedents Mr. Pinker has focused on an item in Gee’s piece that is essentially irrelevant. In Pinker’s defence, I too would expect better of Mr. Gee even on a ‘day out’. C’est la vie.

    In Jerry Coyne’s defence I have to say that Mr. Gee failed to recognise that The Guardian, now that it is on-line, is an international newspaper – which, let’s face it, is quite a silly mistake for the Editor of an International Science Journal to make.

    Park your enthusiasm for flaying Mr. Gee. What he’s actually saying is that, for science to progress, we must change the way that we think about science. If we don’t the public discourse on science will never address the problems of pseudo-science, politics which should be primarily influenced by science (like public health policy) and the scientific project.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #17 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Unlike some of the other posters here, I have just read Mr. Gee’s article from top to bottom.

      Mr. Gee is clearly writing with his proverbial tongue in his cheek. He’s having a laugh.

      I think Coyne put it best:

      The old defense “I was just being ironic” is often used when someone is caught flat-footed purveying nonsense.

      Given how Gee has behaved elsewhere, I think trying to pass off his words as being “ironic” is giving him too much credit, especially when he compares scientists to religious priests in his Twitter comments and claims that this is “proving his point”. He really is sticking to the strawman. He compares Coyne’s criticism to issuing a fatwa while talking to his fellow users. I think we can take him at face value here.

      Take a gander at other examples of his Internet behaviour elsewhere. Even if he was being “ironic” – which I think is a pretty hollow defence, considering he neither needed to be ironic nor made any genuine effort to elucidate what he’s “really” saying – he botched the job, by all accounts.

      Also, acting like you’re privy to the joke based on a national stereotype? You really want to go down that route? I apologize if I seem overly irate, but you’re not the only British person on this forum, I know what the Home Service is, and given the above link, it looks too much like you’re using “irony” as a get-out-of-jail-free card for someone whose writings don’t warrant it.

      • In reply to #18 by Zeuglodon:

        Given how Gee has behaved elsewhere, I think trying to pass off his words as being “ironic” is giving him too much credit, especially when he compares scientists to religious priests in his Twitter comments and claims that this is “proving his point”. He really is sticking to the strawman. I think we can take him at face value here.

        I agree. Also, unless perhaps you are Andy Kaufmann you don’t use featured op-ed articles in major newspapers to be ironic and have a laugh.

        • In reply to #19 by Red Dog:

          Hi Red Dog,

          … unless perhaps you are Andy Kaufmann you don’t use featured op-ed articles in major newspapers to be ironic and have a laugh

          I don’t understand why a deceased humorist should have a monopoly on humour in newspaper articles. That aside, what is wrong with using humour to put across a point about science and journalism?

          Peace.

          • In reply to #22 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            I don’t understand why a deceased humorist should have a monopoly on humour in newspaper articles. That aside, what is wrong wi…

            Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t saying that he didn’t have the right to be humorous, of course anyone can use humor and it can be a very effective way to make a point. I was just saying that in my experience, except for professional humorists, I think it would be unlikely that someone would get a high profile op-ed and write the whole thing tongue in cheek.

            I wasn’t claiming that as a proof or anything, just giving my opinion that Zeuglodon’s explanation made intuitive sense to me. But I don’t know the original author very well so you could be correct and to be honest — whether he is being serious or not — I find these kinds of arguments to not be very interesting anyway. Ultimately, I’m with Dawkins on this Science is interesting and if you don’t agree…

          • In reply to #26 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #22 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            I don’t understand why a deceased humorist should have a monopoly on humour in newspaper articles. That aside, what is wrong wi…

            Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t saying that he didn’t have the right to be humorous, of course anyone can use humor and it ca…

            If Gee’s point had simply been that science isn’t properly represented in reporting, then he could have just said so and he’d have a lot more people on his side, agreeing with him. In that scenario, I might have given him the time of day, which is why I find it so counterproductive of him to produce this strawman of science, and then juxtapose it with a serious point about science reporting that is treated in exactly the same writing style, tell us he’s being ironic after receiving a heap of criticism, and sink to snobbish self-congratulation by comparing one of his critics to a religious authority, exactly the way he presented it in his article, and when the comparison is fatuous.

            He then never makes it clear whether he’s criticizing science for being a deceptive and overconfident religion when it’s really an extreme doubtmongerer that prompts people into superstition, or criticizing the media for presenting it as though it were a religion, or criticizing scientists as setting themselves up as untouchables. His saving tactic is allegedly to present this unclear parody-cum-critical-commentary to the world and then blame his readers and critics when most of them miss the joke he never bothers to explain and doesn’t even show exists, by saying things that are consistent with his not treating it as a joke.

            It’s when you read about his conviction that science worship somehow backfired and caused the creationist movement that it becomes harder to countenance. Anti-science creationism has been around since natural selection was proposed the previous century, and creationism as a whole was once the default scientific position in the West, to the point that one can come to the opposite conclusion and see that scientific progress has contributed to its decline. His writings elsewhere indicate a pro-religious motive for misrepresenting science as a religion. It’s even in the title, and it’s an old trick meant to drag down science to religion’s level, an anti-science trick that’s been done to death.

            Throw in the facts that his article reads like science and journalism conspired to sucker in and then mislead the public like it was a Scientology cult, his exaggeration of the role doubt and experiment plays in science (all that “fallen down more cliffs than Wile E. Coyote” stuff just downplays its successes way too much), his outright abuse of atheists in his Tweets, his putting down his critics for not understanding the “irony” and “humour” in his article (rather than just admitting he didn’t do a good job of it, or at the very least explaining which parts he was being ironic about and which parts were deadly serious), and his comparing Coyne’s criticisms of his points to a “fatwa”, and you have to wonder why he bothered when he could have just written less pretentiously about the quality of science reporting in the media.

            The main problem with using irony as a defence – apart from its being a cheap defence – is that it drowns out whatever point he was actually making in a pointless muddle of his own devising, like a comedian who never stops telling jokes when he really should. Is he kidding when he blames science for creationism, when he blames the media for its reverent attitude to science, when he says scientists are priests who betrayed people, or when he paints science as a bumbling moron with no firm bases?

          • Love that clip. And this one:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZuowNcuGsc

            In reply to #26 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #22 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            I don’t understand why a deceased humorist should have a monopoly on humour in newspaper articles. That aside, what is wrong wi…

            Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t saying that he didn’t have the right to be humorous, of course anyone can use humor and it ca…

      • In reply to #18 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #17 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        Hi Zeuglodon,

        I think Coyne put it best:

        The old defense “I was just being ironic” is often used when someone is caught flat-footed purveying nonsense.

        I bow down to Jerry Coyne’s superior cultural knowledge and perspicacity.

        Given how Gee has behaved elsewhere, I think trying to pass off his words as being “ironic” …

        I attempt no deception, I speak only as I find.

        … is giving him [Gee] too much credit, especially when he compares scientists to religious priests in his Twitter comments and claims that this is “proving his point”.

        I cannot abide Twitter, and I therefore avoid it at all costs. I am quite certain, even so, of one thing: I am no poorer in this, or any other conversation for that absence.

        Take a gander at other examples of his Internet behaviour elsewhere.

        I had a look around. I found nothing to change my mind about the Guardian piece mentioned in tHe OP.

        Even if he was being “ironic” – which I think is a pretty hollow defence …

        Of course it’s hollow – when you can conceive of no other explanation.

        … considering he neither needed to be ironic nor made any genuine effort to elucidate what he’s “really” saying

        Both the charges – of ‘no effort’ and ‘no need’ – are qualitative and your personal taste. They are charges without substance.

        … he botched the job, by all accounts.

        Excuse me, my account differs.

        Also, acting like you’re privy to the joke …

        Acting? No. Understanding.

        … based on a national stereotype? You really want to go down that route?

        You label my explanation a stereotype, it is you that is over-simplifying. My argument is that Gee’s piece is accessible to all who study it with an open mind.

        I apologise if I seem overly irate …

        Apology accepted.

        … but you’re not the only British person on this forum …

        Hurrah for multiculturalism.

        I know what the Home Service is, and given the above link, it looks too much like you’re using “irony” as a get-out-of-jail-free card for someone whose writings don’t warrant it.

        You are entitled to your opinion. You’re wrong.

        Peace.

    • In reply to #17 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Unlike some of the other posters here, I have just read Mr. Gee’s article from top to bottom.

      Admittedly, I didn’t bother because I generally trust Jerry to spot this sort of thing, but in response to your post I went back and read the whole thing. This is the part which bothers me most:

      I believe there might have been a time when science journalists would engage with scientists, picking holes in their ideas directly, as if throwing traders out of the temple. I yearn for scientific versions of political journalists of the calibre of Jeremy Paxman, James Naughtie or John Humphreys who could take on scientists on their own terms, rather than letting them drop their pearls of wisdom and wander off unchallenged.

      This is either naive or dishonest. Most science journalists simply lack the expertise. It’s no good blaming scientists because journalists don’t understand science. What we need is better journalists and better educators, scientists are doing their jobs just fine.

    • In reply to #17 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Unlike some of the other posters here, I have just read Mr. Gee’s article from top to bottom.

      Mr. Gee is clearly writing with his proverbial tongue in his cheek. He’s having a laugh.

      Unfortunately as Mr. Gee has treated writing for The Guardian like a day out at the Seaside (compared to his usual…

      I embarked on a complete read of the Gee piece eager to have my, newly implanted by you, bias confirmed that Gee is indeed taking the mick. Whereas it started out quite, even robustly, plausible, the irony theory was running on fumes only, if at all, before reaching the end.

      The crafting of ever more rarefied spheres of irony, as a uniquely British bailiwick mostly lost on the more plebeian side of the pond is a well observed and much delighted in phenomenon. And as fun as it is to play that card, doing so as cover for Mr. Gee here is overreach.

      What I did find revealing is Mr. Coyne’s awareness of and sensitivity to a fear of criticizing someone in a position of power who decides whether what you write gets published or not. Not getting published is exactly what happens when you try posting critiques of Coyne and his dearly held ethno-political/historical dogmas on his website.

  11. In reply to #20 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #17 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Hi Peter,

    … in response to your post I went back and read the whole thing. This is the part which bothers me most:

    I believe there might have been a time when science journalists would engage with scientists, picking holes in their ideas directly, as if throwing traders out of the temple. I yearn for scientific versions of political journalists of the calibre of Jeremy Paxman, James Naughtie or John Humphreys who could take on scientists on their own terms, rather than letting them drop their pearls of wisdom and wander off unchallenged.

    This is either naive or dishonest.

    It is, doubtless, a rather rarefied view of how the public discourse on science might be conducted. Gee’s fantasy ignores the fact that any and all journalism is a three-way communication. Gee and I, and many others, would be overjoyed to see that kind of discussion – but it doesn’t happen for a reason. We are a minority.

    The same charge could be levelled at Gee’s Guardian piece, and I’m very surprised that, on these pages so far, no-one has done so.

    Gee is used to writing for a well-educated, sharp, engaged, specialist audience, and his Guardian piece reflects that. If someone had said that Gee failed to make the transition to a general readership, I wouldn’t have argued.

    Most science journalists simply lack the expertise.

    Phil Platt, Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh … I cannot say if you’re right or wrong by using the word majority, but there are plenty of careers to celebrate (it would be great to see more women). Of course, there can never be enough.

    It’s no good blaming scientists because journalists don’t understand science.

    I have posted many times here at RD.net that journalists get too much slack, so I won’t bore for once. Suffice it to say, I disagree.

    What we need is better journalists and better educators, scientists are doing their jobs just fine.

    I agree. It’s always good to end on agreement when possible.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #23 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      We are a minority.

      By we you mean scientists? I’m not a scientist, but I am at least scientifically literate. Until the majority of the population are, it will be far better for most people to simply have faith in science.

      The same charge could be levelled at Gee’s Guardian piece, and I’m very surprised that, on these pages so far, no-one has done so.

      That is precisely where I am levelling the charge.

      Phil Platt, Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh …

      Firstly they are scientists, who also happen to be journalists.

      Suffice it to say, I disagree.

      Why? Those scientists who also happen to be good communicators can be utilised to translate for the press. I don’t think Henry Gee is one of them though…

      • In reply to #24 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #23 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        Hi Peter,

        We are a minority.

        By we you mean … ?

        The scientifically literate. I’m not bragging, my personal scientific ‘reading age’ is only about 15.

        Until the majority of the population are [scientifically literate], it will be far better for most people to simply have faith in science.

        I couldn’t go that far. I’m more interested in lifetime education and improving the output of the media. Given that the traditional media (especially newspapers) ought not need any prompting and that they miss most opportunities I’m also in favour of accelerating the shift to eMedia.

        The same charge could be levelled at Gee’s Guardian piece, and I’m very surprised that, on these pages so far, no-one has done so.

        That is precisely where I am levelling the charge.

        Okay, I missed that. I don’t think Gee forgot that his audience had changed (switching from Nature to The Guardian), he did change his style to address that. On the other hand the style he chose has put most people into a tizzy, which means he failed to find the right style for a general, and international, audience. This appears to be a common mistake that scientists make when they communicate with the general public. There is clearly some specific skill required if even an experienced writer like Gee doesn’t get it.

        Phil Platt, Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh …

        Firstly they are scientists, who also happen to be journalists.

        Good point. I have said, elsewhere on RD.net, that the progress of science means that the public are being left behind and that this creates a new burden of responsibility for scientists. Your point appears to be that journalists are trying to move in the other direction, and failing. Again, no argument here. At the BBC they seem to have given up moving journalists into communicating science, in fact I can think of lots of scientists turned presenter but not one science journalist.

        Newspapers might reply that the Beeb is in the business, when presenting science, of making documentaries where the time taken can cover the detail. There is another interpretation of that fact; newspapers are not fit for purpose when reporting science. That can’t be true for everything – for example: The London Metro, a couple of days ago, published a story on CERN and the latest thinking on black holes and the Standard Model. They made a very good job of it too. Sadly such successes are very rare. I remain a supporter of policies that would see the closing of newspapers.

        Suffice it to say, I disagree.

        Why? Those scientists who also happen to be good communicators can be utilised to translate for the press.

        Oops. When I read your comment: “It’s no good blaming scientists because journalists don’t understand science” I took away the meaning that journalists should be made to improve. Sorry. Strike my previous: I agree.

        I also agree with your latest comment – in the interim it would be better if journalists did what they are supposed to do; check their sources. It appears those who do that then fail to translate the facts into the common language.

        I don’t think Henry Gee is one of them [a good communicator] though…

        Agreed. Mr. Gee may be innocent of some of the charges brought against him, as I continue to claim, but he has also proved that he is not the next Carl Sagan, or Sir David Attenborough. Let’s hope he sticks to Nature in future.

        Peace.

        • In reply to #27 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

          Agreed. Mr. Gee may be innocent of some of the charges brought against him, as I continue to claim, but he has also proved that he is not the next Carl Sagan, or Sir David Attenborough.

          And he’s not a patch on Richard Dawkins! Like how you used “proved” in the real, non-absolutist sense :D

  12. Wow, I just read another article of his:

    A few years ago I lampooned this idea with a similarly scientific rebuttal1: Santa can do everything he claims provided he is a macroscopic quantum object. In this way he can be in as many places as he likes, provided that he remains extremely cold, and nobody is watching. Not only does this trounce Dawkins’ objections, it also works better as a scientific hypothesis, because it accounts for more of the evidence: we now know why Santa is traditionally associated with cold places, and why he does his work while everyone is asleep.

    What evidence?

  13. He is clearly taking the Mickey out of the popular media, contrasting their image of science and scientists with the debating format of peer-reviewed journals. “The great unwashed”, don’t want to try to fathom a scientific debate. They want marvellous simplistic answers!

    I have put a link to one of my comments on another thread, which clarifies the point he is making about the reporting on the Voyager probe.

    I picked out this section:-

    @ Guardian link:-

    None of this gets through to the news pages. When pitching a science story to a news editor, a science correspondent soon learns that the answer that gets airtime is either “yes”, or “no”. Either the Voyager space probe has left the solar system, or it hasn’t. To say that it might have done and attach statistical caveats is a guaranteed turn-off. Nobody ever got column inches by saying that Elvis has a 95% probability of having left the building.

    Why do we (it’s the royal we this time, do please try to keep up at the back) demand such definitive truths of science, but are happy to have all other spheres of human activity wallow in mess and muddle?

    I think it goes back to the mid-20th century, especially just after the second world war, when scientists – they were called “boffins” – gave us such miracles as radar, penicillin and plastics; jet propulsion, teflon, mass vaccination and transistors; the structure of DNA, lava lamps and the eye-level grill. They cracked the Enigma, and the atom. They were the original rocket scientists, people vouchsafed proverbially inaccessible knowledge. They were wizards, men like gods, who either had more than the regular human complement of leetle grey cells, or access to occult arcana denied to ordinary mortals. They were priests in vestments of white coats, tortoiseshell specs and pocket protectors. We didn’t criticise them. We didn’t engage with them – we bowed down before them.

    How our faith was betrayed! (This is the great unwashed “we” again.) It wasn’t long before we realised that science gave us pollution, radiation, agent orange and birth defects. And when we looked closely, “we” (oh, I give up) found that the scientists were not dispensing truths, but – gasp – arguing among themselves about the most fundamental aspects of science. They weren’t priests after all, but frauds, fleecing us at some horrifically expensive bunco booth, while all the time covering up the fact that they couldn’t even agree among themselves about the science they were peddling us like so much snake oil. And if they couldn’t agree among themselves, why should good honest folks like you and me give them any credence?

    Witness the rise of creationists, alien-abductees and homeopaths; the anti-vaxers and the climate-change deniers; those convinced that Aids was a colonial plot, and those who would never be convinced that living under power lines didn’t necessarily give you cancer; ill-informed crystal-gazers of every stripe, who, while at the same time as denouncing science as fraudulent, tried to ape it with scientific-sounding charlatanry of their own.

    If the once-inaccessible scientists had been defrocked, why couldn’t just anyone borrow their robes? Announce that camel turds are the latest miracle super-food; put on a white coat and mumble impressive nonsense about zero-point energy, omega fatty acids and the mystery third strand of DNA; and you’re in business, ready to exploit fool after fool at a bunco booth of your own making.

    And all this because scientists weren’t honest enough, or quick enough, to say that science wasn’t about Truth, handed down on tablets of stone from above, and even then, only to the elect; but Doubt, which anyone (even girls) could grasp, provided they had a modicum of wit and concentration. It wasn’t about discoveries written in imperishable crystal, but about argument, debate, trial, and – very often – error.

    **Not that you’d see any of this in the above-mentioned public prints, which continue to display a disarmingly schizoid attitude to science. **

    I would not see this as anti-science, but rather as contrasting different viewpoints and the various hero/villain misconceptions, which have been floated to the public.

    continue to source article at whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com

    I have not read this continuation of the review yet.

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