Monday, November 27, 2006

Linnaeus Was a Scientist, not an Activist

On November 18, 2006, Nell Boyce filed a story on the origins of the name ‘mammal’ on NPR. She suggested that Linnaeus may have picked the name to promote or encourage breast-feeding and that although “there were other scientists trying to promote alternative terms”, somehow the male-dominated society of Science adopted the Linnaean term not to further the systematic study, organization and naming of life, but instead to keep women at home, to prevent them from working and voting, repressing women of the 18th Century.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What is a Mammal?

I just heard a piece by Nell Boyce on NPR.  It was great radio and mostly good science. But it wasn’t very good History.  I definitely learned more about mammals.  I was intrigued with the story of the word itself, so interested, in fact, that I listened to the story several times and conducted my own research.  But ultimately, I learned more about how the preeminent naturalist of the 17th Century fails to measure up to 21st Century standards of political correctness than I learned about what science was really like back then or what it is like today.  And in so doing, it probably deceives the reader about what the process of Science is really like more than it enlightens.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fallacies in the Science and Religion Debate

One of the things I would like to do with this blog is to watch the raging debate between Science and Religion carefully for erroneous characterizations or fallacious reasoning.

In particular, I am interested in ways that each misrepresent the "other" in the debate. It serves us well as observers in this dialog to repeatedly ask the question "how do we know?" Not all Scientists but certainly some of the most visible regularly succumb to the straw-man fallacy by trivializing religious institutions, beliefs and practices and then demolishing their stereotypes.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Science Communications Services Useful but Not Enough

The two clearinghouses for science news – EurekAlert! in North America and AlphaGalileo in Europe – provide a useful service to the news establishment, science publishers and scientific research institutions. However, adding no additional context to the underlying journal articles they cover, they do little to enhance the quality of the news they report or address the real gap in the public’s understanding of science.