Sunday, December 02, 2012

Bad Attitudes

In the November 2 issue of Science, Mary Claire King, president of the American Society of Human Genetics wanders into Egyptian politics but what she says has implications for how scientists need to confront those who are peddling follishness.  Prof. King describes the reporting of an Egyptian graduate student Mona Seif, from Ta hir Square.  Seif, when asked about her science and her activism described how both

are very time consuming, time and energy and emotions.  And I'm only beginning to get a handle of doing both at the same time and juggling between my activism and my work.
The response from Mary Claire King was heartfelt
Mona Seif's story illustrates for me the essence of the scietist as a citizen of the world.  Scientists insist on believable data both in work and in public life.  Bright young scientists do not accept nonsense from those in power, and they will not be eternally patient with those responsible for it.  The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual  and practical:  to recognize it, to expose it and to try and fix it.  And because scientists are connected through worldwide networks we can stimulate each other to do the same.
Perhaps not only the young, but ostriching into the laboratory is no longer a viable way of doing science, nor is putting silently up with those who spew nonsense.


Lewis Cleverdon said...

Eli - while I've nothing against ostriches personally, I'm told they can be quite good to eat, as long as you catch them before they get old and stringy.

So how about those fine birds that recently gave us the priceless news that their model of permafrost melt shows it will impose an extra 0.5C of warming by 2100,
- as long as you leave out of the 'fully-coupled' model the fraction of carbon outgassing as methane whose warming will boost melting (and could easily double the CO2e over the crucial 20yr time horizon),
- and you also leave out the accelerating migration of rainfall to high latitudes that will further accelerate melting,
- but you include both notional moderate anthropogenic warming and that from the water vapour and permafrost CO2 feedbacks,
- while you also leave out all other feedbacks including albedo loss and forest combustion and microbial peat-bog decay and tropical soils' desiccation and methyl clathrates' outgassing.

Given that my children currently seem likely to face global crop failures and serial famines in the next decades or two, a few questions seem pertinent.

Is a 'fully-coupled' model the current scientific jargon to describe one that has been 'completely fucked' by design by ostriches ?

Is this report the sort of nonsense that the US scientist you quoted was referring to ?

Were there any youngsters on the team researching it who'd be better taken now than be left to become no use for anything but dog food ? (With the Jetstream buggered we've had a lousy year for the sheep here in Wales, and anyway I'm a bit tired of mutton).

Just asking.



Anonymous said...

> nor is putting silently up with those who spew nonsense

Those doing this work in small communities need a support network to periodically rub shoulders with, metaphorically speaking.

Anonymous said...

s/periodically/periodically (spatially)/

susan said...

Words to live by:

"The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual and practical: to recognize it, to expose it and to try and fix it."

Now, if only I were a scientist. No, just kidding. I also share Lewis's concerns. Continuing to be all over the map, I would say that the people who need to be reached have been thoroughly confused by the all-too-effective obscuring campaign. We can talk across or to each other 'til we're ragged with exhaustion and it's not going to do the trick.

I'm talking about "real" people, for example the over 888 *million* viewers of "gangnam style" (I kid you not). Most of them don't care a hill of beans as long as you don't interrupt their continuous use of smartphones, tablets, etc. Until real reality gets in our face, one can only hope to bring them all to a sense of what really matters.