Stacey begins as follows;
My thesis is that it’s not yet possible to get a science education from reading science blogs, and a major reason for this is because bloggers don’t have the incentive to write the kinds of posts which are necessary. Furthermore, when we think in terms of incentive and motivation, the limitations upon the effects of online science writing become disquietingly clear. The problem, phrased without too much exaggeration, is that science blogs cannot teach science, nor can they change the world.
While I found it an engaging read I disagree with the thesis on no less than three major points:
- I do think science blogs are important
- I do think the web will change the nature of scientific education eventually and
- While I agree that we can’t educate the public in the scientist’s sense of “educate”, it’s the intended readers’ motivations, not the writers’ motivations, that present the main issue.
What we need to do is inform, not educate; education is a very difficult and time consuming process under the best of circumstances, and the general public will never understand your pet phenomenon (e.g., barocliinc instability to pick a favorite of my own).
To inform means telling people:
- These are the facts as we understand them
- These are the options as best we can tell.
As long as the press models the conversation as a two-sided debate they will undermine our capacity for sound judgment. Never mind their propensity for muddling facts and confusing priorities. Blogs can offer a great deal in this respect.