Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Science" and the culture warriors

This is just a quick note to say check out this NY Times article on so-called "science" bloggers: "Unnatural science". The writer, Virginia Heffernan, makes a mistake I think in the assumption underlying this question: "So why have I been thinking it’s time to don the old Derridean cloak and re-enter the unwinnable science-culture battle?", because what she's talking about isn't a "science-culture" war at all (in which Derrida & Co. would be of little use anyway) but rather more of a pseudo-science as culture-war. The combatants here are just science bloggers at a conglomerated site called ScienceBlogs, and their targets are admittedly mostly petty, but a) that alone says something about the focus of their interests, and b) it also says something again about both the politicization and what might be called the culturalization of science in these days of increasing political/cultural polarization. Here Heffernan hits her stride:
Hammering away at an ideology, substituting stridency for contemplation, pummeling its enemies in absentia: ScienceBlogs has become Fox News for the religion-baiting, peak-oil crowd. Though Myers and other science bloggers boast that they can be jerky in the service of anti-charlatanism, that’s not what’s bothersome about them. What’s bothersome is that the site is misleading. It’s not science by scientists, not even remotely; it’s science blogging by science bloggers. And science blogging, apparently, is a form of redundant and effortfully incendiary rhetoric that draws bad-faith moral authority from the word “science” and from occasional invocations of “peer-reviewed” thises and thats.
Under cover of intellectual rigor, the science bloggers — or many of the most visible ones, anyway — prosecute agendas so charged with bigotry that it doesn’t take a pun-happy French critic or a rapier-witted Cambridge atheist to call this whole ScienceBlogs enterprise what it is, or has become: class-war claptrap.
Particularly enjoyed the phrase "draws bad-faith moral authority from the word 'science'", which has far wider application.

fwiw, I had ScienceBlogs as a link on the right for a short time -- I was young and naive -- but took it down because I was more interested in, you know, science. (I should also say that I kinda like Fox News, but then I don't think it's misleading as to its focus.)

Thanks to Instapundit

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