Rational Discussion of Controversial Topics


Fwiffo 24 June 2015 12:51 AM

Nobodys opinion is science. It is okay to talk about and be interested in personal opinions if they are clearly marked as such.

Scientists are often expected to be able to collaberate. That requires communication too. It could be consistent to have the scientists job to be narrow about science but then it is inconsistent to have them give talks (which is not doing science but talking about it). I think currently there is a kind of system where ability to give talks is a kind of reward for reaching a high status. Altering that might need to be compensated elsewhere if the career of a scientists becomes less atractive. I could also see why making a separate profession of a science populariser could make sense.

If we pick our scientist by science narrowly only then they are predictably bad at talking. It could be said that while science as a field requires skill in science a leader in science still needs leader skills part of which can be seen in being able to represent the group outside of it.

I am primarily focused on the inperson situation where the speech giver had the words happen in a context where the audience wanted to interpret the words in a hostile manner and start spreading them. In practise it has a lot to do with the accompanying non-verbal "feel" and the standards on what would be unaccetable subtext via those methods is quite muddy. Understanding should be a two-party cooperative action. On one hand the explainer hasn't done his job until the receiver has understood while it can be tempting to just say things that the explainer feels for himself are the core fo the issue. On the other hand the receiver ought not to try to match hostile stereotypes too aggressively.

Focusing on small excerpts is already in itself a badish thing. It isn't that much better when the excerpts are chosen representatively. ... read more


ChristianKl 24 June 2015 04:54 AM

"Talking" isn't a single skill.
The skill of concealing your own opinion is a different skill from the skill of explaining complicated things in a way that's understood.

Scientists in general are not supposed to speak like politicians where their talk sounds good but communicates no real information.

You assume that the motivation for attacking him is the speech he gave.
He might also be attacked because a colleague is angry at him for denying a grand request.
From the outside you never know what motivates a media campaign.


Fwiffo 24 June 2015 08:23 AM

The media campaign might be unwarranted even if the mistake doesn't have good excuse from happening.

If you are there to talk how you integrate scientists in a lab environment and include elements that are meant to lighten the mood you want to make sure it isn't mistakenly construed to be part of the subject matter.

Scientists have a higher standard on avoiding things that could be construed to be falsehoods. Talking in a way that leaves it ambigious how scientists are used in lab work is a poor description of the job processes and very imprecise. If whether the explanation correctly carries the process description is hinging on just a few words there would still be problems even if the key words would be gotten "correct". That kind of explanation is not robust enough. If facts can be mixed with opinions then it has been ambigious what part is personal opinon and what part is possibly experimentally or peer reviewed theses. In case lab results are presented personal opinion that is concealing rigour and downplaying the strength of the results. If personal opinion is presented as experimental results that is comparable to fabricating evidence. A person that can't get this division across should not be talking about what science has to say about the subject matter.


ChristianKl 26 June 2015 06:13 AM

Scientists have a higher standard on avoiding things that could be construed to be falsehoods.
By that standard most scientists fail, because mainstream media manager to write articles about scientific papers that say things that aren't true.
The true goal is rather to say things that won't be mistaken by an audience who actually cares about knowing the truth.