In reality, how far reaching are science blogs?
Personally, I know that almost no-one I work with or in my social life makes a regular habit of reading or writing blogs.
As for reaching further – providing a reference source for other interested parties, I suspect that the vast majority of the blogging community keep tabs only on blogs that they like and agree with and at least one of the blogs that they love to hate. It’s sport.
Unfortunately the more famous may actually find themselves with a regular reader; some hack journalist, who faithfully propagates the post to a wider audience. As scandals and authority-bashing sells, these mediocre journalists are drawn to the less accurate / evidence-based blogs, such as Watts Up With That?
We’ve all been witness to this in one form or another.
You can be rich with evidence and informative; some people will thank you and some will be too overwhelmed to read.
You can be lighter on the technical evidence, more engaging and dynamic – linking to further reading and conversational in your approach; some people will thank you and add to the value of the post with their comments and some will argue that you’re completely wrong and not worth the debate.
You can forgo the technical element all together, suppose it as given, based on referred literature and argue simply on sound reason; you may be luck enough to have a single comment that states that your argument is weak and baseless.
In all cases however, come the next visit, it’s likely that your reader has already moved on from the last post – you could, if you had a wide enough vocabulary, probably write the same post in various forms and none would be the wiser. And as stated above, if you bother to read the tabloid rags, the most you’ll find in relation to all this is some cheap call for blood based on nonsense.
Yet the science blogging community is passionate about this environment of discussion. I guess it’s one of the only places where an angry individual has an outlet to attack a seasoned professional in some field (a faceless victim, one could argue, and the desire to inflate ones ego). It also brings together those from around the world, who are outraged that modern science challenges their scripture, into a community determined to undermine reason.
It is largely a hive of irrationality, mixed with well meaning informers, stewing itself in activity without focus or progress. Maybe it is just like other blogging communities and is merely entertainment with the stolen title of “science” (I do not agree with this however; there are a number of absolutely fantastic professionals who not only produce a plethora of literature that furthers our understanding of the world and greater universe, or teaches tomorrows scientists, but do both and maintain brilliant blogs at the same time!).
Still, I cannot help but feel that much of the science blogging actually is a discredit to science in general. The number of self-important writers who are eager to tell anyone who will listen that they are soon to write an Earth shattering book, or that the science is wrong because of what they have published (note that Microsoft Word now comes standard with the option to save a document as a .pdf and that these “published” people have merely provided a link to their document somewhere online and consider this enough to inflate). The fact that the sensational nonsense often makes its way into the media further reinforces this delusion of authority over experience, trial and error, peer-review and the other tools that hang from the belt of scientific methodology. Access to data and a spreadsheet seems to be enough for such self-proclaimed experts.
Another clear example is that in the comment threads of serious and informed blogs, such as SkepticalScience and Global Warming: Man or Myth? you find number individuals who openly scoff at the science. What kind of discussion are such individuals looking for, or truth to a subject, if they maintain that the science is rubbish?
It’s like someone who continuously knocks medical science and medicine on a daily basis, preferring to rely on natural therapy, who then is quick to demand medicine to be injected into their system after a violent gastro bug has caused many hours of continuous vomiting. It’s two-faced and counter-productive.
Returning to my original question; how far does scientific blogging reach? Does it reach it’s mark, or help to address critical issues, such as sustainability, stressed ecosystems, human health and a changing climate? So far, all I have witnessed is a whole heap of noise clouding reason and very little objective progress.