Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Popular Writing About Scientific Research

Today in class we briefly discussed the Introduction to The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2007 by Richard Preston. Omar pointed out Preston's final comment: " . . . writing about science is just another way of writing about the human condition." What do you make of this statement? Do you think this comment holds true for "academic" scientific writing (like the articles you read for research purposes) as well as for "popular" scientific writing? Does it pertain to one more than the other? What does this statement mean and do you think it is true?

4 comments:

  1. I think that "... writing about science is just another way of writing about the human condition" can be referencing several things. It could reference human curiosity and our drive to know more through science. Another thing it could be referring to is the passion that science writers have for their subject matter. The second question asks if this holds for both academic writing as well as popular science writing and I would have to say it depends. I would say that it can apply to both, but the majority of what you see in academic writing is not as seemingly passionate as what you may see in popular writing. This is not to say that the researchers are not passionate about their work, just that it does not come out in their writing.

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  2. I agree with what David says in reference to "... writing about science is just another way of writing about the human condition". Though I also see it could be referring to that in some fields their passion could come out. We know what our fields are like for science writing but are not familiar with every science field out there. There could be some fields that have the capacity to talk about or show the human condition in their body of work. I do feel that popular science magazines have the capacity to write and show the human conditions better than actual scientific field magazines (National Geographic vs Geology).

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  4. I personally feel that Richard Preston’s statement about scientific writings is generally true. No matter how trivial or worthful any scientific finding is, it is done by humans. Humans are inherently flawed and biased. For example, in our scientific texts, we give more weightage to those theories or observations, which suit our observation or theory. Additionally, any scientific endeavor is done under the constrain of either man or time or money. So any scientific finding is limited and is properly acknowledged in popular scientific articles. I have a complain about the popular trend in the academic writings. We generally show or report our results or put forth our theories without showing or describing their limitations. I feel that mentioning the assumptions or limitations of our interpretations or theories is important, otherwise our theories or findings have potential to be misused. Once, we following this suggestion, I am confident that any scientific or academic writing will show human conditions as pointed out by Mr. Preston.

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