Friday, February 4, 2011

Quit boring me please!

Skeptics are not scientists. There are scientists who are skeptics but skeptics are not scientists.
We are NOT doing science. Our role is to communicate science to the public - largely at a grassroots level. For the most part that means talking to people at their level, touching the message in terms that speak to them.

I've said this all before.

I just read a post by a blogger who I have some personal connection to who time after time writes the most soulless, robotic feeling posts.  I don't wish to call them out personally - this isn't about that. I don't want to get petty with the in fighting.
What it is about is that my ire has been tweaked.

We are NOT communicating in scientific journals to scientists. Very few non scientists have any patience for flogging through BMJ abstracts. Skeptical outreach cannot read like that. It must entertain as much as it informs.

Many of us skeptics are outrageously enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is fun and infectious - write like that.  Many skeptics are fantastically clever, capable of great wit - write like that.  Many skeptics are masters of untangling mysteries. That is compelling! (How many books, films, & tv shows are about mysteries?) Write like that!  People respond to values-based language.  You can write like that without misrepresenting facts.  Write like that!

For crap sake! Quit doing a disservice by writing in a tone intended for a minute specialized audience. I know you feel the need for precision and specificity. Newsflash: the public could not care less. The scientists have done their job. You don't have to do it over again. What you need to do is translate it. Simplify it. Make it entertaining - for a large diverse audience.

Put some life into it!


  1. Communication is key! This is why Mythbusters and Carl Sagan are fantastic while many other scientists are horrendous at inspiring others to care. I do wish you'd posted a link of the perpetrator, but I can understand the desire not to grind axes. All I can say is that I hope I write interestingly enough when I do.

  2. Rest assured, Ian it is not you.

    It is actually someone I've had some very entertaining conversations with... why that NEVER translates to their writing baffles me.

    And yeah there are plenty of scientists who are totally capable of writing in terms that are entirely engaging.