About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rationally Speaking podcast:Howard Schneider on Science News Literacy

In this episode, Massimo and Julia discuss science communication with Howard Schneider, dean of the school of journalism at SUNY Stonybrook and former editor of Newsday. A guest at previous skeptic events, including the first annual Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, Schneider has argued in the past that skeptics lay too much blame at the feet of the media for public misunderstandings and misconceptions about science (video here).

Julia and Massimo question him on this point, and ask him for his thoughts on what can be done to improve scientific literacy. As the founder of the Center for News Literacy and the Center for Communicating Science, Schneider has plenty of thoughts to share -- including making scientists take improv classes. Should science communication involve more storytelling? And is there any way to take advantage of new, online media formats to remedy some of the weak points in the science communication process?


  1. Massimo, you said that you instruct your students to write paper starting with the methods and results and I am a little surprised by that. Isn't it like drawing a target around the arrow? When you know know what the results are you can come up with a good story to justify it but that's not how you actually got your data right? Wouldn't it be more logical and ethical to first postulate the hypotheses and explain why you were doing what you did and then show if the result supported it or not? After all, the results didn't show up from nowhere and you have a reason to look for them.

  2. gil,

    it isn't a matter of ethics, proceeding that way is simply the most efficient way to write the paper, but presumably one already has a pretty good idea of what the general meaning of the research was, and what the results tell us. I was simply referring to the pragmatics of writing papers, it has nothing to do with the logic of how the actual research was done.

  3. Awesome show. Great topic and guest. I posted this comment along with a web link to the New York Times Topics page for Mortgage Backed Securities for an example for Julia's wish for updated primers on subjects. It didn't get through, just like last time. I posted a second note right afterward, without a link, and it was immediately posted. So something weird is going on.

  4. Weirder still. I did include a url in the accepted comment. When I tried to post the NYT link with HTML, I got the same message as the first time: "Your post has been submitted. Your post will be visible on this site after it has been approved by an editor."

    So, maybe the NYT site is causing it to go into moderation?

  5. Well, now the whole post is missing: "Page Not Found
    The page /show/rs56-howard-schneider-on-science-news-literacy.html could not be located on this website."

    Is it me? I suspect you were talking about the two short ones. The original post was a full paragraph. Then I followed it with "Another ..."

  6. Indeed it is! I'll check with our producer and fix it.


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