MONDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2011
Lately, it seems that science and rationality are being mentioned in tandem more and more frequently. Scientists have always strived for rationality, but the link between the two is now regularly cropping up in mainstream debate. For example, Richard Dawkins’ latest book adds to his crusade of rational thinking whilst Brian Cox has pioneered the catchphrase “stay rational” on his BBC radio show. Evidence-based thinking should certainly be heard over other, less sound reasoning, but we should be cautious before dismissing the opinions of others. Most differing views are held not out of spite or for personal gain, but are simply due to a poor scientific understanding—so how can this be changed?
One danger is that self-belief in rationality can lead to confidence-bordering-arrogance. To be clear, most people do a fantastic job portraying science in a respectable light, but the public’s image of a profession can be easily tainted by a minority. People are unlikely to absorb a message if it is dictated with arrogance, or if they believe a profession as a whole is such. Being the scientific, evidence-based, and therefore privileged group that we are, it is our responsibility to inform and inspire others, especially if we think their view is harmful or misleading. Just as it may be the job of others to reciprocate this in fields we have little knowledge of. However, even if someone is factually mistaken, or their opinion is based on false evidence, just repeating ‘expert’ knowledge will not always make them listen—in fact, it may well turn them away from scientific reasoning in the future. As Francis Bacon said, “man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true”. But listening patiently to others’ views and why they hold them can make all the difference: the first step to influencing their opinion can be to make them think about their own logic. Perhaps I am erring on the side of caution, but I do think we need to be careful, otherwise some people may stop listening altogether and that would not be good for anyone.
Moving swiftly on, there are a few household things worth knowing. This issue, for the first time, is being published under a Creative Commons Licence. This allows our material to be reproduced for educational purposes. In addition, another first for the magazine is the inclusion of a few references. The aim is not to become overly technical or cumbersome, but to state important sources and allow you to read up on topics if you wish to. These references can be found with the credits below.
Some other BlueSci events are also making this term a very exciting one. We have a new radio show starting on Cam FM 97.2, which will be discussing some of the articles in this issue as well as recent news stories. On top of that there is also a jam-packed schedule of talks—keep an eye on the events section of the website for details. As always, if you are interested, bemused or fanatically excited by any of the above, why not get involved too? Tom Bishop
Issue 22: Michaelmas 2011
Editor: Tom Bishop
Managing Editor: Stephanie Glaser
Business Manager: Michael Derringer
Second Editors: Harriet Allison, Aaron Barker, Gengshi Chen, Felicity Davies, Helen Gaffney, Ian Le Guillou, Jonathan Lawson, Louisa Lyon, Tim Middleton, Alexey Morgunov, Lindsey Nield, Jessica Robinson, Viktoria Stelzhammer, James Scott-Brown, Richard Thomson, Alice Young
Copy-Editors: Nick Crumpton, Felicity Davies, Stephanie Glaser, Adam Kenny, Rose Spear, Viktoria Stelzhammer
News Editor: Robert Jones
News Team: Stephanie Boardman, Emma Hatton-Ellis, Zoe Li
Reviews: Tim Middleton, Jessica Robinson, Hugo Schmidt
Focus Team: Nick Crumpton, Ian Le Guillou, Louisa Lyon, Wendy Mak
Weird and Wonderful: Gengshi Chen, Jonathan Lawson, Louisa Lyon
Pictures Team: Wing Ying Chow, Nick Crumpton, Felicity Davies, Helen Gaffney, Ian Le Guillou, Louisa Lyon, Viktoria Stelzhammer
Production Team: Wing Ying Chow, Nick Crumpton, Felicity Davies, Ian Fyfe, Stephanie Glaser, Rose Spear, Viktoria Stelzhammer
Illustrators: Dominic McKenzie, Alex Hahn
Cover Image: Jignesh Tailor
A Clean Slate - Corkin, S. (2002). What’s new with amnesic patient H.M.? Nat. Rev. Neuro. 3. 153-160.
The Age of Endeavour - Baker, D. (2011). NASA Space Shuttle Manual: An Insight Into the Design, Construction and Operation of the NASA Space Shuttle (Owner’s Workshop Manual). Haynes Publishing.
Eye-popping Films - http://www.rkm3d.com/How-3D-Works/
A Bolt from the Blue - Birch, A. (1944). Reduction by Dissolving Metals Part 1. J. Chem. Soc. 430-436.
Beyond Darwin - Whitelaw, N.C. & Whitelaw, E. (2008). Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in health and disease. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development, Vol. 18, 273-279.
The Father of Forecasting - Gribbin, J. & Gribbin, M. (2003). Fitzroy: The Remarkable Story of Darwin’s Captain and the Invention of the Weather Forecast. Headline Review.
Science in Print - Barton, R. (1998). Just before Nature: The purposes of science and the purposes of popularization in some English popular science journals of the 1860s. Annals of Science. Vol. 55, 1-33.
Caring for Art - Making Masterpieces by Neil MacGregor with Erika Langmuir. A BBC Education Production.
Colliding at Colossal Costs - www.lhc.ac.uk
Reactive Politics - www.world-nuclear.org/info/reactors.html and www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13050228