So if it seemed quiet in the blogosphere this week, it may be because most of science-writing’s all-stars (plus me) were in the same room at the University of Wisconsin, talking about subjects that make many people uncomfortable: vaccination, climate change, evolution. The occasion was a conference, “Science Writing in the Age of Denial,” and the point was to get accomplished people talking about hard questions of verification, communication and belief. [Read more…]
My WiSci blogging colleague, Brian Switek, AKA Laelaps, has written a book, Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature (Bellevue Literary Press), that’s out this week. It’s his first book, and it’s very good. (To sample some of the swelling chorus of praise, visit Speakeasy Science or The Intersection or Skulls in the Stars or Not Exactly Rocket Science or Observations of a Nerd. Everyone loves it.)
Laelaps and I seem to be connected on multiple axes: We both have new books (here’s mine), we both are science bloggers here at the new Wired network, and we were both also bloggers at Scienceblogs until earlier this year. (Also, we were both on a panel at ScienceWriters 2010 this past weekend.) So because everyone else is already kvelling about the excellence of the book, I asked Brian instead to talk about why he wrote it, and about how he sees blogging intersecting with science writing.
Superbug: Written in Stone came about after your proposal to teach a class of fifth graders about whale evolution was turned down as being too controversial. If common misperceptions about evolution were better understood — or if some of today’s spectacular discoveries were better reported — would creationism be put to rest?
Laelaps: There is no single reason why the best of evolutionary science is not being communicated to the public; evolution remains a persistent public controversy for a variety of reasons ranging from how science is communicated to the background of those receiving the messages. But our fragmented media landscape makes it very difficult to develop an understanding of evolution. Many news stories are one-shot pieces about new discoveries that provide little context as to how the new findings fit in with what has been found before. That was part of my motivation behind composing Written in Stone; I wanted to tie together the disparate threads of recent discoveries and place them in a historical context.