Colloquy is better than soliloquy!

Last week I heard from a colleague and good friend, Roger Pielke, Jr. In my reply to his e-mail, I happened to mention I’d started this blog. His response, was swift, positive, and supportive (trademark Pielke!). In any event, he said he give the blog a mention in one of his own blogs.

He was thus true to his word (another endearing Pielke trait). The result was a spate of comments, including several on my most recent post, scientists-version-4.0.

Criticisms and suggestions? There were plenty. And from different directions. To start, one pointed out I’d neglected Euclid in particular, and mathematics generally, in my list of scientists version 1.0. Touché! Should have, or could have, noted that while many early scientists weren’t using much mathematics, because there wasn’t much to be had, others were laying the groundwork that was needed to support scientist-version-2.0, and ensuing upgrades.

Another called me out for mentioning that the transistor came from a private sector laboratory. He noted, correctly, that the transistor was engineering, not basic science. I guess I’d allowed my judgment to be colored by the fact that the Nobel Prize in Physics 1956 was awarded jointly to William Bradford Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain “for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect”. So I should have been a bit more precise in my thinking, and writing. Shouldn’t have been lazy and used “the invention of the transistor” as a shorthand. The same correspondent also pointed out that much of the subsequent innovation in this field, on which so much of today’s science and technology depends, also came from private enterprise.

Another, an avowed scientist version 3.0 “and proud of it,” opined as how perhaps he might not have included social science in the pantheon. Hmm.

A couple of readers commented on the idea that scientists version 4.0 needed to toughen up. They pointed out that some of scientists’ wounds are self-inflicted. True enough! But today’s skies are thick with what Hamlet famously decried in his soliloquy as “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” To live and work in the 21st century is to court being collateral damage to all sorts of conflict. So far, the 21st century is not for sissies.

One, in a rather lengthy contribution to the comment policy, included as an attachment a rather interesting code of ethics and invited me to sign up. The code had a lot to like. Definitely worth a look! Nevertheless I’m declining. I’m nervous about taking vows of any kind. Tough to hold to! My wedding vows were quite enough, that you. I have tried to anticipate his challenge in the choice of, and comments on, Darwin’s quote for this blog. I’ve tried to be very clear that for the most part, what you’ll find here are mere “views, supported by a little evidence.” I hope that’ll be sufficient going forward.

All of these contributions had merit! Each proved thought-provoking. All will influence my thinking and writing in future posts. In so doing, they highlight the strengths of blogs, and collaborative activities more broadly. As we read, ponder, and constructively critique the thoughts and words of others, we can build humanity’s capacity for identifying and coping with future challenges. We speed up our decisions and actions, and these become more effective. Hamlet notwithstanding, colloquy is better than soliloquy.

So thank you all. Please stay engaged, not just here but elsewhere. Others of you, please join in. And I’m especially grateful to Judith Curry, for a most welcome bit of encouragement. Each of us, regardless of our persuasion, hungers for, and can stand a little more of that!

And thank you, Roger!

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4 Responses to Colloquy is better than soliloquy!

  1. Max Lybbert says:

    But the fun about blogging is that you don’t have to be as precise or exact as writing more formally.

  2. Rui Sousa says:

    Dear William,

    I believe your phrase “So far, the 21st century is not for sissies.” sums up many issues. As science, and many other human activities, moves from our comfortable living rooms to the huge public Forum of the internet, thin skin is a real problem for anyone with something to say.

    After the decision to go public, and make ones opinions available for public scrutiny, we should prepare ourselves for misunderstandings, deturpations, doubts, praise, devotion and so on. A thin skin is not an option in this 21st century Forum, especially in subjects that are prone to raise very deeply rooted emotions and opinions.

    Because this era is not for sissies, it make more and more sense to promote ethics as an extremely relevant part of any human activity, in this case debate on the big Forum. A strong and clear set of ethical values is the best protection on the Internet, a way to be able to go to sleep after posting something, or maintaining our mental sanity when reading comments to our posts.

    For me one the most valuable values is the manly (as opposed to sissy) attitude of saying “I was wrong!” or “I am sorry!”. Something that is not usual in our living rooms, and certainly not on the Forum, but I believe that is one of the most needed ethical attitudes in this moment. I give praise to anyone with enough bravery to do so.

    I believe it would be a good thing to bring some Roman Stoicism, or some Japanese Bushidoism (sic), into climate debate.

    Bottom line: Colloquy is better than soliloquy, or the Forum is better than our living rooms. And in the Forum we should behave like a Roman Patrice or a Japanese Samurai, putting passions aside, being truthful, brave, and just.

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