In response to understandably mystified commentators:
The post, in addition to being poorly executed, is …
- 1 part self-deprecation: Obviously, Stats Legend Andrew Gelman isn’t talking to or thinking about me at all. (BTW, subscribe to his blog if you don’t already; he is proof of Dewey’s point that science consists neither in an inventory of facts nor in the application of specialized techniques but in the acquisition & use of distinctive habits of mind.)
- 1 part genuine introspective confusion: AG seems to be talking about what I study & think about all the time — the distinction between doing and communicating science — but, well, is he really or do I just see what I study and think about all the time even when it isn’t there?
- 1 part serious: Actually, I’m pretty sure AG is talking about what I’m interested in — or rather reacting to what I’m interested in, & in a way that reflects an assumption the falsity of which is one of my main motivations for studying and thinking all the time about this same thng. He is reacting to a debate between other blog writers addressing the “doing” vs. “communicating” distinction (both of whom take weird, extreme positions: one that because doing & communicating are distinct, no one–not scientists or journalists–should communicate; and the other who says, “scientists must communicate b/c we need to know what they know!”) Andrew responds, “hey– the dichotomy is overstated; all science is science communicating.” That response occurs, I think, only because res ipsa locquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”)–the cousin of nullius in verba (“take no one’s word”)–is an entrenched, idealized understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge. Whenever I observe it, I am impeled to the point of mania to shout:
No, no, no, no! Valid science does not communicate its own validity. It needs certification of its validity from forms of authority that are connected to the lives of everday people, whose wellbeing depends on their accepting as known by science more things than they can possible understand for themselves. Creating and coordinating those systems of certifcation is extremely challenging in a liberal demcoratic society. We must therefore use an appropriately directed science — a science of science communication — to overcome the challenges or else we risk dissipating the value of all the knowledge that science gives us.
So my reaction isn’t really narcissitic. But it certainly is evidence of an impending nervous breakdown of some kind.