Publication: Engaging with the real world

I’m rather pleased to say the Dec 2011 issue of People and Science – the house publication of the British Science Association – arrived today, and on page 29 they have published my first opinion piece, Engaging with the real world.

Would love to hear your constructive criticisms and feedback 😉


About David Waldock

Open University graduate, health and life science at undergraduate level, science and society at post-graduate. Interested in how the Internet is transforming the ways in which the public(s) engage with science(s). Also interested in "the skeptical movement" as a form of science activism and it's effectiveness in achieving its goals. Interested in the representation of LGB types in science and in the periscience communities. Work for a well known and loved public institution. Views are mine and not necessarily my employers.

6 responses to “Publication: Engaging with the real world”

  1. Sarah Waldock says :

    so very very true! The need to have some kind of interface between ivory tower idealism and day to day life is imperative if progress is to be made in real terms. [though there are those of us who like to upset the geeks we know who like to lecture by smiling brightly and telling them that now we know that quanta is a shorthand way of saying that a bunch of microscopic Schroedinger’s kittens are loose in the computer we understand PERFECTLY why it’s always going down. Because I don’t care about the physics at that point, I just want it running again….. ]
    That’s a well written and cogent article which ably highlights the differences between the abstract and the concrete whilst offering a pragmatic argument that the differences can and should be bridged.

  2. Luke Scientiae says :

    I presume there were length restrictions for the article. When you said, “Some people have suggested that we should focus on facts and evidence, that values aren’t relevant”, who do you have in mind? (I’m just curious.)

    • davidwaldock says :

      As ever we are constrained by the length of the commission :-S

      However, yes, I did have specific case in mind, although the issue is far from restricted to this one case.

      In the case I had in mind, someone suggested that in discussing abortion, the discussion should be restricted to the facts. However, the facts (formation of the primitive streak etc…) make no sense independent of values. For example: minimisation of pain, right of woman to choose, start of life, quality of life are all value issues. Informed by facts, and deserving of examination and discussion, but values nonetheless.

      The same is true of pretty much every other subject which is worthy of public discussion and engagement.

      • Luke Scientiae says :

        I’m still none the wiser as to who you meant, which was my question, but fine.

        In that case, let me ask you another: have you read Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape and, if so, what did you think?

      • davidwaldock says :

        I’m not going to say who it was because I don’t air even semi-private washing in public.

        I have read The Moral Landscape. I think the moral arguments are interesting, but unoriginal. However, I don’t agree that one can ever reduce values to scientific knowledge.

        Harris made a Humean leap more or less on page 1. Thus, unless one can get from an is to an ought (minimising harm to people IS a good way to live therefore one OUGHT to minimise harm) the remainder of his argument, whilst interesting and something I broadly don’t disagree with, is predicated on the naturalistic fallacy.

        And whilst he spent several pages trying to wiggle out of it being a Humean leap, that’s what it is. However, I accept it as a legitimate reflection of his personal values, but personally, I have an issue with such a reductionist, scientistic approach to moral reasoning.

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