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    Jonah Lehrer Successful Science Writer
    By Sascha Vongehr | August 3rd 2012 03:05 AM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    One of the pretty boys of science writing has fallen. Jonah Lehrer has finally been called out for distorting science. Many more are going to fall. Or wait. No, wait, what? Oh – I see – he misquoted some singer-song writer dude! Ohhhh – how tragic! And without misquoting Bob Marley or whoever that was (please correct me in the comments because I really really care so much), he would be still one of those celebrated “science writers” selling better than porn these days.


    Jonah Lehrer - dared falsely quoting Britney Spears instead of pulling Einstein out of context. Some deeds go too far even in science writing.


    I hardly read science sites anymore and none of the celebrated writers are in my bookmarks. I find more interesting and actually novel science related content on erowid or Vice, like this recent article about the ASMR phenomenon. Even liveleak.com surprises me more often with intriguing science than the pseudo-progressives on NatGeo's scienceblogs. Celebrated science guys’ output directed at the public is usually so annoying that I can only write about how terrible it is.


    Reactions then are always the same: I am told to stop touching these great people that give so much to secularism and the public understanding of science. How I dare criticize the priests who sold so many books and are revered by so many other saints who are linked to and praised in every science venue?


    Just last week, I removed Ethan Siegel from my blogrol for starting to distort science too much. The mechanism is always the same: A person starts out reasonable enough and I have high hopes, but then success sets in. Success is crack. Soon, instead of slowing down in the face of increased responsibility, they crave to come up with another crowd pleaser every few days. And audiences, so called science-literate ones no less, what this very site here calls the “most intelligent readers on the net”, fall for it hook, line and sinker.


    I don't want to discuss the bottom feeders who gather links (RCS anyone) or the press release reguritaters with mediocre, at times nameless staff writers. Many successful science sites where there are individuals with quite some background in real scientific reseach, like for example the German scienceblogs.de, are held hostage by the most idiotic writers (and their readers of course). Newest articles: Naïve scientism from Florian. Popular articles: Science cheerleading from Florian. Physics, Society, Space Science, Books Subsection, Whatever Section: Boring idiocy from Florian. Recent Comments: Simpletons admiring Florian. And so, another science site has become unreadable for many people who could have otherwise discovered their love for true science.


    Science2.0 is on the way downward to success. Some of its silliness, like (self-censored because of also self-censored) luckily keeps it from being successful with the usual crowd. The turning sour of the more successful writers is accompanied by a site’s semi-success attracting yet more semi-celebrities to spam with their nonsense. Increasingly, the site’s writers are too successful to give a damn and engage in meaningful conversation with the “most intelligent readers on the net”. The comment sections become useless. Once a threshold is passed, the rest is removed/assimilated surprisingly fast, resistance is futile. What site owner can resist the temptation of success?


    More enlightened people get only one message from successful science writing, be it science sites or journals or shows: Science is now a cool, sexy substitute religion not to be trusted. Those who exploit this market niche know how to feed the pride of ignorance. Careers and fame can be had, books can be sold, the lucrative conference circuit booms with so called “skeptics” being quite indistinguishable from spiritual healers pushing their aura enhancing seminars. While healers stay with the same message, science writers like Lehrer get punished for reusing even their own stuff and must pretend writing something novel every time. But science is difficult! As Bob Dylan said:

    “No human can write like a machine gun shoots without writing bullshit! Nobody can write book after book without writing crap!” Bob Dylan to Snoop Dog/Lion/Ringworm, private conversations in my little brown hole on my lower back side


    Put a cap on all science writing! There should be a limit to how much scientists can force their names on papers through power games. Not even Einstein crossed with Jesus makes a scientific discovery every few days. (But you still contributed vitally? So did the janitor. Your name should mean that you stand fully behind it and are responsible, spineless "scientists"!) Somebody writes a book every other year? Don’t read any of them – all hot air and hype. Science bloggers who write more than a few articles each month: You are what’s wrong! No human can understand so much so fast to a level where profound criticism could possibly emerge. If you cannot know whether something is questionable, you cannot ethically hype it. This means that you are naïve cheerleaders for a new religion, proselytizing the dumb masses to which you still belong, at least passively suppressing all valid criticism through the sheer smothering volume of your pathetic scribbles.

    Comments

    Because you really really care, I'll tell you: It's Bob Dylan.

    vongehr
    Thank you - this changes everything. I take it all back.
    Take it all back?! I say, take it down. This is most unscientific post ever. And you call yourself a scientist? This is so below you. Quit evangelizing. Leave it alone already. It's old. Stick with good science. It's what you do best.

    vongehr
    You mean I cannot comment on that people in science writing get criticized for the wrong reasons (quoting Lady Gaga instead takes them down), or that science sites and writers so easily go sour once a little money and "success" wave at them? That scientists are easily bought is one of the issues that makes the public distrust science. Sites like Science2.0 and SB and science bloggers and writers claim that they sacrifice so much in order to revert that dangerous development, revert falling vaccination rates and all that. This is what this exercise supposedly is about.

    You are correct in that there is no point in writing this, but neither is there any point in doing science.
    Comment all you want, but do it where it's happening and don't add to it here. I think you should be helping Science2.0 do a better job of doing science writing by writing science. I don't know if you were trying to be funny not knowing or really don't care about the facts of the matter, but it doesn't add to the credibility of the rest of what you say. Not science for sure, sermon perhaps?

    vongehr
    do it where it's happening
    Where can you criticize where it is happening without being censored? Did you even try? And why should I support Science2.0 so much after being cut out whenever I dare to write the truth about science writing? I am no moderator here no more, nor does the site owner even talk to me after I dared to insist on criticizing him and the big glamor guys that sometimes pop up here without having any interest into the community but spamming their crap. I will not help Science2.0 to go down the same path as many other sites. Would you support a site 100% if you know already that once it will be fully succesful also due to your work, they will cut you out as the last blemish to a "professional" appearance?
    OP here. Don't know how this ended up in "my" thread, but to be clear, my only comment was the first one. And then this one, of course.

    vongehr
    Oh you thought that you can just talk about Bob Dylan on the internet and then there won't be Obama and Hitler after about five or so entries further down? Welcome to the intertubes! ;-)
    I am a faithful servant of Scientism (praise be to Science the Almighty, creator of all things), but I am confused. Is this supposed to be some kind of fire-and-brimstone speech intended the rile up Scientistic zealots? I usually get my opinion from Saint Jonah of Lehrer, but the forces of darkness have conspired against him, so I have no one to tell me what to think. Maybe I'll become a Scientologist. That has the word science in it.

    UvaE
    Science bloggers who write more than a few articles each month: You are what’s wrong!  
    Well. at least in the last two months you are practicing what you preach by having reduced the number of blogs/articles you have written. ...