Science meets society (SMS) has interviewed me. Actually, they took my answers to their list of questions so to make it look like an interview may have taken place. I am thankful for the honor and the exposure and all that, however, I am somewhat concerned about the rewriting. If I had meant that, perhaps I would have written it like that?!? Just saying.
I appreciate the important "digesting" by serious journalism when it comes to cutting through the BS of a politician who wants to be elected or the manager who diverts all blame from his company. However, even in those cases, what is wrong with asking once more before putting something out that is simply not what was meant, especially if it is about controversial issues that are easily misunderstood anyway?
It is not just the meaning directly being impacted, but the ensuing confused picture looks as if the person seemingly responsible for it quite generally cannot put two thoughts together coherently. The latter is of course often the intended result, though in my case here I can hardly believe that this would serve any purpose; after all, much of what I say is kind of "on their side".
I can only guess at their motivations, and perhaps readers can help me make sense of it, of the why, the mechanisms that go on in people’s heads. I will here make more of the original of what I actually wrote available (UPDATE: It is now also available in full in a comment under the interview.). Let me start from the beginning, although the more seriously edited parts are toward the end.
To the question about what brought me to science in the first place, I included:
...Einige schwere Erkrankungen mögen Interesse an Medizin und daher Chemie beigetragen haben und meine Asberger-nahen Probleme haben möglicherweise ein frühes Interesse an der Psychologie, Anthropologie, und Soziologie erweckt. Wie dem auch sei...
[… Some heavy health problems may have contributed to the interest into medicine and thus chemistry and my Asperger's-like problems have possibly awakened an early interest into ... However that may be …]
Science meets Society re-wrote:
...Asberger-nahe Probleme, denen er ein frühes Interesse an der Psychologie, Anthropologie, und Soziologie zuschreibt ... Wie dem auch sei …
[Asperger-near problems, which he blames for his early interest into …]
No, I do not think in such silly ways about Asperger's; I do not belong to those who fashionably claim to be ‘on the spectrum’; and if I write “however the case may be …” or something like that, it refers to something before (“have possibly”) and is not just an empty phrase. The editing makes much of what I wrote seem verbose and out of place and even somewhat of a jerk's position.
On “Have you arrived where you saw yourself going when you started? Where are you now and why?” I wrote:
... 6 Jahre in Postdocturalen Anstellungen, und nun als Research Fellow. China erlaubt mir fast uneingeschränkte akademische Freiheit
[this talks about three different positions over possibly 7 or many more years that China continuously allowed/allows me to have academic freedom like I would not find anywhere else in my position as a critical, interdisciplinary researcher]
Science meets Society wrote:
... und nun als Research Fellow in China. Seine aktuelle Position erlaube ihm fast uneingeschränkte akademische Freiheit
[basically meaning: now he is new in China and the particular position (not China) happens to (accidentally/by mistake?) give almost unbounded academic freedom according to him (“erlaube” is the German way of stressing that something is mere opinion)]
My answer to “What is in your opinion the biggest scientific Discovery/Novelty?” was distorted and half cut. What I actually wrote:
Eine einzige zunennen würde unzureichend sein. Wenn wir mal lang vergangene Zeiten vernachlässigen und uns auf die Errungenschaften beschränken welche auch für unsere Zukunft die bedeutensten und folgeschwersten sind, dies sind ohne Zweifel generelle Evolutionstheorie (Darwinismus im weitesten Sinne) und Quantummechanik in der Theorie, und Nanotechnologie und Komputer praktisch. Wir könnten uns auch in einer nicht-relativistischen parallel-Welt gefunden haben, aber Quantummechanik modifiziert die gerade oft wissenschaftlich angenommene direkte Realität und Nanotechnologie zusammen mit künstlicher Intelligenz und generellem Darwinismus machen uns Menschen zu Dinosauriern. Was Quantummechanik und Evolution wirklich bedeuten ist den meisten Menschen, auch den allermeisten Wissenschaftlern, noch überhaupt nicht aufgegangen.
[Naming a single one could not be sufficient. If we neglect times long past and concentrate onto those issues that are also for our future the most important and heaviest regarding aftermaths, these are without a doubt general evolution theory (Darwinism in the widest sense) and quantum mechanics in theory, as well as nanotechnology and computers practically. We could have found ourselves inside a non-relativistic parallel world, but quantum mechanics modifies especially the often by science presumed direct reality, and nanotechnology together with artificial intelligence and general Darwinism render us humans to be dinosaurs. Most people, including most scientists, are still completely unaware of what quantum mechanics and evolution really imply.]
“What scientific question would you like to have answered?” I replied to with whether quantum mechanics is going to stay exactly linear, but the reason for why I find that question important was cut out:
Eine gewisse Antwort würde alle anderen Fragen fast überflüssig machen. Wenn die Welt „nur mein Traum“ ist, kann es mir fast egal sein wie ich sie mir im Detail konstruiere.
[A particular/certain answer would make all other questions almost unnecessary. If the world is “only my dream”, I may as well be uninterested into the particular details I happened to have constructed.]
Under the question “How should science be different?” it seems that the applied rewriting was aimed at letting me appear to be politically radical and blaming other scientists rather than arguing system theoretically. I wrote very carefully:
„Soll“ ist nicht nur immer relativ in Hinsicht auf ein Ziel (welches – Ich weiss es nicht) sondern auch abhängig davon ob unsere Entscheidungen ueberhaupt Konsequenzen haben können welche mehr als nur unbeabsichtigte Nebenwirkungen sind. Ich mache mir da wenig Illusionen, einfach weil Ko-evolution die effectivste „Konspiration“ ueberhaupt ist. Trotzdem wuensche ich mir manchmal, ...
[... “Should” is not only always relative to an aim (which one – I do not know) but also depends on whether our decisions have any consequences that are not just unintended side effects. I have few illusions about this, simply because co-evolution is the most effective “conspiracy” of all. Nevertheless do I sometimes wish that …]
The above disclaimer was cut out. Then the message was partially distorted, partially radicalized. I wrote for example:
... Ich weiss nicht so recht wie es jetzt in Deutschland ist, aber im Englischsprachigen Raum vertrauen immer weniger Menschen der Wissenschaft, obwohl immer mehr mit Technologie verliebt sind. Meines Erachtens ist die Wissenschaft und sind Wissenschaftler zum Teil selbst dafuer verantwortlich. ...
[... I do not quite know how it is currently in Germany, but in the English speaking world, the public trusts science less and less while being ever more in love with technology. In my opinion, science and scientists are partially themselves responsible for that. …]
Science meets Society cut out that I do not know enough about today’s Germany to make a meaningful comparison, letting it appear as if I think that public distrust in science is a problem of the English speaking world (i.e. the Continental European snob looking down upon the stereotypical stupid Americans and their British puppets kind of thing). It then seems as if I squarely and directly and exclusively blame scientists. Such would all be naïve and I refuse it.
My answer to “How does the future of science look to you?” was completely left out:
Wissenschaft ist auch „nur“ eine emergente Struktur, wobei die Wissenschaft partiel eine Macht stabilisierende und auch von vornherein kognitive Funktion erfüllt, in diesem Falle ist es Teil des selektiven Wahrnehmungsapparates sozialer Systeme (im Sinne der Systemtheorie, zum Beispiel Niklas Luhmanns). Generelle Evolutionstheorie sollte daher mitbedacht werden. Die Wissenschaft der Zukunft wird nicht so aussehen wie wir, nämlich technisch erweiterte humanoide Systeme (individualistisch, semi-autonom), sich vorstellen (können). Die Wissenschaft der Zukunft ist ein wichtiger Bestandteil von dem welches es unmöglich machen wird auch nur rebellieren zu wollen.
[Science is also “just” an emergent structure, where science fulfills also partially a power stabilizing and cognitive function, in this case it is a part of the selective perception apparatus of social systems (in the sense of system theory, e.g. Niklas Luhmann’s). General evolution theory thus should be considered, too. The science of the future will not look like we, namely technologically augmented humanoid systems (individualistic, semi-autonomic) (can) imagine. The science of the future is an important part of what will make it impossible to even want to rebel.]
My answer to the last question, “What is in your opinion the biggest mistake/shortcoming of science?”, was similarly rewritten into a form that looks like as if I am a typical progressive complaining too much yet at least agreeing with the correct demands in the eyes of Science meets Society (I suppose), namely that science should get funding more easily and free time on top. The gist of my take was cut: What we think to be “shortcomings” may be features that evolve due to science being embedded in a co-evolving environment of other social systems.
Please tell me otherwise in the comments, but it seems as if the most consistent aspect of the rewriting is how the system theoretical/evolutionary viewpoint on science as a part of evolving structures was cut out (after all, this is what distinguishes my approach from the usual politically motivated screaming on "science blogs"). Was this unconscious, was it deliberate? Was it to let me appear like a loose young cannon blaming everybody and her mom? Was it simply an unconscious omitting of an unrecognizably unwelcome viewpoint, perhaps the most alien one to those interested in science politically: You may be an enemy, may be a right wing nut, and still your opinion is presented, because surely all the nice people who read science blogs will realize how nuts you are anyway, but seriously contemplating that we perhaps have no influence and deceive ourselves about what science is? That goes too far; it must not be; it cannot be; it does not even pass the filters as something that makes possibly any sense.
UPDATE: SMS has responded and made the full original (in German) available in a comment under the interview. They also say there that they partially understand my concerns, which is very nice. I hope there will be some more communicating about how we can best understand what went on and how such miscommunications can be avoided in similar situations. I would find that interesting and useful for all sides in this science outreach game.