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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Women science bloggers: Some thoughts

Robin Lloyd explains in “Woman science bloggers discuss pros and cons of online exposure” (Jan 18, 2011),
Blogging and other Web activities have allowed members of many marginalized communities to open previously locked media doors. But women still rely more on back channels and ask for less help than men do in the digital realm. This tendency and other issues of concern for women bloggers were discussed Sunday at the ScienceOnline2011 conference in Durham, N.C., primarily in a session called "Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name."
Experiences varied among attendees on whether blogging under a real name did indeed present perils. Miriam Goldstein (@oystersgarter), a doctoral student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and blogger at Deep-Sea News says she has never had a negative experience. But stories surfaced regarding inappropriate comments by male readers. And one attendee voiced concerns about being emailed by a reader who said he was near her campus and about to stop by her office. Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie), a doctoral student at the University of Hawaii-Manoa who blogs at Observations of Nerd, said she only received nasty comments when she blogged on the science of make-up—and the anger came from women. Tribalism takes many forms.
Well, if you have dealt with minor Darwinists, as I have, and are not one of their companions, you get to hear how some of them talk about women. But God or nature or the guardian angel of marriages - or somebody or other anyway - invented a back browser button and a delete key.

I guess the big time Darwinists approve of all that stuff. I've never heard of them telling those dudes to smarten up, or slide their keesters to the low class boozehole down the road. I once had a problem with a guy who professed support for ID who behaved like that, but I heard vaguely that he had his can kicked six ways to Sunday over it. Nothing to do with me.

Actually, we had a problem with Darwinmouth here in Canada, but a smart blogger chick discovered and publicized the guy's true name. Worked wonders. (= One reason I don't like avatars is ... )

About real names: I blog under my real name. Yes. Can we get past that? (After all, if I had to consult the police station down the street about a truly difficult person, what is the first thing they would ask me?) I kind of miss the days when writers insisted on their byline.

I can't relate to all the questions raised in the article because they involve concerns about tenure or promotion tracks that elude a career freelance hack like me. But this gets better:
Read more »


Epigenome: Better find a new use for that pocket CD of your genome

Remember when, as sociologist Dorothy Nelkin tells it,
The language used by geneticists to describe the genes is permeated with biblical imagery. Geneticists call the genome the “Bible,” the “Book of Man”and the “Holy Grail.” They convey an image of this molecular structure as more than a powerful biological entity: it is also a mystical force that defines the natural and moral order. And they project an idea of genetic essentialism, suggesting that by deciphering and decoding the molecular text they will be able to reconstruct the essence of human beings, unlock the key to human nature. As geneticist Walter Gilbert put it, understanding our genetic composition is the ultimate answer to the commandment “know thyself.” Gilbert introduces his lectures on gene sequencing by pulling a compact disk from his pocket and announcing to his audience, “This is you.”*
At ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2011), we learn that after the complete draft of the human genome was released in 2003, of the growing focus on is on the epigenome:
Whereas the genome is the same in every cell of an organism, the epigenome of every cell type is different. It is because of the epigenome that a liver cell is not a brain cell is not a bone cell.
From the genome, we learned? ...
"We learned many things from the Human Genome Project," Elgin says, "but of course it didn't answer every question we had!

"Including one of the oldest: We all start life as a single cell. That cell divides into many cells, each of which carries the same DNA. So why are we poor, bare, forked creatures, as Shakespeare put it, instead of ever-expanding balls of identical cells?

"This [epigenome] work," says Elgin, "will help us learn the answer to this question and to many others. It will help us to put meat on the bones of the DNA sequences."
You, know, it almost makes one go all religious and say: Re the “Bible,” the “Book of Man”and the “Holy Grail,” worship the creator not the creation. And recycle your CDs.

*Dorothy Nelkin, “Less Selfish Than Sacred? Genes and the Religious Impulse in Evolutionary Psychology,” in Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, eds., Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology (London: Random House, Vintage, 2001), p. 18. Quoted in Beauregard & O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain, p. 52.


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