Communication, Thought, Expression, Comprehension

NonEntity's picture

I just ran across a post on a blog about the work of Lynn Margulis. We've had some discussions here regarding the precision with which words "should" be used, and I found this particular post to be relevant as it discusses this issue as it impacts research itself. Jorge, you may find it of interest. I also wish to say that it does not necessarily form an excuse for any shortcomings I may have in my own communication skills, I just thought it well written and important to consider.

Read the post (#47 by Greg Laden) here.

- NonE

Quite thought-provoking

Thanks, NonE.; his comments neatly encapsulate some challenges I’ve experienced both in and outside academia. Two things he wrote are worth putting here.

There are some concepts in science that are to falsehoods what flypaper is to flies. For example, describing any kind of social behavior theory or observations (for any taxon, investigating any theoretical area) to the average person is a minefield. Indeed, it may be that the best way to describe many concepts in socioecology involve wading in and grabbing the listeners misconceptions and wrestling with them directly as a way of getting a more subtle point across.

It has seemed to me over the years that fields such as psychology and sociology are entirely minefield, at least for some individuals—and thinking of psychology in particular, part of that is due to the increasing distance between formal psychology and self-help psychology. One might put it another way, as theoretical vs. applied psychology, but in some areas those categories aren’t quite that neat—neuropsychology is one that comes to mind.

Also, while he may be correct that the best way to disabuse individuals of misconceptions is a “grab and wrestle” approach, we who’ve tried it with respect to the freedom philosophy know that it isn’t always a welcome method.

Here’s the second paragraph that stood out for me:

I assert that there is no consistent or useful correspondence between some idealized series of specialization, detail, accuracy and truth in science, and difficulty in explaining the science outside of the area of specialty. Instead, the relationship between "truth," understanding, explanation, and scientific background (or lack thereof) is complex. There are scientific concepts, I believe, that can be explained easily with good results, there are those that can be explained easily but with bad results if you do it wrong, and there are those that can perhaps only be understood by becoming a specialist, or nearly so.

No need to elaborate there, I think.

And as a general note regarding the tangled conversations on egos, the self, et cetera, I have more to contribute; but that will almost certainly happen as a new ramble, rather than chasing ideas through the comment thickets.