Science year in review
The developments of the past year show that the "accepted wisdom" on science isn't as quickly or as widely accepted as perhaps it once was — partly because of a skeptical political climate, and partly because the Internet provides wider access for dissenting views. Those societal challenges are sparking the rise of a new breed of scientists: media-savvy folk who aren't afraid to join the fray themselves.And this is both good and bad. They mention Gavin Schmidt of the RealClimate blog:
Schmidt and his co-bloggers get into the nitty-gritty of climate research, interacting earnestly with fans as well as foes in long strings of reference-rich commentary. It's not an approach meant to attract a mass audience or stir a political movement — and Schmidt doesn't mean it to be.But while RealClimate, as they mention, is "reference-rich" and run by experts in the field, there are also, of course, sites like that by the Discovery Institute and other creationist groups, which, to many lay people, seem to be scientific and convincing, while the experts in the field scoff. It's great that we scientists are becoming better able to take new findings and explain them directly to the public, but it's unfortunate sometimes that there's so much "background noise" with the conspiracy theorists and anti-science brigade that it becomes difficult for many people to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Anyway, other hot topics of the year will come as little surprise to regular science readers: bird flu, hurricanes, evolution, and end-of-life issues, including Terri Schiavo and advances in neurology. I'd love to have a time machine and see how this year is reviewed 20 or 50 years from now. So many of the issues that we've gone through in the past year seem to be a tug-of-war between those of us who want to move forward, and those who want to send the country back to the "dark ages," where creationism is taught and the environment is ours to mutilate.