A story behind the story

By Razib Khan | October 1, 2011 12:09 pm

David Dobbs points me to a story in Popular Science which tracks the controversy around the “arsenic life” hypothesis, and its effects on Felisa Wolfe-Simon. Back in the days before the internet you’d read the story as an outsider and get a particular take. A long narrative by its nature primes us in a certain direction through the framing of the major points. But the internet does exist. So Carl Zimmer put up a blog post highlighting a chronology which undercuts one of the implications of the Popular Science piece, or at least one of the talking points of Felisa Wolfe-Simon. This elicited a response from the author of the piece, which Carl posted. Even if you’re not deep into the weeds of the “arsenic life” controversy (I’m not) it is still fascinating to see how a conversation which might have been hidden in the back channels is now relatively transparent. Science itself it is the conversation that tells the true tale. A conventional general interest reader might stop at the Popular Science piece, but those outside of science but more deeply curious are going to now be privy to the continuous conversation.

  • Evil Mammoth

    The explosion of science writers and professional scientists on the web is and has been a boon for interested laypeople (like me). Discussions such as the one on “arsenic life,” aside from being fascinating, help depict the complexity of the scientific process, which often seems to be much messier than many people believe. (Unfortunately, some parlay this complexity and ambiguity of process into skepticism for the validity of science as a whole and, thus, end up putting their faith into some very silly ideas, but that’s another story.)

    Keep it up.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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