Archive for July 15th, 2010

The New Moderated–and Moderate–Intersection

By Chris Mooney | July 15, 2010 12:04 pm

I have to say: Since we ruthlessly banned a lot of bad actors over the past week or so, discussions at the Intersection have been quite civil and productive. See, for example, this thread. Or this one.

And something else has occurred, too–I actually find myself commenting on my own blog again. I’d largely stopped doing it (and largely stopped paying detailed attention to most comments) because anything I’d say would be pored over, twisted, bent, attacked, and so on. So saying anything at all seemed a waste of time.

This has been a learning experience for me. My initial outlook in the blogosphere, and one I held for a very long time, was that I should err on the side of letting everyone who wanted to post do so rapidly, without hinderance. Only after the fact, and after much clear and undeniable abuse of the privilege, should I or Sheril step in and moderate or ban.

But I now see that perhaps this was not right at all. Moderating all comments here takes much more work, and creates more delay; but so far, it also ensures better discussion.

The ideal approach, I think, would be if some commenters could become “trusted” and get to post immediately, because they have developed such a good track record. I can already identify some such participants–like, say, Jon and Rob Knop and David Wescott on the latest thread–and I wish I could automatically give them this status, while continuing to moderate newcomers until they, too, become “trusted.”

However, on a technological level, Discover informs us that such an arrangement isn’t yet possible. But, it’s something we’re definitely going to push for. That is, currently, the state of affairs on commenting at the Intersection; and while I regret that there are delays in seeing your posts appear, I think the glass is still more than half full.

We will update if there are any further developments on commenting policies.


Unscientific California: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Serpentine and Biodiversity

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | July 15, 2010 9:23 am

In light of California’s most recent faux pas, today’s guest commentary comes from California native David Lowry. David’s an extraordinary plant biologist working on the genetics of switchgrass as a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin. (And yes I’m biased, he’s soon to be my husband).

Picture 1Given the economic crisis has wreaked havoc to my beloved home state of California, why are our lawmakers spending any time on a horribly misguided quest to dethrone serpentine (pictured left) as the state rock?

A bit of background: Serpentine is commonly found in the hilly areas of California. It usually has a lovely smooth green or whitish tinge and its chemical composition has other characteristics fascinating to geologists, which I won’t detail here…except to include that some forms contain a small amount of asbestos, which leads us to our current predicament.

You all remember asbestos, right? That lung cancer-causing white powdery substance that closed down your school gym as a kid for a year when they discovered it in those flame-resistant tiles (which seemed like a good idea at the time) lining the ceiling. Yep, it’s nasty stuff. We know we don’t want it around and can move on, right? Read More


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