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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tweets for 2012-09-27

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An accommodation with the authority of common sense

In Science in Action, Bruno Latour talks of the birth of the modern science of geology, triumphed by Charles Lyell. He discusses Lyell’s attempt to professionalise and win respect for geology, and the need to find funds to support research in the new discipline. One solution to the need for funds it to appeal directly to the public, in Lyell’s case by writing a book that the landed gentry might read and so be convinced to donate to the cause of Geology:

If geology is successful in reshaping the earth’s history, size, composition and age, by the same token, it is also extremely shocking and unusual. You start the book in a world created by God’s will 6000 years ago, and you end it with a few poor Englishmen lost in the eons of time, preceded by hundreds of Floods and hundreds of thousands of different species. The shock might be so violent that the whole of England would be up in arms against geologists, bringing the whole discipline into disrepute. On the other hand, if Lyell softens the blow too much, then the book is not about new facts, but is a careful compromise between commonsense and the geologists’ opinion. This negotiation is all the more difficult if the new discipline runs not only against the Church’s teachings but also against Lyell’s own beliefs, as is the case with the advent of humanity into earth history which Lyell preferred to keep recent and miraculous despite his other theories. How is it possible to say simultaneously that it is useful for everyone, but runs against everyone’s beliefs? How is it possible to convince the gentry and at the same time to destroy the authority of common sense? How is it possible to assert that it is morally necessary to develop geology while agonising in private in the meantime on the position of humanity in Nature?


Replace 19th century geology with ‘cognitive sciences’, and gentry with ‘public’, and the essential tension is still there. The new brain science seeks attention and kudos, and in doing this must reach an uncomfortable accommodation with the ‘authority of common sense’. Psychologists and neuroscientists want to be heard in the public domain, but they will get so much more attention if they flatter received wisdom rather than attempt to overturn strongly held intuitions about human freedom, reasoning and morality.

Tweets for 2012-09-20

  • Can anyone spare me $9k so I can buy a fibre optic keyboard for use in the scanner? #
  • Really?! RT @frabcus Genius. Plugin that tells you which scientific paper was source of bad newspaper journalism. #
  • The advertising dollar makes its own judgement of the future of the newspaper business #
  • My colleague Danielle Matthews is on Radio Sheffield at 11am talking about her study into early language development #
  • Cancel that, she's been bumped. But she's still looking for parents of young children to take part in the study #
  • Okay, so what's a fun saturday night in NYC for a week saturday? #
  • A good popular science book makes you part of the scientific conversation. @MarkChangizi in 2010 #
  • Auction psychology My latest for @BBC_Future now up at #
  • "Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric" What it's like to be stung by a Tarantula Hawk Wasp, courtesy of the #
  • This is your brain on twitter #
  • "let’s not be too hard on phrenology while taking out the neurotrash." says @stevenpoole #

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Tweets for 2012-09-13

  • Wsj: 'This Isn't Candid Camera, It's a Science Project' that'd be me in Berlin then. #
  • Buy the New Statesman so you can read @stevenpoole being cruel, so cruel – but fair – about neuroscientism #
  • Virtue ethics is due a major comeback IMO #
  • Psychology in the Pub on Sleep, Learning and Memory, Oct 11, Showroom, #Sheffield Maybe this link'll work: #
  • This link is considerably useful if you are coming to study at the University of Sheffield this month #
  • My next column for @BBC_Future problematises drawing clear conclusions from psych research. Tricky. It's hard to be liked for problematising #
  • Why you pay more: auction psychology my latest for @BBC_Future (UK readable link) #
  • "Nonconscious activation of placebo and nocebo pain responses" #
  • The 'subliminal' nature of the stimulus presentation is suspect – they use a yes/no recognition test (the expt DV reqs. only 2AFC discrim) #
  • Myths in the way of clear academic prose Helen Sword in @timeshighered #
  • Teaching questions rather than answers #
  • What scene from any play/movie/book best exemplifies the moment where someone comes to the alarming realisation that the game has changed? #
  • To clarify: I'm not interested in the feeling that the pieces have moved, but that the very rules of the game are different from before #
  • This is more than just surprise. #
  • The greatest hits…of Cognitive Modelling provided by Gary Cottrell #
  • Our @FestivalMind event: the public votes which research gets funded now on twitter as @MindsInvestors #Sheffield #

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Tweets for 2012-09-06

  • Academics: what is a reasonable time to wait after submitting a paper before nudging the editor for a response? #
  • tbh, those "wettest summer for 100 years" stats don't work for me. I'd rather have a headline which reported a z score. Or is that just me? #
  • Nottingham #
  • "Stopped clocks and dead phones" My BBC column from last week, now live on #
  • Go Estonia! But how do you teach a six year old to code? Anyone? #
  • Meanwhile, in the basement of consciousness, the clocks have stopped and phones gone dead #
  • Welcome to the Academy! RT @jamesb I'm doing a bit of teaching #
  • Elsevier support just told me that 4 months is typical for "under review" stage. cc @PsychScientists @chrisdc77 @JimGrange @MarcusMunafo #
  • Browsing the "Psychology" section of a 2nd hand bookshop provides good evidence that people have no idea what psychology is #

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