Yesterday I posted one of my, in the meantime, notorious rants about an excruciatingly bad pieces of history of science journalism published in the New York Times. One of the commentators a German physicist called Stefan Scherer who blogs under the name Back ReAction and works in scientific publishing and outreach made the following sarcastic comment or at least I think its meant to be sarcastic
As everyone knows that the Pisa Leaning Tower Story never is presented according to the state of art of historians’ knowledge, I do not see a reason to be that upset.
Oh! Alright you are then Stefan, I’ll just pack up and go home. If everybody knows that the myths about the history of science that the press and authors of popular books dish up for general consumption are never presented according to the state of art of historians’ knowledge then there’s no reason I should waste my time pointing it out, is there.
However, and this is just something that fleetingly crossed my mind, if everybody already knows that the stuff that the press and pop authors spew out is a crock of shit why do they bother to publish it? You know nobody’s going to bother to read a book or an article that they already know to be at best a collection of half-truths and myths and at worst a total pack of lies, now are they?
In case any of the readers who once having found their way to my emporium for history of science myth busting and the glorification of obscure Renaissance mathematicians actually come back for more or have even got round to reading the ‘about’ they might have tumbled to the fact that one of the main functions of this blog is pointing out that an incredible amount of what people believe to be knowledge of the history of science is in fact wrong. As a myth buster I aim to stop the rot. I want to see the balls dropped from the Tower of Pisa and other such fairy stories driven out of the school books, banned from the Sunday papers and generally confined to the dustbin of authorial history. I want writers to stop being pig ignorant and bone idle and to do some real research and write about what really happened in the history of science instead of constantly regurgitating the same old not just tired but already dead and inadequately resuscitated myths that they half listened to in primary/grade school.
I have no illusions about my own clout. I realise that as an obscure, fat, old, balding freak blogging from the depths of provincial Germany I’m not going to exercise the same sort of influence as a Jacob Bronowski or god forbid a Carl Sagan. The former wrote reasonably sensibly and accurately about the history of science the latter wrote a lot of very false bollocks but both reached and influenced massive audiences worldwide. I’m much more humble in my aims. If I manage in one year of blogging to convince five people to at least reconsider the collection of facts that they call their knowledge of the history of science then I think my efforts have been worthwhile. As the Chinese saying goes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Oh and by the way that point about being ‘that upset’. If you haven’t realised, the faux outrage displayed in some of my posts is merely a rhetorical or polemical device meant to entertain my readers. Something, which judging by the reactions, it apparently does.
Having said all the above I hope you wont mind Stefan if I change my mind and don’t pack up just yet but continue in my one man crusade of pointing out the obvious.