Framing and Arrogance

An idle observation: One of the more ironic things about the whole framing argument (other than the sheer number of people talking past one another, as Mike notes in passing) is how quick a lot of the anti-framing people are to declare that Mooney and Nisbet are just completely and totally wrong. And the people who are most adamant about Nisbet and Mooney being way off base are the people who are most outraged whenever somebody with an engineering degree dares to say something stupid about biology.

The irony here is that this framing business is exactly Nisbet’s area of expertise. This is what he does as a scholar, not some casual hobby where he’s talking out his ass the same as everybody else with a blog. I’m not saying that nobody who isn’t an expert should be able to comment– that would be stupid– but you’d think that people wouldn’t be quite so quick to dismiss the whole thing as if it were something he and Chris Mooney came up with over a few beers one weekend. I doubt there have been any objections raised in the on-line discussion that he hasn’t already considered, and I really doubt that any of the objections raised are half as devastating as the people posting them imagine.

As a physicist, I’m used to this sort of thing– we’re famous for our arrogant dismissals of other sciences, particularly social sciences. I try not to do it myself (I’m enough of a squishy liberal arts type that I’ve found myself defending the validity of research in the humanities to a number of colleagues and students), but I know I’m not always successful. In a perverse sort of way, it’s nice to see that other sciences have the same problem with assuming that a degree in science confers automatic expertise in all fields.

Of course, this sort of attitude is probably a contributing factor to the fact that science has an image problem in the first place…