Why We Are Shutting Off Comments

Popular Science Gets Rid Of Comments Instead Of Teaching Science

Why We Are Shutting Off CommentsPopular Science has decided to do away with reader comments.

This was not based on opinion or hurt feelings but based on science.  Studies have shown that readers comments, particularly less civil ones, affect how people view scientific news.

The magazine took the logical leap to say this is why science is struggling. One only needs to listen to climate-change deniers, anti-vaccinators, proponents of creationism being taught in schools and the like to realize how much loud minorities with distorted stories, Google, and a few rogue people with letters after their names, politics on their mind, and dollar signs in their eyes can bury heaps of strong research and scientific evidence.

Smart, caring, thoughtful people are confused and unsure — making up vaccine schedules and ignoring weather patterns and shrugging their shoulders. I have trouble defending some of it in daily conversations. Science is confusing. What makes a good study? Why is my personal experience not a good study? How can I get what I want in life and still believe in the science?

The last one is hard and personal. I want to believe in a Christian God, but this theory of evolution exists. (I believe in both.) I want to keep buying SUVs and iPhones, but this climate change evidence is creating droughts which destroy crops and farms and people’s livelihoods. (I’m not perfect in my going green because I like stuff.) I want to protect my children because feeling powerless against autism is hard and our immune system is confusing, but these studies prove vaccines are safe and protective given as they’re given. (The only reason I didn’t give my kids 4 shots at once was because I thought it would hurt too much after I got 2 shots at once.)

But I don’t think everyone is just looking for a biased way out. I think it’s more complicated. Science makes mistakes. Medicine is an art as well as a science. There is more to be explored within the human body and in nature. We are supposed to be skeptical and questioning within science. But we need a foundation of understanding first. What Popular Science could have done is created primers for epidemiology and definitions of terms. They could give more knowledge of basics. They could’ve had moderators to help. I don’t think shutting off comments gets to the root of the problem.

People need to understand their personal bias (“I want an easy answer to protect my children from harm”) and understand the term “bias” in a science study (when a “‘systematic error [is] introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others’. Bias can occur at any phase of research, including study design or data collection, as well as in the process of data analysis and publication” (source)) so they can read an article, learn more about the author, and participate in the discussion. Both science, Popular Science, and the other readers would be better for it.

Instead, there are no more comments on the pieces, the same sort of problematic comments on Popular Science’s Facebook and Twitter, and a vocal minority who continues to not believe in the validity of science. I’m not sure who or what will change.

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Princess time

This Princess Will Not Need Rescuing

Princess time
Get your crown on.

When my daughter wants to play princesses, we play princesses. I’m not against girly things today even though I grew up pushing away more typical feminine concepts. I hated the color pink. I never cried. I cursed. I stayed out too late. I went too far. I hung with “the guys.” In fact, I aimed to out-do men most of the time. I wasn’t a tomboy. I just wasn’t ever going to admit my arm hurt when I played punch-each-other-in-the-arm with the boy who outweighed me by 100 pound. And I’d have the bruises to prove it.

Over the years, I let myself be the woman who wears pink but prefers red. The woman who cries at Hallmark commercials and with friends but still hates romantic comedies. I understand that I can be who I am even if it’s hard and doesn’t fit neatly in a box. So when I became a mom to a daughter who loves tutus and purple, I became a mom who wears princess dresses.

But when my daughter says to her brother and me, Let’s play Mario and Luigi, and I’m the princess in the tower, I shudder. I don’t want her to be a bystander in her story, and I know enough about girls and culture and princesses to know this is fear-realized of allowing so much tulle in my home.

Princess waiting
I don’t want her waiting for a prince charming.

She’s a princess, but she’s powerless in this story. She is locked away, and her brother and I have to save her. The gentle, loving, sweet princesses must be rescued. This story isn’t just in video games like Mario Brothers. It’s told over and over in bits and pieces, in books and movies. It’s why I fought so hard against pink and tears and romantic comedies and anything typically girly. I didn’t want to get trapped so I believed if I was the exact opposite, I would be free. I didn’t realize that doing the opposite of something made me just as imprisoned.

But after a few minutes of running around attacking bad guy Koopa Troopas, I walk over to her and whisper: Come on out, Princess. Fight the bad guys with us. Save yourself.

The door isn’t locked and you’re stronger than you think.

And she runs forward all arms and legs and giggles and karate chops.

Because it’s not the dress and the crown and the jewels and the shoes and the movies and the games and the makeup and the shaving and the colors and the emotions that keep her in tower. It’s us not learning and teaching there are alternate endings and middles and beginnings to every story. It’s us not fighting for the right to fall wherever we are on that gender spectrum.

My daughter is a princess, but she will not need rescuing.

Masked Princess Crusader
Masked Princess Crusader

To learn more about the Damsel in Distress trope, which is particularly popular in video games, check out Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency’s blog post and youtube video on it. Video games will never look the same and that’s a good thing. I don’t know if I would’ve seen the opportunity if I hadn’t been following her blog.

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