I must say that it discomfits me a bit that biology posts are overlooked in favor of ones on atheism and religion—nay, even ones on cats! Now it takes about five times longer to write a biology post than one on, say, a HuffPo piece on Bart Ehrman, because I have to read the science paper twice, look up ancillary references, and try to explain it as best I can in non-technical language. Despite that, posts on Jesus, atheism, and the like garner the lion’s share of attention.
Well, I’m judging that by comments alone. My working theory, which I use to console myself, is that people still pay attention to the biology but most, not being experts, have little to say to contribute to the discussion, while everyone has an opinion on Jesus and atheism. At any rate, biology is still my first love (next to cats), and I intend to continue posting about it. Although I write about what interests me regardless of the expected traffic, I’d like to know whether anyone pays attention to the science.
Okay, here’s some cat stuffz.
228 thoughts on “Note to readers”
+1 to the biology and evolution posts. They’re great stuff and highly linkable.
Do you have any sort of server logs, to see what posts get read?
I don’t use WordPress but it looks like they have a stats plugin built-in:
There is a top posts and pages link in stats, so you should be able to see where the traffic is.
Regarding science posts, I read them, but rarely have anything to say, and for the reader too there is an effort asymmetry. It takes more effort to digest and come up with an intelligent comment on a science post, but we can all pop off on religion and cats off of the top of our head. Also, there is less fear of being wrong, since much of what is discussed about atheism and religion are opinions anyway.
I do most of my reading via the RSS feed and I suspect I’m not alone. That will mean most logs will undercount the real impact.
I would expect the fraction who read each kind of article would be the same, so that logs would still tell you what kinds of articles are preferred in general. Although it would be interesting if RSS readers preferred hard science articles more than visitors to the site.
The logs are not the entire story. I read many posts ONLY in the RSS reader so there would be no ‘click’ for me unless I comment (which is often for me for WEIT but not others).
Yes, of course, the logs are not the entire story and I completely understand that your RSS reading won’t show up in the logs. The question at hand really isn’t getting an accurate count of total readers, though. I interpreted Jerry’s question as asking about the fraction of his readership who read the science articles as opposed to the religion and other stuff, and that fraction can be estimated without knowing the total number of readers. The only estimate he has now of this fraction is based on the comments, which is clearly a very biased estimate. Logs may also be biased somewhat, but they will not be as biased as comments, and so should give a better idea of the fraction of readers who read article X vs article Y.
Actually, I recall now that JC has already used this feature elsewhere:
so he should be able to just fish around and find the tab that breaks this down by articles.
He’s getting something like 15k views/day with, according to the sidebar, 10k subscribers. These are overlapping sets, of course, but unless there is some reason for the 10k subscribers to systematically prefer one article type compared to the 15k viewers, looking at logs of those 15k viewers should be a good estimate of what articles are popular and what are not. At the very least it should answer the base question, “Are the science articles being read by more than it would appear from the comments?”
I do not comment so much on Biology posts, as I am still a relative newbie, being still an undergraduate, and still finding my way.. But, I will try to comment if I have anything useful to say.
I am just making my own series of posts on the TV series which inspired me to go into Environmental Biology (Attenboroughs Life on Earth..should be compulsory viewing imo), and have been looking through your research page for inspiration and more detail for my posts.
Attenborough’s Life on Earth is an excellent inspiration for your chosen field. Actually, it’s a good inspiration for just about anything.
And count me with those who prefer the biology posts. That’s not to say you (Jerry) shouldn’t post about food or whatever you want. But the hard science stuff is what draws me here.
“My working theory, which I use to console myself, is that people still pay attention to the biology but most, not being experts, have little to say to contribute to the discussion,”\
whether or not it’s true for most of your readers, this is true for me. I don’t see the point in posting a comment going “hmm, yeah, okay, makes sense” or even “oh, that’s interesting!”
Just winds up feeling like empty noise.
I’m absolutely interested in posts on biology, particularly human evolution and genetics. I comment infrequently because I’m merely a lover of science; I don’t have the cred & the mad skills to add value. I do write on the topic sometimes myself though, from my limited scope of knowledge.
PS Is there any truth to the myth that cats think they’re gods?
Cats were worshipped as gods by the Egyptians and they’ve never forgotten it.
Cats know they are gods!
I often read your biology posts, but I don’t comment on them. I was a linguistics major. I know just enough about biology to keep yeast alive long enough to turn wort into beer.
Anthro for me, and yes, that is exactly as far as my hands-on knowledge in biology goes, too.
You are correct (as far as I am concerned), I am not a biologist.
Nonetheless, I am moved to read every biology/evolution post and I do so with great interest.
My field is mathematics. But yes, I LOVE your biology posts, even if I don’t comment on them…for the reasons you state.
For example: if you argue with Larry Moran about the proper way to balance natural selection effects with genetic drift effects: I read it and get something out of it, but I don’t have any standing to weigh in on the debate.
So please, keep the science posts coming; I do appreciate those!
I devour the biology stuff (just as I did WEIT) but I have no qualifications in the field and rarely would comment on them other than commenting on related books I have read.
I can make meaningful contributions only to your neuroscience-related biology posts, for the most part. But I read everything! Keep up the good work, Dr Coyne.
Absolutely, I’m a bio-sci student so I really enjoy coming to this site and getting an informed perspective on biology. I appreciate the effort and hope you continue to add more! Thanks
I love the science posts, I just don’t always have an immediate comment on them, rather I’ll read the post, think, “awesome” and move on, while its more likely that the atheism posts will be more contentious and I might like to comment. Which is not to say that there isn’t any contentious science… the posts on about EO Wilson and his disregard for kin selection, or the people that think epigenetics solves everything were really interesting…. but the plus side about atheism is that I feel like I can comment with my less than expert opinion.
I certainly enjoy the science posts. How do you know science works? My cereal now lasts 12.23% longer in milk before becoming soggy.
It’s true for me, too. Please keep the biology posts coming – I learn a lot from them.
Also, I think without those posts, things like this site and PZ’s blog might be a bit less effective: you guys know how to read and write and do science; you aren’t professional atheists!
I think it’s general shyness (on the part of us non-scientists) to say anything useful on the subject of biology (or any science related matter). Although I try to keep myself as informed as I can by following a number of science related blogs – and websites 🙂 – there are only so many times you feel you are entitled to say: Oh cool!
But I do appreciate and read all the science-related posts. They were the reason why I started following this site in the first place.
I’m more in the Physics, Chemistry, Material Science domain. Can’t say I have much to add on Biology posts. (In fact I don’t comment much to begin with).
Fascinating as it is, Biology is not my area of expertise. When I hear non-experts comment on my field, it makes me wince sometimes. Don’t want to have to feel like someone else is wincing at my comments on Biology.
“When I hear non-experts comment on my field, it makes me wince sometimes. ”
Yep. If grad school taught me anything it is this: “if I feel so ignorant in my own field, how ignorant am I in other fields?”
I have similar background: in materials science and engineering (only undergraduate level). My knowledge and understanding of biology is only at layman level, all of it I got from reading books catering to layman audience, including yours. While it’s above average, it still pales in comparison to your readership’s. So most of the time I don’t have meaningful contribution to the discussion, although I enjoy your posts on biology (I read every single article on your website, except some on free will – the debate gives me headache).
Incidentally, I aspire to get a PhD in evolutionary biology, or relevant fields. However, given my disparate background, my chance is slim, and my options limited. Re-starting from undergraduate level is not an option for I don’t have the money and I think I am already too old for that (turning 28). If anyone can offer any advice, I’d appreciate it very much.
I rarely if ever comment on the biology/science of evolution posts, because I do not have enough expertise to add an opinion or comment that adds value. If you desire “Interesting” or “Good Stuff” commentary, that can be provided. What some so-called “blogs” often contain are “Polls” at the end of an entry. The number of votes is a good indicator of interest and readers. So, if you work with WordPress to figure out how to put a “check the box” poll at the end of a particular entry, that will give you a very good indicator or interest, and even what your readers are thinking. A poll can be more than a plebiscite (e.g. “Good?” “Bad?”), it can offer summary opinions of the entry, and the reader can pick among several options- a dozen in some polls.
So, make an inquiry with knowledgeable web wizards re WordPress: how do you insert a poll?
Parkinson’s law of triviality explains the success of your contentious posts.
I for one enjoy your academic posts very much. And I learn a lot as well!
I am not a scientist, but a science and philosophy junkie of sorts, with a particular love affair with astrophysics. I almost always read the biology posts, and follow as much of the detail as I can, though I do not have enough knowledge of the subject matter to be able to add anything worthwhile to the discussion. In particular I’m interested in evolution and genetics, but am enjoying learning more about biology generally. Please keep the science coming. That’s why I subscribed in the first place!
My working theory, which I use to console myself, is that people still pay attention to the biology but most, not being experts, have little to say to contribute to the discussion, while everyone has an opinion on Jesus and atheism.
Pretty much. Except I think it’s more that you’re an expert on biology and so when you write stuff about biology you are writing on an area of your expertise and I fall into reader/student mode – I only post when I have a question about something or an observation to make. I usually don’t feel like I have anything to add to the discussion beyond the occasional “could you clarify this point” or “is it really as cut and dried as you suggest here” questions.
When you post on areas where you’re not an expert you’re usually looking for input, rather than providing information, and so it’s a lot easier to post my own thoughts or informative links since I sometimes have something to contribute.
I suspect that this is the case for most science bloggers who also blog about other things. But please keep the science blogging going – it’s what brought me here in the first place and actually, despite my comment history, what keeps the blog in my RSS feed.
Like others said, you are exactly right about readers who don’t comment on biology posts.
I have used many of the science info I’ve gotten here to keep up with new research, to reinforce (or not) what I know about old ideas and to add to my limited knowledge. As a future science teacher I find your posts invaluable.
Please keep up the good work–and cats!
I LOVE the biology. (Had no idea there was a VIDEO of the thylacine!) I don’t care if I can’t add to a discussion. I just love them all!
Thanks to Su for introducing me to this blog! 😀
To be honest, I’m more of a lurker in general, regardless of post content, unless the post strikes a particularly personal chord with me (e.g. the South, leaving religion, frogs). I just don’t usually have the patience to respond on a regular basis. I reckon I should try harder to be more involved in the online science community, since I so strongly support the idea of such a community and its contributions to science literacy. That aside, I do enjoy reading the science posts just as much as the religion/catz posts.
I agree with the other posters. I am not a biologist nor do I have any qualifications in the field. However I am fascinated by the life process. To date, there is no agreed theory of abiogenesis nor, as I understand it, a complete explanation of life which would even in theory allow the creation of a living entity from the bottom up. This does not drive me into the arms of God. It just makes me wish I would be living a hundred or so years from now. When we create there will be no need of a Creator!
I am a lawyer retired. My main hobby is microscopy: pond life, particularly ciliates and resolving diatom frustules.
Keep them coming Jerry. We may not be able to respond intelligently, but that in no way means that your efforts are not appreciated.
I enjoy the biology and science posts very much… But unless they have something to do with teeth or oral tissues, I might not comment much.
Keep ’em coming. A cool evolutionary post on mammalian teeth would be nice.
Yep. You’re right.
We’re interested, just not qualified to leap in and offer anything substantive (or even to argue against a point of interest).
Keep ’em coming. You’ll make great freshman-year biologists out of us yet.
I absolutely read for the science. It opens doors and books.
Cats and boots are dispensable.(To me, not to many of your readers.)
I seldom contribute to discussions. Who needs to hear my opinions?
What about cats in boots? Playing jazz?
Eclectic is good. Carry on, Jerry.
That comments are frequent on atheism posts and less frequent on posts about biology is a common feature in the skeptical blog/website-osphere. Pharyngula has been like that for as long as I can remember. I suspect the reason is similar to that suggested by previous commenters – it’s difficult to add something to a specialized conversation when your’e not an expert in that subject (and we’re all ‘experts’ in our own metaphysical beliefs).
I will add my voice to the chorus. I think your hypothesis is right on. I love the biology posts, but how many times can I say “thanks for sharing this” or +1? I feel one almost has to be a specialist to make a worthwhile comment, and I’m certainly not capable of a competent back & forth discussion. I still learn a lot from reading them. So the Biology posts are not just fading out into the aether. And thank you for continuing to post them.
But I’ll argue music or food or kittehs or jesus anytime, workload permitting.
I might add that it also takes five times longer to comment on a Biology post.
I find the posts on biology fantastic! You do an excellent job at explaining it for non-biologists like me. Actually, the biology posts are my main motivation for subscribing to this blog.
I do read the biology posts, but I don’t usually comment on them. Biology isn’t like theology, after all; one does have to do a lot of studying to form an informed opinion on the topic.
Also, I don’t think a post detailing some specific aspect of biology ever pissed me off.
It is easy to put forth informed opinions on theology. All are some variant of “Religion is bunk”.
I really enjoy your science posts, especially when they’re biology-oriented (and even more especially when they’re about speciation).
One of my favorite posts that comes to mind was the one on Daniel’s reinforcement paper (also one of my favorite papers to date).
FWIW – While I at least skim nearly everything you post, I’m more likely to really dig into the atheist type stuff. I’m far less likely to comment on the science posts for the very reason you suspect.
Add me to the ‘what they said’ group. I enjoy the science posts but have very little to contribute comment-wise. Maybe I’ll just start ‘liking’ instead of adding a meaningless comment.
Me too. Can you add a “Like” button to the end of your posts?
Oops! I just read davidgerard #36 (thanks). I don’t know how I missed that before.
If you’re on WP there’s a like button in the top bar when you’re logged in and viewing other WP blogs.
For me, I read your posts in email format on the train between Oxford and Reading, UK where there is precious little internet connection so posting comments is next to impossible.
However I find the same thing on my blog, if I post about atheism or just post one of the silly atheist quotes I get more views and feedback than if I post something on evolution or science. In the last couple of weeks I wrote a synopsis of selective sweeps and human evolution and have had very few views on it versus just linking to a selection of Einstein quotes.
Science is HARD. Taking the piss out of god botherers is easy.
I love the posts on evolution and biology! As a geologist, I particularly like the topics that take the long view. I’m particularly interested in work that addresses the balance between species continuously evolving in response to new environmental challenges versus the observation in the fossil record that many species simply do not show major morphological changes over time.
“I’m particularly interested in work that addresses the balance between species continuously evolving in response to new environmental challenges . . .”
Me too. In fact, I believe this is PRIMARY.
I suspect that genetic variation takes a while (a million here, a million there) to show up in fossil morphology.
Perhaps Jerry will pick up on your post and render its essence in a post?
Hey kids, there’s a “like” button up there already. I hadn’t noticed it until just now … GET CLICKING!
You are right. I never noticed it until now. I only see it when I’m logged in to wordpress.
You should also see a number in a box on the right hand side of that bar. Because of my reply, it should now be 1 or higher. Click on it.
I agree that atheism posts are inherently more “discussable”. As an academic evolutionary biologist, I don’t feel I lack the ability to comment on the evolution posts, but I comment on them less frequently because you usually post mostly either “wow” type stuff (great pictures of cool organisms) or reports of peer reviewed science. You post fewer controversial scientific topics (though the Ardi and Hauser posts were clear exceptions).
I know not what others may say, but as for me, give me a liberal sprinkling of evolutionary biology. That’s why I signed up.
I love the biology posts—but then again I’m a biologist 🙂
Yes, please keep posting about biology! Every week I come for the biology and stay for the atheism and cats. It’s what sets you apart from the non-experts!
As for the science, I can only agree with the posters above. I’ve learned considerably more biology from you, PZ and the rest of the Panda’s Thumb crowd than I ever learned at school, but I’m really not up to commenting on the primary literature, even when interpreted by yourself.
The fourth paragraph of the cat’s diary inspires me however to report on something I read in Richard Wiseman’s “59 seconds” earlier today. Apparently research by Erika Friedmann at the University of Maryland has shown that dogs have remarkably beneficial effects on people recovering from a heart attack.
However he then goes on:
He does not however suggest a mechanism.
The mechanism is that cats actually cause people to die, c.f. Oscar the Death Cat.
Have you considered the ramifications of revealing that cats kill? Covert operations commencing, Now.
First stage will be twining between your legs at the top of the stairs.
FWIW, I always read your biology posts, sometimes save them, and occasionally follow up in the literature. However, I don’t think I’ve ever known enough to comment.
Religion posts I often skip unless they strike a cord (or sometimes, in my case, discord. Why keep banging on about other people’s imaginary friends?)
But my devotions to Ceiling Cat; has Ceiling Cat met Higgs?
Please keep the biology posts coming. I find them useful, whereas I really don’t care much one way or the other whether someone else believes in a god or not.
Your working theory is pretty much on target for me. Doesn’t seem worthwhile to post “Nature is so cool/weird” repeatedly. But I will if it keeps your posts coming.
I always get a kick out of your science posts (and the same with PZ’s blog). I’m really just an interested novice and I always get a feeling of being surrounded by a depth of hidden knowledge every time you post about the science. It’s like knowing about a cliff and suddenly finding myself standing at the edge and peering over. I find it exciting and humbling and it leaves me humbled.
That’s not to say I don’t talk about it. I often tell my friends and wife, especially if there are interesting nuances or some clever bit of science, but I really have nothing to add.
I’m not a big user of reddit or Facebook but I will sometimes use G+. Would it help at all if we share/like more posts so that you aren’t just looking at the comment number?
(After all, trolls aren’t likely to come out on the science posts to inflate the numbers! 🙂 )
I read biology first, atheism second, cats last. So, ok, banish me if you think you must! 🙂
I always read the biology post but don’t often have anything to contribute to them.
I rarely comment, and almost never on biology, given that I feel there is usually not much I can add to the discussion. My background is in anthropology and archaeology, but I do enjoy and read all biology posts. In fact, one reason I read your blog and others is to learn more about biology, evolution, and genetics.
And although rather partial to Phasianidae myself, I even enjoy the kitties.
I most definitely pay attention to the biology/evolution posts. Please keep those coming!
Just want to assure you that your posts on Biology get shared ALL over FB. I don’t usually comment but I share on my own pages which reach over 10,000 daily. They are shared on many other science pages as well. I really appreciate all the work you do! : )
Oh – and having read another comment complaining about the other posts – I love the variety! Planning on sending some Hillary Rotten Kitten (my democat) pics in soon. You simply can’t please everyone – something I’m pretty sure you’ve already figured out on your own.
OK. I have a confession. The cat posts don’t do much for me. (ducking JC’s swiping blow).
Yeah, that’s how I feel about the free will stuff.
You just had to say that, didn’t you?
Ducking and running away will just encourage JC – he’ll think you’re playing a game.
Maybe that is my intent or I could not help doing it.
I have been a silent reader for over a year, but this drew my first comment. I pay far more attention to the biology posts. They provoke in me roughly 5 times as many thought-hours as those by posts on atheism and religion. I would be curious to know if this ratio is higher amongst your readers than amongst your commenters.
I appreciate the effort it takes to communicate science. Enjoy a well earned beer tonight.
My policy is not to grumble about how anyone runs their blog (despite accusations to the contrary), but the effect the popoff clutter has on me is to rarely read the blog. Perhaps I am the only one, and certainly I am expendable.
Frankly, I am interested only in the biology/evolution/science and not at all in the religion/science debate. I haven’t actually assembled and evaluated the data, but I suspect that a disciplined analysis might find that the science responses are more contaminated by opinion and digressions than moving the science discussion forward. I would be most interested in the results of such an analysis.
Taking to heart the words of Ben Franlin regarding time and the stuff of life, if the post title looks interesting, I read the post; if the post is interesting, I read the comments. I seldom reply, because when one has nothing important (or witty) to say, one is merely engaging in mental masturbation.
Tell that to a professor in graduate school and it will earn you a “C”. Don’t ask me how I know.
“Don’t ask me how I know.”
But, how do you know?
I’ll get my coat.
Been there, done that, got the “C” shirit.
You are not posting to an empty room – there are a number of us quiet ones who soak up the information and are inspired to further research/educate ourselves. I may not post in response here, but I often share and spark conversation and/or debate with friends and colleagues. The feline felids remind one to remain light hearted, whilst the politics and religion keep the perspective of how the biological studies are impacted by society and those who insist on living in the dark. Please – keep the flow of information going. Hail to Ceiling Cat!
Clearly not enough physicists are reading this post, as one of us should have quoted Feynman by now. I guess it falls to me. Feynman commenting on a similar situation:
“On the contrary, it’s because someone knows something about it that we can’t talk about physics. It’s the things that nobody knows about that we can discuss. We can talk about the weather; we can talk about social problems; we can talk about psychology; we can talk about international finance… so it’s the subject that nobody knows anything about that we can all talk about!
Statement (1965), when told that nobody else at the table he was dining at knew anything about physics and thus they could not talk about it, quoted in Handbook of Economic Growth (2005) by Philippe Aghion and Steven N. Durlauf
Terrific, you found one of Feynman’s rare mistakes. Even Einstein had some. I understand JC only has one though. 😉
It was to someone in the Swedish royal family that he reports he said it. IIRC, either Surely You’re Joking or What Do You Care.
If it wasn’t for your biology-related posts and your book Why Evolution Is True (recently bought from Amazon. Haven’t read it yet), I wouldn’t have been visiting your website as many times a day as I do now. It’s true that any Joe and Tom can say a thing or two about religions, but it’s the scientists like you who make my atheism+secular-humanism even more exciting. I’m grateful that scientists still give a damn about average Joes like us, and still care to make things easier for us to understand. Contrary to what you said, I actually avoid your religion-related posts because every time I see one, I already know what the conclusion of it will be (which is, most of the times: “religions are false and they all suck). On the other hand every time I read your biology-related posts, I learn a new thing or two about life.
If you’re interested in comments, you should start a blog.
I happen to be a biologist, but a lowly one, so I usually refrain from commenting as a matter of deference.
I’m a retired academic veterinarian. I do read most of your science “stuff,” learn from it, and enjoy it. However, evolutionary biology and related scientific areas you cover are sufficiently far afield from my expertise that I would not presume to comment substantively.
I read you specifically for the biology posts, cats are a bonus, turtle posts a rare and beautiful treat. the religion posts do little for me in that the bible-thumpers rarely have anything new to add, merely recycling their same old tired crap wrapped up with a new ribbon. The free will posts do little for me,but I’m free to ignore them…or am I? Either way, the sites (and blogs) i follow are primarily biology, with some humor at the expense of creationists and republicans thrown in for good measure. I’d personally love it if you and Dawkins would do MORE science and less religion, and I’d read PZ again if he’d do better at controlling his rather angry, foul-tempered, and expletive-hurling horde of followers.
SO, keep up the good work, and more turtle posts, please!
You free-will joke made me LOL. (And I have LOL integrity – never make the claim unless I actually did laugh out loud.)
Perhaps there’s something else going on here with regard to the science topics. Most items you report from peer-reviewed literature are, one way or another, *reports,* often with well-hedged or tentative conclusions. As you pointed out with your “fire-in-the-hole” item, that’s an indicator of good science.
“Good Science,” in other words, has little controversy with which to rouse the rabble or even the readers of this site, and it will be literally years before enough confirming or denying reports come along for scientists to reach a collective opinion on when “humans” or some other primates or even some other animal discovered how to control fire well enough to incorporate cooked food into the diet.
The fact that there are tons of interesting questions in the “fire” report doesn’t take away from the fact it will be years before scientists answer most of them.
BTW: Did anyone note the video of the chimp toasting (or charring) marshmallows over a fire? Don’t know where it was, but I immediately thought of it as soon as JAC posted the “fire-in-the-hole” item. – PH
I really enjoy the biology posts (being a biologist). I save many of them to use in my teaching.
I read the biology posts with some glimmer of understanding-for a lawyer-but any comments would have to be of the “You rate cats ahead of biology but you didn’t give food a ranking” type (ie unhelpful or irrelevant).
I came here because of your excellent, digestible WEIT book [halfway through 3rd read]
I comment now usually only when I have a question or think I can add something to the discussion ~ the latter being rare indeed!
I love the biology. I believe religious belief & practise is toxic even in its mild forms & I’m glad you speak out on this. I don’t care about the intricacies of theology, philosophy & free will, but I still read those posts too
You care about what you write & how you write it & you acknowledge your occasional errors. You like to base your opinions on evidence rather than your ideological preferences [Too many freethinking & supposedly rational ‘bloggers’ fall at this fence!!!]. Admirable qualities.
Good man. Therefore I visit daily & wait for the next book in three years.
Jerry, I read almost everything you write, and I encourage my friends to do the same. However, I have to admit that I never read your cat posts—I skim right past them because it’s just not my thing. I also like the culinary posts. My favorites are the religion bashing ones though.
My working theory, which I use to console myself, is that people still pay attention to the biology but most, not being experts, have little to say to contribute to the discussion, while everyone has an opinion on Jesus and atheism.
I’m +1 here, definitely.
I generally find the biology stuff very interesting, but can only engage with it at a very basic level so rarely have much to say/add.
Also, there’s sort of a reverse filing-cabinet bias as given how I’m wired, I’m much more likely to sally forth and attack a position I think is wrong or misguided because in that situation it feels like I have something meaningful to contribute.
In the case that something interesting is trotted out that goes rather over my head, there’s not much to say other than “That was interesting but I didn’t really understand it that much, NARF!”, which is significantly less fulfilling.
I certainly pay attention to the science! And given I will never have an opportunity to attend one of your classes, the fact you take the time to write about your subject in a way that I can understand is very much appreciated! When is the next book coming out?
I am heartened by almost all the comments thus far, but am disheartened by the expressed “fear of falling.”
I lay this phenomenon at the feet of academia, where intimidation of students yet reigns. I say this not that I advocate throwing the academia baby out with the bathwater; on the contrary, I appreciate that it gets the job done, more or less, despite its guild-like nature and its laughable caps and gowns . . .
I like, like many people, post when I have something pithy to say or have something to argue about. While I find the evolution posts interesting, I find nothing witty to say or controversial enough to argue about.
Also, it’s nice to know that established bloggers still occasionally experience comment anxiety :D.
The science stuff brought me here and is still my favourite bit and thank you Jerry, I really appreciate it.
The other themes here also interest me and this really is a great place for not only interesting initial posts, they often lead to an awful lot of equally intelligent, often humourous, often thought-provoking posts. The tone is set by you and you can take pride in that. And thank you for asking.
I’ve got a damn itching question I need to ask a particle physicist though, anyone know how I can do that?
Adding myself to the list of commenters who find the biological posts fascinating but hard! My last contact with a biology text book was first year undergraduate biochem & genetics about 35 years ago.
I would also say that the large number of readers who have stated that they like to read the biology even when they don’t themselves have biological expertise is evidence* of the high quality of this website. So please consider your efforts worth it!
(*I was going to say “testament to”, but thought it sounded a bit biblical….)
Controversial posts just get more comments, I think. It’s good to have a sprinkling of controversial posts now and then. *cough* free will *cough*
“anyone pays attention to the science.”
I don’t. Biology is boring to me; the only reason I pay any attention to it at all is that it’s on the front line of the religion/science war.
This is either a refreshing disclosure or indication of a character flaw. Let me think about it.
I love the biology! I’m also a fan of kitties, boots, food, a huge majority of the other stuff. I really think you should continue to write about what appeals to YOU, and the rest of us will consume what we’re interested in/able to read.
Another vote from a non-biologist who definitely reads the biology posts!
I think it’s already been made clear by the earlier commenters that you are right – many of us read your biology posts but (for me, certainly) don’t have enough knowledge of the topic to contribute. I’m only commenting now in case you’re looking to obtain some measure of how many of your readers this applies to!
May I suggest signing up for Google Analytics? It’s an invaluable resource for any website owner, and will probably give you better insight about your visitors than counting comments.
As for me, I read through the new content of a dozen or so blogs/websites as a part of my morning routine. Since there’s lots to read and a limited amount of time, I tend to gravitate toward the shorter, less dense material. I do love the more detailed sciency stuff, but I tend to save it in the “read later” pile, for when I have more time. I say keep the biology posts coming, because they tend to be quite interesting, even though I won’t always find time to read them.
Yawn . . . science.
Just kidding! You’re good at finding interesting topics of all kinds. I actually prefer the science posts, just usually don’t have anything to add.
I actually first came here hoping to see discussions and arguments about speciation. I enjoy the posts on the war between science and superstition very much, but I still find myself always hoping there will be more real biology discussion here.
I hope you stick around. I enjoy your comments.
Thanks Ant. I’m not going anywhere–this is the first thing I want to look at every morning when I connect. The quality of the posts and the commenters is exceptionally high here. But I’d love to see all this skill and expertise and eloquence brought to bear on biological controversies more often.
I love the biology post! Though the cat-centric nature of WEIT is a bit worrying at times.
Chalk up one more to the tally of people that read your biology related posts but don’t comment because we don’t have anything constructive to add.
I like em too. Almost as much as the ones on comestibles.
I don’t comment on your biology articles b/c I have very basic knowledge pertaining to your discipline. But, I am very interested in learning as much as I can from your posts. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. FYI, I have learned a lot about Evolution and look forward to more of your discussions.
Even if the science posts are read less (which might not be the case) they are not less valuable.
I’m sure more people would read a tabloid article about David Beckham’s bottom than a science article about muscle tissue. And then they would forget the tabloid article after about one minute. Your science posts might be less read than the other posts, but they probably have a much deeper influence on the readers.
I gather from the comments that most of your readers (or at least those moved to comment) are interested in biology but are not specialists. Let me say, as one of that crowd, that I really appreciate your accessible, non-technical writing on science!
As for your observations on religion, atheism, and counter-apologetics, that’s something we can all benefit from, so please keep it coming!
OT: What happened to your “Review of Shapiro’s book” post, Jerry?
Jerry!! Don’t give up on us! I look forward to all of your wonderful posts. Keep em coming!
(footnote)Speaking of biology, Christof Koch, Caltech neuroscientist, has a new book out called, Consciousness, Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. There’s a chapter that addresses free will. From page 110: “Let me sum up. Classical determinism is out. Quantum mechanical randomness is inherent in the basic structure of matter. Your actions are not preordained.” He refers to himself as a pragmatic, compatibilist. Yuck. Anyway, it would be cool for you to deconstruct his argument, since he has serious scientific credentials.
I love the biology, but like others here I don’t feel I know enough to add anything to the conversation.
On the other hand I know as many facts about God as the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury (none) so I am qualified to speak on the subject.
I come here for the science.
This reader greatly enjoys your well-considered entries on science topics as well as religion…I just don’t comment that much on either. Your website is one of the best on the web, IMHO.
Well, what can I say? Biology is interesting, but when the professionals gets into a discussion it seems rude to dilute the signal. (Not that I haven’t done that at some time or other. But I’m trying hard not to!)
“biology posts are overlooked in favor of ones on atheism and religion—nay, even ones on cats”
But, but, but … bi-ology is obviously about both organisms and cats!?
The science brought me here and is the primary reason for staying. But this site has become much more. Notwithstanding the thousands of subscribers, it has the intimacy of a graduate seminar. The postings reflect the great conversations that only an exceptional leader an generate and yet also contain. But then, the site is under the aegis of Ceiling Cat, so what else could be expected!
Well, I’m judging that by comments alone.
Well, that is the mistake right there I guess. I at least, and that is true for this website as much as for others, comment mostly when I disagree, as sad as that is. And the only biology posts that would motivate are the ones that go “kin selection explains eusociality (please ignore all those eusocial groups that have diploid males, lalalala)”.
Whaaat??? I thought this was the Ceiling Cat (may she have all the noms she deserves forever and ever ahmen). You mean it’s about BIOLOGY? Huh…whoda thunk?
Ditto to what pretty much everyone else said. Used to be a chemist but been away so long I’d just embarass myself if I tried to go bio-technical.
I read all the biology posts those are what drew me to continue receiving the posts and the cats. I don’t always understand all I read, since I am not educated formally in that field but I sometimes read it again until I gain a simple understanding. The religious post are interesting and enlightening but the biology posts are the cat’s meow.:) Keep the information coming and Thankyou for showing us your passions and caring enough about them to continue showing them to us.
Well, I’m late as usual, and 90 comments already reflect my views. But look at all the work you have to do to write the biology posts. In order to comment intelligently on them, I’d have to do the same – read the papers twice, etc. To comment on religion I just have to wake up in the morning.
Well yes, the biology posts are a bit out of my wheelhouse. But take heart: I took the advice in one of your recent posts and ordered the Bones, Stones, and Genes DVD from Howard Hughes Medical Institute and watched the first lecture today. Very interesting, and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the DVD. So your posts have had their effect even on us non-biology types. Now that I think about it I’m not sure I ever even heard the word “evolution” mentioned in any classromm I ever sat in, probably as a result of being raised in the south where it’s the E word (horrors!).
i read WEIT for everything. Although i don’t read many of the cat posts. Nothing against cats; i like them just fine. I just like other things more.
I come here for the biology and methodological and philosophical naturalism.
I enjoy your posts on religious criticism and have learned a lot from you and your commenters. I think what you’re doing here is extremely important and that more scientists should be doing the same.
Reading WEIT and other authors on the conflict between religion and science has armed me well and I try to pass on what i’ve learned. I try to keep up, but I don’t read as many of the posts on religion as i used to. There’s just so much great science to learn, music to write, sex to have and beer to drink.
I like the biology posts. I don’t make a habit of commenting for any blog’s posts whatsoever. I did want my pro-biology voice to be heard though.
I live for the science posts. I am fascinated by all of it.
You are correct: as a non-scientist I would not feel comfortable either making a comment that displays my ignorance.
But rest assured I appreciate your efforts to make it all layman accessible and still point out flaws or the correct scientific rigor applied to the paper/information.
I try to avoid commenting as much as possible, which means, I almost exclusively read RSS feeds.
I definitely enjoy the biology posts, although sometimes I don’t have time to read them as thoroughly as I’d like.
As a Ph. D. carrying biologist trained in your department, I read the biology posts. Often, however, I want to read the primary reference, which I have time to do maybe, 20% of the time, on top of reading things for my own research, etc. So I use the post to get familiar with the findings, then hopefully get to the details at a later date (sometimes this is weeks or months later).
I was drawn to your website because of its cogent commentary on religious lunacy. An interesting question is: Why are people in the life sciences like yourself, Richard Dawkins, and PZ on the front lines in the battle with religion? But then I imagine I already know the answer: evolutionary biologists have seen the acceptance of their science opposed at every turn by religion ever since Charles Darwin. By comparison physicists have had it pretty easy.
Okay, I must comment on several of your GMO posts because I am puzzled by your embrace of this biotechnology.
I would like to hear from you and not those who appear to merely pile on those with whom they disagree.
As you say about evolution, it is a proven fact, but what is not entirely explained are all the specific mechanisms/modes involved.
Evolution responds to many pressures over time. Many generations; long periods of time.
So why would one want to short-circuit this process with the laws of unintended consequence lurking, possibly, as in any technological process, polluting the gene pool to a dangerous point?
As a layman, your explanation of how evolution works would make it seem you would exhibit a more cautionary approach to the idea of what looks like a crude, simplistic way of altering the carrier of evolutionary seed.
I am truly puzzled.
I read every post on WEIT, they all interest me but I don’t always comment. I’m on the wrong side of the planet and very often what I would have said has already been said, and more than once by the time I get to it. I love the biology posts and I’d hate for them to stop. Please keep up the great work Jerry.
The science posts are the most interesting to me, and I think you’re right that they get fewer comments because people don’t have as much to say.
I like the biology posts, and try comment on them when I feel competent to do so. (I had some biology training in college, but that was decades ago.)
I also read the atheism posts, but frankly am less interested in the comment threads on those because reading through those long strings of comments takes more time and is less likely to teach me something I don’t already know.
So do continue with the science, and I will try to keep up as best I can. (That said, I am about a week behind due to travel exigencies.)
Guilty. I only read the other-than-Kitteh stuff.
I’m usually a lurker (like 40-90%, depending on the study). My knowledge is in a very different area and I feel quite unqualified to comment, but I love the eclectic nature of this site and am interested in it all.
One more for the biology posts, though I’m also one more for the biologists. 🙂
Again, keep the biology posts coming.
I live with three cats I serve and they are in this merely for the cat pictures.
Oddly, they show absolutely no interest in your biology posts.
It’s sad, really.
I don’t comment much, mostly because I rarely have anything of value. I’m here mostly for the biology but I do also enjoy the atheism. I tend to skip the cat posts.
Do you want people to comment with “Thanks!” if that’s all they’ve got? I could do that.
I originally came here for the science stuff. I share what I learn here, as far as I’m able, with people I know. I like the rest of it, too, though there is a lot to keep up with. I am usually late to any thread (two weeks behind, right now) (except for this one, since it was addressed to me, a reader, lol) and am unqualified to comment on a science post, anyway. I often end up following my curiosity to learn something basic so that I can have an inkling of what you’re writing about. I like that.
I have a lifelong mental block on the squishy sciences. Dr. Coyne, your elegantly written science-focused posts (and WEIT, the book) have gone a long way towards helping me chip away at that block. I plan to keep at it and appreciate the assistance you provide here. Way cheaper and more convenient than going back to school 😉
Professor Coyne, I really LOVE science — biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, ALL of it, the whole shebang of physical reality.
I also think cats are way cool, I enjoy eating (almost) everything that is palatable, and I even like the occasional western boot.
I read virtually everything you post, and my being principally educated in the physical sciences (physical-organic chemistry), I learn most new things from your MOST APPRECIATED biology posts.
But at the same time, I find very little that contradicts the science I know, or that is highly controversial, in the biology that you post (that is NOT a criticism!). And it is controversial subjects which get the dialogue really going, pulls in the posting participation on occasions even of the normally more timid and quiet, controversial subjects like the clash between science (natural history) and the claims of religion and other philosophical claims (metaphysical claims, free will yea-nay, the nature of consciousness, dualism, reductionism), and politics or politically polarizing subjects which present the most controversy, and thus which gets the most dialogue and attention here.
Said another way, we (people generally) do not feel the need to say “I agree” very often (though perhaps we should feel that need, but for some reason we don’t feel that need often). Yet all TOO often we feel the need to say “no, you’re wrong” or “I disagree…” Clearly human psychology is the most intractable phenomena in the universe — I predict it will NEVER be derivable from first principles.
“I must say that it discomfits me a bit that biology posts are overlooked…”
Please don’t be.
Biology posts would be great Jerry. They’ll take on a life of their own through the twitterverse, etc.
Dr. Coyne, I too read your biology posts. Also own your book. I don’t have a degree in any field, so my comments would be useless.
This is a great blo… err, website!
Moe the cat says pleeze more evolutionary biology.
I’m a physically-inclined inorganic chemist and read your website every day. The biology posts are terrific and I too fall into student-mode with respect to them. I love most of the topics here, even the Chicago-stuff since I postdoc’ed at U of C 28 years ago. The quality and entertainment value of the commentary is first-rate! I understand that you can’t really help yourself concerning your obsession with free will and can overlook your anti-dog bigotry most of the time.
I’m an evolutionary biologist of sorts, and I look forward to biological posts. I have no interest in the God/atheist posts and do not read them. I once had 23 cats, so I see no need to read cat posts either.
It is, of course, your website and you can do with it as you will. However, I am disappointed whenever I find that a web site’s title and contents don’t match up.
Well, I suggest, since you’ve seen fit to inform me about the “disappointing” disparity between my title and my contents, that you go elsewhere. Really, go.
Way too passive aggressive there, Jerry. Mellow out.
He can still enjoy the biology posts you DO post, while not enjoying the rest (which really does indeed do nothing to relate to the specific title you chose for this “website”).
Why should it? It’s rare to see a blog that only has posts relating to the title. Bloggers post on whatever interests them and only a fool would criticize them for posting whatever they choose. The author doesn’t actually owe the readers anything.
“It’s rare to see a blog that only has posts relating to the title.”
So many problems here.
1.) The word “only”. Toss it out, then we can begin, because it’s suddenly no longer rare at all.
2.) Many blog titles are a general but eye-catching name that just barely relates to an overall subject. However, a specific title such as “Why Evolution is True” or “Tetrapod Zoology” does have a sense that the blog would contain at least a sizable chunk of things relating to the matter (WEiT ratio of evolution posts to atheism/lolcats is tiny, whereas TetZoo is almost 100% TetZoo stuff).
3.) As the above states, blogs where the author writes about anything and everything typically have a general catchy name, whereas more focused and specific blogs have a more focused and specific name.
4.) I thought this was a “website”.
“The author doesn’t actually owe the readers anything.”
Nobody said it did. Are you enjoying strawmanning?
I usually do read the biology posts though, I confess, if they get too technical for me I only skim through lightly. But I appreciate them, nevertheless.
I prefer the ones on atheism and religion.
And I tend to skip the ones on food … unless it’s about pie. Everybody likes pie.
.. and cats!
Everyon… errrr ….all smart people like cats!
I tend to skip the cats. Oh, … um …
I love the biology stuff! The stuff about loony Christians is good for a laugh and more commentable upon, but the biology is what I read properly and take on board.
Keep it up please!
First thing in the AM, I open up my yahoo homepage, just to see if WWIII started overnight. If it didn’t, and so far this is the case, I then pop in here. I am rarely disappointed.
If you’ve written something about science, great, because I love to learn things at the start of each day. After nourishment and coffee, I might add a comment to a post about religion (it’s accommodationism that can really get me going btw). But frankly, I find the majority of your posters knowledgeable and erudite, so I read more than comment. You’ve attracted a great bunch of posters (which means that you’re doing it right, IMHO).
You’re doing it wrong. Start at WEIT: if WWIII begins, Jerry will certainly mention it. Other readers will then comment on various interesting aspects, and links will be provided.
But what if Jessica Alba has a baby bump, will he comment on that? I think not!
I’m just kidding, my wife has Entertainment Online on our homepage and they’re always talking about some starlet’s baby bump (excuse me while I barf).
Besides, Chicago could have been ground zero for the first launch…so there might be nothing left except cinderized cowboy boots.
I pretty much ignore the religion posts completely. I have no interest in arguments about religion.
I love the science posts more than the *religion* posts but I’m not qualified to comment – on either! I will remember to put a *like* on them though 🙂 THe *cute* & the cats – of course I love ’em. O enjoy your blog – full stop.
Jerry, there are few sites that cover biology and evolution as well as yours. It would be a loss if you reduced or stopped posting on these topics. I enjoy Mathew Cobb’s posts too.
Controversy does seem to draw a crowd though. And your science posts are less controversial than your posts on religion, theology, etc.
I too read the biology/science posts and absolutely love many of them but I am a fiction writer and library worker. I have nothing to add and wouldn’t think to criticize or argue as I obviously I have no expertise in those fields. I also love the religion posts but I was a theology student former evang. christian so I do feel capable of commenting there. Don’t read many of the cat posts although some are quite funny.
Nothing that many others haven’t already posted, but another data point nevertheless. I really appreciate both the biology/evolution posts, and the religion/atheism posts, as escaping religion and learning biology and evolution are, for me at least, two sides of the same coin. Also I greatly enjoy seeing a top-notch, widely-educated mind hold forth; Stephen Jay Gould was the ne plus ultra, but you, Dr. Coyne, as well as Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, and Sam Harris are those whom I read most frequently. Thank you.
i estimate that i read 90% of the posts on the site, and frequently send links to friends. i’m fascinated by nearly all science, and a large proportion of the people i most admire are scientists. you run a great site, and i look at it daily.
The science posts take longer for you write, but also for us to digest and respond. Sometimes the topic has gone into the archives before I’ve figured out exactly what I want to say.
The speciation discussion a few months back went away much too quickly. Two days or so is the end of the discussion around here. Usually even 24 hours and things are dying. Topics that don’t require pondering on this end will draw more comments.
Maybe if you gave us a heads-up a couple of days in advance of a pending science post we could at least get our brains warmed up.
Read ’em all – every day pretty much. I am a geologist but almost went the biology route in university. I work geology but I read biology – and the atheism posts are great. I am still trying to come up with a winning argument concerning free will!
I try to read the biology posts, or at least get the gist of them, but while they may take you longer to write, they also take longer for us to digest. And I simply don’t always have that time.
As a biology graduate student, I enjoy all of your posts but pay special attention to your commentary on biology and genetic manuscripts. My wife loves all of your feline posts and I like her exposure to anti-theism when she searches your website for the kittehs.
Your working theory is true in my case. I love reading the biology posts, I just have no idea what I could ever add to them.
Your observation is no doubt correct.As you are probably aware your posts are widely read by foreigners and the problem is that language of sciece is much more dificult to understand. Thats why comments are less common compared to stres on religion, secularism etc. But be sure, we read them all as long as we can understand them well.
I do greatly enjoy the biology posts even though it is rare that I would comment. On either topic. But really, I do tend to focus on lengthy posts if it immediately strikes an interest or is related to my current course material. Last semester this was biology, but now it’s really more focused on human sexuality and economics.
I do check, like many others, this site daily and am grateful for your work, including of course, the biology posts.
you’re 100% right, professor coyne.
i’m one of the lurkers who reads all of your posts, but being a literature student, i don’t feel i’d have something interesting to contribute the biology posts. but i like them, i’m still learning a lot.
but i commented on posts about religion, because the topic concerns almost everybody in one way or another.
so keep on writing about what you like, i’m going to read it all!
I really like the biology posts, though I never have a reason to comment on them. There’s not really one can say other than “how interesting”, so what would be the point on doing that post after post?
The interactivity is bound to be on contentious topics where people feel like their opinion might count for something.
I came for the Biology and stayed for the atheism. Keep it up.
Thing is I have a creak 30 year old BSc in Genetics whereas you’re a prof or something swanky, so I don’t always have much to add in the way of comments
I’m another reader that thoroughly enjoys the biology posts. A good proportion is beyond my ken, but I read everything that is posted on this website. I came for the religion, but stayed for the science. And the cats, of course. You can never have too many cats.
I skip every cat post, not because I don’t like cats but because that’s not what I’m here for.
The science/religion topics I find interesting from time to time although as a whole it’s a rather depressing situation.
Love the biology posts, to see progress in science and knowledge and also the people behind it who achieve this. Those are the topics I find most pleasurable to read about.
Given the number of comments on this topic, it seems that the subject of “meta” may be in the top three 🙂
Plz, moar science.
My reading is like your writing. I rapidly scan the religion/atheism posts – because I know roughly what to expect – and I comment because I have made the journey from religious fanatic to rational atheist. But I study the biology post in depth and I cannot comment because there is essentially nothing that I can add.
Keep on keeping on Jerry.
If it wasn’t for the science I wouldn’t frequent this site, so please do concentrate on it!
Science demands rationality and evidence, that obviously leads to a critique of religion, but science is what comes first.
The biological sciences are so awesomely multidimensional that they challenge science far more than physics, astronomy or what ever. It is truly fascinating reading and learning about advances in this.
Thanks for your efforts publicizing scientists’ efforts. We need more of it!
To be honest I find the scientific posts more interesting and tend to skip over the cat stuff. I’m a lurker and don’t usually comment (this is the first time I’ve commented on this blog!), but that doesn’t mean I’m not reading/enjoying.
I remember how completely enthralled I was when I first learned about the Lenski E. Coli experiment. It made me wish I had gone into the biological area instead of physical science. Alas, while I am still relatively young, a career change just isn’t possible because I don’t have the financial resources available. And thus it brings me great pleasure to learn more about the happenings in the field of biology.
I’m more lurker than commenter, but I read ’em all, Jerry. Bachelor’s in biology a long time ago, but I like to keep up as much as possible.
I read every post on this site, and the only ones I skim through are the cat posts.
Please keep up the excellent work. Your biology and evolution posts are my favorite, by far.
It’s the art-stuff that makes my eyes glaze over.
I come from a family containing several biologists as well as folks (including one or two of the aforementioned) with a diversity of religious beliefs, even ordained clergy! For me, the biology posts are the most interesting — You even posted one I suggested – Thanks! — and they are often so well presented, I don’t feel the need to add anything. As an atheist, I am not among the family members with religious belief, but I do have some interest in knowing the “enemy” (unwitting faith), and have learned much from the atheist posts and comments about how to discuss this.
I have to admit, though, I don’t get the free will issue at all.
I came here initially due to science articles and continue to find them excellent, so please keep them coming.
My favorite posts have been ones where you engage philosophical issues, especially free will. I’m a philosophy student and I consistently find myself agreeing with you more than I do with the “sophisticated” philosophical talk. I won’t get tired of posts on free will.
Keep the biology coming, and may ceiling cat purr in your name.
Love the blog, but I only read the science posts (although I do appreciate the food pictures!)
Jerry, not only do I devour your science posts, especially the biology ones; I also wish there were more of them.
Not only does it take you “about five times longer to write a biology post”, it presumably takes us, unless we happen to be specialists, ten times as long to jot down anything worthwhile. Opining about religion and politics is so much easier! So it may be that the prodigious cadence of your own output is self-defeating: a piece on Bart Ehrman will of necessity generate a much faster response rate than a piece on Yutyrannus huali.
I started out in biochemistry and ended up as an archaeologist and a statistician. On the rare occasions when my modest professional skills could really contribute something to the debate, it takes me, typically, at least half a day to get the references, check the data, do the calcs and compose 30-40 lines of intelligible prose. By which time you have posted two New! and Improved! pieces on hot subjects, and the interest on the slightly more technical one drops to the asymptote (and with it, my motivation).
Truly, the Better chasing the Good.
I love the biology – it was what brought me to these august pages!
PS It also takes about five times as long to digest a science entry – well, slightly longer than a social commentary entry! Don’t stop – they are good stuff, & good for you & the cause of communicating science to a popular audience.
Hell Yes! I am a science groupy. I am specially interested in evolutionary biology. I enjoy taking my limited knowledge and try to unravel the mystery of such things as population genetics, phylogenetics, speciation and ecology. The last two books I have read are from John Maynard Smith & E. O. Wilson. I wouldn’t mind reading a new book from you sometime soon –a biology book.
You are right in saying the we will express our anger about an idiot who has bazar beliefs and an open hostility to science but we are not about to tell you about the fine points of speciation.
Remember we know that the name of your site is ‘Why Evolution is True’ not ‘Faith is False.’
I’m here for the science, yo.
And in the same way it’s easier to write a religion post, it’s easier to comment on a religion post.
I read and enjoy both kinds. Like #155 said, it’s easier to comment on a religion post, but the posts that stand out in my memory are mostly science ones.
If I’m not mistaken, a little while ago you posted the stats for the top linked-to posts, and the list was topped by science posts.
Thanks for writing them, and please keep it up!
I could with lots less rabid atheism, and with lots more science.
Let me try that again … I’d like to more (quality) science posting, less (quantity) atheism posting.
Add my vote to readers who love biology posts, and I thoroughly enjoy the nice mix of interests represented on this site. As a college biology instructor, I’m always looking for new findings to keep my lecture material interesting and up to date. As I can’t possibly keep up with all the primary literature, I rely upon news sites, science blogs, and sites like WEIT to stay informed. My reading habits are such that I tend to lurk and not leave comments, and on the few occasions where I think I have something useful to add to the conversation, I invariably find that some other astute reader has already made the same point.
I am really only interested in the science. I sometimes look at the other posts, but I love the science posts. I usually end up using them in class, along with your book, so in my opinion, you can skip the rest of the posts and only post about science.
Please don’t stop posting on biology topics!!
I enjoy all the posts, especially the biology and evolution posts.
You can easily leave the rabid atheism to good ol’ P-zed over at Pharyngula. He’s often over the top on the subject, but somebody has to be that way. By doing nothing more than telling us all about new evidence for evolution, you’ll be doing quite enough.
Stick to biology, with a sprinkling of kittehs and reports on what and where you ate well. You can leave out cowboy boots: I’ve written to President Obama and asked him to introduce you to his tailor next time he’s in Chicago. Be prepared for sartorial upheaval.
Now, while I have everyone by their mental balls and their hearts and minds are quickly following, let me draw everyone’s attention to a very funny, very informative book on biology: Olivia Judson’s “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation”, which has the subtitle “The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex”.
This was a chance purchase in a used book place (one of those ones with many rooms, many shelves, many books even on the floor), and the book is a marvel, well worth reading by anyone interested in evolution.
I don’t usually pay much attention to the Biology posts simply because by that time I’ve read the same post on Not Exactly Rocket Science, Wired, BBC, i09 and Science Daily. But for goodness sake, don’t stop posting about them. I hear you though, people on my blog love political and controversial posts. Then I spend at least an hour doing my homework for a chemistry or civet post and it goes over like a lead balloon. But it’s your blog, you should write whatever you want.
Right in one, Jerry. I read all the biology posts, I can’t comment on them, being now almost twenty-five years from my last bio course. On the other hand, I read about religion regularly, and am familiar with the antic and arcane behaviour of cats. The only pieces I ignore are the ones on free will, about which I have no opinion, beyond since I seem to have free will, I will assume I do, for now.
I do not overlook the biology posts, Jerry. I just rarely comment on them because I don’t like leaving vacuous comments like ‘cool’ or ‘neato’. I am not a biologist, and I am well-practiced in my professional life to constrain my contributions to science and mathematics to my field of expertise, and to listen attentively and carefully to what someone with expertise in another field says when s/he speaks on that field qua expert in that field. To that end, when you say something I don’t understand, I ask other biologists I know on the internet or in ‘real’ life to explain to me, or to direct me to a book that’s written for an educated audience who are not learned in that field.
I’d hope creationists (well, people in general I suppose) would adopt my example as good practice: in the absence of knowledge, the uninitiated should remain quiet and listen to the educated, speaking up only to say thanks and to ask questions.
This is an immensely helpful response, and will be presented to creationists saying stupid things in future discussions. Thank you!
I read, enjoy, and learn from your biology posts, but as you said, I’ve got little to add in that area.
Dr. Coyne, Jerry I’ve been reading your articles for four plus years. Your science articles have been/are educational and informative. As an atheist I enjoy your posts on religion, food, music and travel. Your website is part of my continuing education.
I rarely comment on articles. Usually I’m too late, lack expertise or have nothing to add. Thank you for your continuing efforts in communicating your loves in your articles.
Yes please more biology posts! I’ve been looking for evolution blogs lately and I happily found yours, but after (only) seven days of reading I was starting to wonder if it was really a blog about biology or more about religion.
So I take advantage of this post to ask you if you know other good blogs that deal with evolution stuff?
(I’ll read the 220 comments above too in case you’ve already answered that)
Yeah, Jerry, I ain’t no scientist; but I watch and attempt to learn. Keep up the science stuff, it’s enlightening; remember, Hitchens was no natural philosopher, but he lapped up enough of the cream to savour a good anti-religious rhetorical diatribe. That’s what we scientific illiterates come here for. Why would we not want to be educated?
This is precisely why I read many of the biology posts but do not comment on them. I once hoped to become a physicist but flunked calculus, and ended up taking my degrees in linguistics. While I have an avid interest in most of the physical sciences and find the biology posts interesting, I will confirm your working theory, at least in my case, by admitting that, as a nonspecialist, I seldom feel that I have much to contribute to the conversations on those posts.
As a former biology researcher I enjoy your science blogs as a chance to keep a toe in the field, although I now have a different career. I also love your cat (and other animal) posts as a bit of light relief or illustration of interesting behaviour. Personally I am less interested in the atheism/theism debate, but do occasionally read your blogs on that topic.
I very rarely comment on your posts as, like some of your other readers have said, I don’t usually feel I have much to add.
Oh and I also like to read your food/travel posts to learn a bit more about American/other culture 🙂
So, thanks for putting your time into the science and other blogs and Happy Easter!