At the UNZ Review, an “alternative media selection,” Razib Khan asks, is “ Jonah Lehrer “One of the Most Gifted Nonfiction Writers of His Generation”?”.
Many, many, people want to be science writers. That’s why there are now professional programs to train you to do this. But very few make a good living in this area. One issue that immediately comes to mind is that you probably need some financial buffer to really take this risk as far as a career choice. It could be family money, or, it could be that your partner has a more conventional job which can allow for income smoothing over time. I also happen to know that Jonah had some powerful and influential mentors, so it wasn’t hard for him to become a public intellectual, and so bring to the table the requisite synergy that agents are looking for. Every now and then literary agents contact me, and one issue that comes up is that they want me to increase my public profile so that I will be able to push copies of anything I publish using my own resources of my own personal fame. I have not forged that path, rather, I’d like to think I’m a much more eccentric character who has tracked himself into much more exotic territory, career-wise. But back to the numbers, the vast majority of people who aspire to be science writers will not become science writers. Jonah was one of the few who had made it, and spectacularly so. He then flamed out, again, spectacularly so. Now he’s back, seemingly on his way to success. Is he such an exceptional talent that he deserves this? Are there no other Jonah Lehrers in the world who haven’t been given a chance and who happen not to have Jonah’s baggage? It is hard for me to believe that.
Look, I don’t know. If Lehrer’s the Comeback Kid, maybe he is just good with the pom poms.
Today, most science journalism is just naturalism made easy for the masses. It’s not true, but why does that matter? If Lehrer played fast and loose and got away with it, why should the world care?
Aren’t we supposed to have real difficulty grappling with the fact that our brains have not evolved so as to understand that our minds are an illusion?
Then why should we hear claims of injury from anyone who honestly believes that his judges are fleeting, illusory consciousnesses anyway?
See also: Science 2.0 on one of Darwin’s greats dismissing arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins as a “journalist”: (with useful info on the science writer culture)
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