By the WordPress statistics, this is my 398th post in 9 years (and 9 days). I didn’t write every word of those; they include some guest posts and conversations with coauthors. At the same time, they don’t include when my Science Corner-style posts were going directly to Facebook in between monthly posts, so things probably balance out. Over that time, we’ve tinkered in other ways as well, trying book clubs, movie reviews, and interactive live science to go with wide-ranging conversations on science and theology. In that spirit, it’s time to tinker again and try a different schedule. For the foreseeable future, I am going to switch back to the monthly pace I started with; new posts from me will go up on the second Wednesday of each month, starting in October.
One reason for trying this change is to test a hypothesis that fewer posts will better serve more people. We all have many demands on our time, and reading weekly posts is a big ask. Based on a limited, nonrandom sample, even people who know I blog are surprised when I remind them I write every week. Relatedly, I’ve seen folks declare “podcast bankruptcy” when they become daunted by content coming out at a more frequent pace than they can read or watch or listen. So my sense is many folks who only have time to read one post a month are more likely to do so if there is only one post a month to read, even if in theory they could pick and choose from weekly posts.
The other reason for a change of pace is that I think I, like many others, am going through something akin to burnout and need a break. It has not been the easiest year and a half to be in public health. When a significant part of the public essentially opts out of what benefits you can provide, limiting your ability to not only help them but also everyone else, it is hard to see what kind of value you are providing. And as a writer, I get very little feedback on whether anyone is finding value in what I write. Comments are few and far between; when I’ve tried polls and surveys I’ve not gotten much turnout either. Now, to be clear, no one owes me anything; I’m not trying to guilt anyone into saying something nice about me or whatever. You are welcome to engage or not however you see fit and in whatever way is most worthwhile for you. I’m just trying to give you a sense of what it’s like to be a scientist who writes. If the world doesn’t provide the data to answer my questions, I’m going to start changing variables to see if that produces a change in the results that I can study.
And since I am a scientist who writes, I can’t leave you entirely without science or something like it. From earlier this year, here’s an article on burnout in academia, including some practical tips on how to cope. At the risk of over-spiritualizing or over-analogizing, one could also consider the Biblical and agricultural principles of letting a plot lie fallow. Sometimes a season of less activity can lead to greater productivity in the long run. Of course, having said that, I’m setting a high bar for future posts and I have no idea if I can actually deliver. However, I’m reasonably confident I can’t at this rate, so something’s got to give.
After the past 18 months, I’m particularly interested trying to figure out what the place is for a scientist in the body of Christ and where the science & faith conversation needs to go from here. On the one hand, certain scientific topics have obviously received a great deal of attention in our congregations and elsewhere. On the other hand, it’s not clear that has increased engagement with the actual scientific process or deepened understanding of God’s creation; it may simply have provided a different vocabulary for sloganeering. Can productive conversations about matters of scientific fact be had across such diverse perspectives? Is there a greater need for parables from science, or have they become less relevant? Who else should be part of the science & faith conversations? Those are the questions on my mind as I look ahead to future posts. What questions about science & faith are on your mind? Feel free to leave a comment to let me know what you’d like to read about, or if you have answers to my questions.
Last chance! This Saturday! If you are a woman in science, or think you might want to be, check out this upcoming online event. And if that’s not you, share with someone who is.
About the author:
Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichÃ©d notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two teenagers, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.