LESSONS FROM TEACHER CIRUELA
A furious dialogue between Ciruela and the author
— You make me look like a moron, Ciruela. Now explain yourself to the reader.
— It's you who has to explain yourself! Don't you know who I am?
— Grrr... Here goes: some time ago you used a false analogy to present an argument.
— Huh! And you put the blame on me? Shame on you!
— But it's you who's got to face the reader and speak to them.
— The author is the barefaced one here: he knows damn well he did wrong but vanishes as if everything's OK. You did it on purpose, didn't you?
— No sooner had I uploaded your lesson than I doubted your words. Then I did some research and found out you were wrong. Romans and their aqueducts, that sort of thing. Check it out: they were so good at handling the principle of hydrostatic equilibrium that they chose to build aqueducts because the framework on which those beautiful bridges were built turned out to be not so expensive as the lead coated watertight pipes for siphons.
— Why on earth didn't you seek a better way to support your argument? That lesson was pretty good, as far as I can remember.
— Couldn't find out.
— Just a footnote to clarify what you meant and you were done.
— Let me tell you what I think: for the general reader, the strengths and weaknesses of an argument closely rely on the appropriateness of the examples given.
— I couldn't agree more.
— I was afraid I might have spoiled the argument if the example I had just provided was proved false on the spot. My main purpose was to protect you, Ciruela, believe me.
— Okay, let that be a lesson to you. Setting supporting examples is key at popularizing science... but be careful when taking your pick!
— Yes, but... now what?
— Look what we can do: let's place a reference mark in my previous text about aqueducts in order to direct the reader's attention especially to this present lesson. Then title this one "Analogies"... a good one that best describes the outstanding mainstream we've just shared.
— OK, Master, you're right. Would you like to add something else? Kind of an excuse to defend my behavior, I mean.
— Trying to soften me up, huh? Well, just add what follows to the earlier statement, but make sure you're adding emphasis as well: when aiming to popularize science it is very important to clearly tell the difference between the examples or analogies provided and the essence of the scientific issue we want to make widely known. A clueless approach could drive someone to refute science as they fail to see the logic behind the analogy -which in most cases has little to do with the core of the argument-, thus blinding them to the scientific topic to be dealt with.
— Whaddaya think? Is it okay now?
— Halfway decent, let it be.
— Oh, thank you, Master. Can I tell you one last thing? Day by day you scare me more.