Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Marsh fleabane

with 20 comments

Been a couple of years since I showed you marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata, so here’s a view of its flowers and then a softer view of its buds at Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock on August 23rd.



§        §        §



At the head of an August 28th article in Quillette, Bo Winegard quotes Sir Henry Hallett Dale:

And science, we should insist, better than any other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search for objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive.

The article per se starts out like this:

Although the modern prestige bestowed upon science is laudable, it is not without peril. For as the ideological value of science increases, so too does the threat to its objectivity. Slogans and hashtags can quickly politicize science, and scientists can be tempted to subordinate the pursuit of the truth to moral or political ends as they become aware of their own prodigious social importance. Inconvenient data can be suppressed or hidden and inconvenient research can be quashed. This is especially true when one political tribe or faction enjoys disproportionate influence in academia—its members can disfigure science (often unconsciously) to support their own ideological preferences. This is how science becomes more like propaganda than empiricism, and academia becomes more like a partisan media organization than an impartial institution.

An editorial in Nature Human Behavior provides the most recent indication of just how bad things are becoming. It begins, like so many essays of its kind, by announcing that, “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded.” When the invocation of a fundamental freedom in one clause is immediately undermined in the next, we should be skeptical of whatever follows.

A little later we find out that

the journal [Nature Human Behavior] will reject articles that might potentially harm (even “inadvertently”) those individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.” Since it is already standard practice to reject false or poorly argued work, it is safe to assume that these new guidelines have been designed to reject any article deemed to pose a threat to disadvantaged groups, irrespective of whether or not its central claims are true, or at least well-supported. Within a few sentences, we have moved from a banal statement of the obvious to draconian and censorious editorial discretion. Editors will now enjoy unprecedented power to reject articles on the basis of nebulous moral concerns and anticipated harms.

You can read the rest of the article about the sorry state into which science is precipitously falling.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2022 at 4:27 AM

20 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Beautiful pink flowers of the marsh fleabane. Science is only as good as those who practice it. Is objectively really possible? Highly debatable.

    Alessandra Chaves

    September 6, 2022 at 7:48 AM

    • You said it well: “Science is only as good as those who practice it.” Objectivity is hard to maintain even with the best of intentions. Once ideology enters into it, a realistic assessment of the world becomes impossible. But marsh fleabane remains attractive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2022 at 11:28 AM

      • You would be surprised to learn about how many hours of philosophy of science is taught in most graduate programs in the sciences.

        Alessandra Chaves

        September 6, 2022 at 12:23 PM

        • In principle that sounds like a good thing. Have ideological professors captured those courses?

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 6, 2022 at 2:11 PM

          • It is unusual for a science student to learn philosophy of sciences in graduate school here in the US, unless the student actively seeks those credits, and for that the student often needs to take classes from another department, usually in another building where other classes in the “humanities” are taught. In the graduate program in Maryland I was not required to take credits in Philosophy of Sciences, and I didn’t find a good way to take those credits in another college/building. Most of what I know, I learned in College in Brazil, and the rest is self-taught. I don’t recall any ideologues or ideologies, mostly we read and discussed modern philosophers like Thomas Kuhn, Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, and epistemology of sciences. Without a good foundation in philosophy, ideologies tend to find a fertile ground to germinate and set it.

            Alessandra Chaves

            September 6, 2022 at 2:31 PM

            • Sounds like Brazil does a better job than the United States of giving science students a thorough grounding in their subject. Unfortunately American colleges are removing more and more requirements. For example, in some schools history majors don’t even have to take a course in American history, nor do English literature majors have to take a course on Shakespeare. It’s a sad state of affairs.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 6, 2022 at 7:36 PM

              • I don’t know anymore about how it’s there. Education is falling into a pit almost everywhere. Do math majors need to learn the multiplication tables? .

                Alessandra Chaves

                September 7, 2022 at 2:51 PM

                • I like your sarcastic question. I suspect math majors still know their times tables, but I’ve found that not all college students do. A decade ago I had the unhappy experience of teaching a few summer remedial classes for a local college. All the students had been admitted for the fall only on a provisional basis because they were deficient in basic skills. Lots of those students, despite having high school “diplomas,” couldn’t do elementary school arithmetic. For example, some of them thought that the way to add 1/7 + 1/7 was to add across the top and then add across the bottom, so their answer was 2/14. Even after I spent days going over how to add fractions, a lot of those high school “graduates” still couldn’t do it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 7, 2022 at 3:31 PM

                • I recall when my son was learning multiplication in elementary school, the teacher told me that multiplication tables were a thing of the past. I watched my son draw sticks on a piece of paper, then count the sticks when he was multiplying. One day I had it with watching him do something so inefficient and forced him to learn the multiplication tables against the teacher’s advice. It went well from that point on.

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  September 7, 2022 at 4:09 PM

                • As you found, educational faddists are perversely determined to undermine effective education. It’s crazy, but it’s the truth. You did well to take your son’s education into your own hands.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 7, 2022 at 5:43 PM

  2. They look beautiful, like a bouquet. I have not seen marsh fleabane flowers before.

    Peter Klopp

    September 6, 2022 at 9:10 AM

    • Yes, you can see it as a bouquet. The closest marsh fleabane come to you is something like a thousand miles, so it’s not surprising you haven’t seen it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2022 at 11:32 AM

  3. When we were down on the west end of Galveston last weekend, I saw a good bit of marsh fleabane in the area behind the dunes, but couldn’t get to it. It may well be blooming in more accessible areas now, especially with all the rain we’ve had. The pastel buds in the second photo are quite attractive, but I’m always drawn to the plant’s leaves, too. I like that you captured their fuzziness:especially in the first photo.


    September 6, 2022 at 10:15 PM

    • ps: too bad we don’t have a mosquito-bane plant. We’ve had enough rain now that the little devils are swarming. I suppose the dragonflies are happy.


      September 6, 2022 at 10:17 PM

    • As a conspicuously fuzzy person myself, I do what I can to highlight that quality in nature. (Okay, that wasn’t why I included the leaves in the first picture; they were just there behind the flowers.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2022 at 8:25 AM

      • Advantage dragonflies; disadvantage humans. I noticed mosquitoes appearing unusually quickly when I was briefly out in our side yard a couple of days ago.

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 7, 2022 at 8:27 AM

  4. A first impression of the buds gave me the impression they were swamp milkweed. By now most of our summer fleabanes are passed and the late species are blooming.

    Steve Gingold

    September 7, 2022 at 2:34 AM

    • I should probably have noted that the common and confusing name “fleabane” applies to plants in different tribes of the sunflower family, both of which have members in Austin. The marsh fleabane shown here (genus Pluchea) is in the tribe Inuleae, while prairie fleabane daisy and Philadelphia fleabane (genus Erigeron) are in the daisy-like tribe Astereae. I imagine “fleabane” may be an ambiguous term in your area, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2022 at 8:36 AM

  5. Super pop of pink!


    September 11, 2022 at 2:22 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: