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How To Make Science Popular Again?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the push-church-and-state-apart-again dept.

Education 899

Ars Technica has an interesting look at the recent book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, a collaboration between Chris Mooney, writer and author of The Republican War on Science, and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum. While it seems the book's substance is somewhat lacking it raises an interesting point; how can science be better integrated with mainstream culture for greater understanding and acceptance? "We must all rally toward a single goal: without sacrificing the growth of knowledge or scientific innovation, we must invest in a sweeping project to make science relevant to the whole of America's citizenry. We recognize there are many heroes out there already toiling toward this end and launching promising initiatives, ranging from the Year of Science to the World Science Festival to ScienceDebate. But what we need — and currently lack — is the systematic acceptance of the idea that these actions are integral parts of the job description of scientists themselves. Not just their delegates, or surrogates, in the media or the classrooms."

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899 comments

Science =! Public Policy (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416345)

As much as many people would like to think otherwise, public policy is set by elected officials who may take science into consideration, but also must consider economic trade offs and cultural issues. Throw in the usual paranoid claptrap about corporations if you want, it doesn't change the facts.

Just because the Republicans did not rush headlong and unquestionably into the public policy positions championed by the James Hansons and Al Gores of the world doesn't mean they were conducting a war on science.

If science is unpopular today it is because of the arrogant, dogmatic and privileged folks who stand at its door. Add to that the people who embark on regular crusades, telling people they are stupid and ignorant for not listening to them, it's no wonder students shy away from science.

Re:Science =! Public Policy (3, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416485)

Also, the James Hansons and Al Gores of the world are (and let's be brutally honest here) as far from "scientific" as you can get.

People are tired of being told that something is "scientific" or "scientifically proven" because those words have become synonymous with snake oil. Separating the things that are actually rigorously tested, from the ones that had a cherry-picked study that then massaged the numbers and employed lying with statistics [wikipedia.org] for their sales pitch, has become an art in itself.

If science is unpopular today, it's not because of "arrogant, dogmatic and privileged folks" standing at the door. Rather it's unpopular because for every honest scientist out there, there's a hundred James Hanson or Al Gore types shouting about the end of the world, or a new way to "cure" male pattern baldness, or herbally make erections larger or breasts bigger, or a thousand other things that turn out later to be absolute bullshit.

Republicans? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416687)

Ok, laugh at the Republican creationists, but if you really want to see some fancy political tap-dancing on a political issue, just try mentioning the well-documented and annoyingly persistent [amazon.com] relationship between race and IQ to a liberal. It's like arguing with a creationist that goes to 11.

Wrong question (5, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416505)

I think you're a troll, but I'll bite anyway. As someone who is fascinated with all things science related, I bemoan the total apathy towards science within the community. However, I feel that it is important to point out that it is not just science that is being neglected by the community; politics, philosophy, social conscience and other highly important fields have also been totally lost to the common mind.

It's not just discussing the latest article in Nature magazine or Scientific American that results in dumb stares, but also trying to discuss things like the relative merits of current geopolitical policies of various nations, how and why the legal system has gotten to its current state, even this very subject, the apathy of the common person, is not the sort of thing that most people are able to discuss in any depth.

This may all sound very high-horsey, however, I challenge anyone to go to a party, bring up a discussion about the question of whether mathematics is invented or discovered, and see how long you can keep it up. I'm likely to get laughed at for the mere suggestion of this, someone will call me a dork or similar.

The thing is, I actually get out a lot. I travel several times a year, and spent a lot of time meeting new people. It's something that I really enjoy. I'm not a dork. I think.

So, how do we make science (and other "intelligent" subjects) popular again? I dunno, how about priming children in an environment that's a bit more stimulating than the modern day care facility. How about teaching them the basics in an environment that's a bit more positive than the jokes that are primary schools where teachers' hearts are rarely in the job. Don't even let me get started on the barbaric mass-cagefight that is high school.

You want to know why science is not popular in the first place? Because we (as a society, we can't just blame the "education system", after all, parents, they're YOUR kids) as a society are teaching our kids to be consumerist, apathetic, self-centered brats. We need a whole new social order, including a new social mindset that teaches people a proper set of values. Science and all the higher arts won't be popular again until people learn to value them.

Thus, asking how to make science popular I feel is the wrong question. The correct question is how to teach people it's value.

Re:Wrong question (2, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416545)

And wow, I completely didn't address the post I originally intended to reply to. Talk about rushing headlong...

Re:Religion =! Public Policy (0, Troll)

jpyeck (1368075) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416547)

As much as many people would like to think otherwise, public policy is set by elected officials who may take religion into consideration, but also must consider economic trade offs and cultural issues. Throw in the usual paranoid claptrap about corporations if you want, it doesn't change the facts.

Just because the Democrats did not rush headlong and unquestionably into the public policy positions championed by the James Dobsone and G.W. Bushes of the world doesn't mean they were conducting a war on religion.

If religion is unpopular today it is because of the arrogant, dogmatic and privileged folks who stand at its door. Add to that the people who embark on regular crusades, telling people they are stupid and ignorant for not listening to them, it's no wonder students shy away from religion.

Substitute two words, and your argument becomes the "arrogant, dogmatic" statement you are railing against.

Move to Asia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416349)

You're asking the wrong question. Science being unpopular is a consequence of the culture of consumption in North America, while in Japan first, and now China there is real research at the Universities and real Engineers in every office.

By the length of time between post and now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416351)

I think it's safe to say we are all apathetic to the scientific apathy.

Outlaw Religion (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416353)

Problem solved.

Re:Outlaw Religion (1)

raventh1 (581261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416495)

That'd work if the question was: How to start the biggest flame war ever?

Chrichton antiscience (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416355)

When i read the blurb before going to Ars Technica,. I said to myself "Gee you don't suppose global warming nuts are behind this?".
I don't know whether Yun Xie is one of those global warming nuts, but a quote from the book cited equates global warming deniers
as being antiscience.

Since that obviously must be true, it saddens me to see Michael Chrichton was anit science:
Chrichton on Global Warming [crichton-official.com]

If they were serious about the state of science in the US, they would suggest that liberal coocoo's stop trying to drag science into politics.

Beer & Hookers (2, Funny)

Rennt (582550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416359)

'nuff said

Popular, or useful? (5, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416361)

From TFA:

From quotes on websites to a joke by Stephen Colbert, they offer anecdotes about how the public was against the IAUâ(TM)s (International Astronomical Union) decision to remove Pluto from the list of planets, leading the authors to call the situation a âoeplanetary crack-upâ and then ask, âoeDidnâ(TM)t the scientists involved foresee such a public outcry?â Well, if the scientists did foresee an outcry, then what? Should they conduct a public vote next time?

Mooney and Kirshenbaum barely mention any of the scientific bases for the IAUâ(TM)s decision. Instead, they present the case as if the astronomers chose to reclassify Pluto on an inexplicable whim, and it makes one question whether or not the authors looked into any of the actual science for themselves.

I think it's pretty well established that the goal should not be to fit science into pop-culture, at least not if we want it to remain correct and relevent. Your average citizen doesn't care that pluto is only the first discovered Kuiper Belt object, they care that they learned it was a planet when they were a kid. That isn't thinking scientifically. There is no way to make the decision popular without compromising on proper science.

It's not an easy problem to fix. It seems to me like it requires you to teach people to care about science, rather than making science into something people care about. It wasn't that long ago when Bill Nye was getting kids interested in more pure science. Now about the best we have is Mythbusters, which certainly piques curiosity, although it has to resort to explosions and skipping most of the steps in the scientific method to make it palatable. They even have a "warning" for science content, which is a bad sign (tongue-in-cheek or not). Maybe we could get back to that, but it seems the prevailing momentum is toward smaller tidbits and shallower topics.

Re:Popular, or useful? (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416653)

There is no way to make the decision popular without compromising on proper science.

I disagree... strongly... From my experience with the public one of the biggest problems facing the public's understanding and scientific interest lie in the poor teaching methods used to educate them in the sciences. Everyone is taught about science in a very similar way, as if doing so makes sense... I've got news for you- not everyone relates to the sciences in the same way and the monolithic teaching methods used in their education are largely to blame. Worse yet, the educational system discourages experimentation, working at your own pace and independent learning styles. THe teaching of science is like a chore to most peopel because it is taught in such a way as to be a chore. It is no wonder then why there is little interest in science by the public; the learning of proper science is discouraged, the independent thinking that underlies good science eroded away and the entire concept treated as boring and monotonous.

Re:Popular, or useful? (2, Interesting)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416747)

Very well said, sir. The solution I came up with for this problem would be to have a separate class in school teaching logical reasoning and the scientific method. Science teaching should be approached as a system of thought rather than a collection of facts. I mean, I am as fascinated by science as anyone and yet even I can remember being bored to tears in all of my science classes because of this dry treatment.

Re:Popular, or useful? (2, Insightful)

Zantac69 (1331461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416657)

When I was growing up, I had Mr Wizard on Nickelodeon and absolutely loved it. Sure, some of it was dumbed down but it was perfect for kids. Unfortunately, most of society has become consumers that never question anything. A "panel of scientists" says "we think _______" then it becomes gospel as touted by CNN. Our kids need to learn to question - think - explore - analyze - and know that ITS OK! Hell - I remember going to my dad about the age of 9 after seeing the movie Firefox with a mathematical proof that Santa could not exist (because he would have to travel faster than Mach 5 - and at that speed the skin of aircraft gets too hot so he would melt).

Make up your minds... (-1, Offtopic)

wrf3 (314267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416363)

Dawkins, in his book "The Blind Watchmaker", makes the assumption that random processes are blind. Then, like Hawking, he concludes that since god isn't needed, god doesn't exist.

Knuth, in his book, "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About", says: "Indeed, computer scientists have proved that certain important computational tasks can be done much more efficiently with random numbers than they could possibly ever be done by any deterministic procedure. Many of today's best computational algorithms, like methods for searching the Internet, are based on randomization."

So we have two scientists, one who says that randomness is evidence of atheism; while another implies that randomness can be evidence of design.

One of you prove it, scientifically, or shut up -- at least as far as "science says" when it says no such thing.

Re:Make up your minds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416517)

I see nothing in that Knuth quote that contradicts anything Dawkins said about random processes being blind. Are you sure you're not putting your own biases into Knuth's mouth?

Re:Make up your minds... (1)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416567)

Who the hell modded this incoherent crap insightful?

Re:Make up your minds... (2, Insightful)

evolvearth (1187169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416577)

The argument isn't that random processes prove that a designer doesn't exist, but rather proves that a designer isn't necessary to have design.

Basically, the default stance is, "There probably isn't a god because of the lack of evidence supporting the hypothesis." Creationists use, "all things designed that we know of have designers, therefore we have been designed by a designer." Dawkins and Hawkings embraced random chance in the ability to make things that appear designed, effectively shooting down that argument as evidence to support the existence of a designer.

Re:Make up your minds... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416709)

Well, Hawking has gone further than that, turning the Anthropomorphic Principle on its head and asserting that if God does indeed exist, then God is very much constrained in the kind of Universe he can create that would support life (the Principle is often invoked as an argument for God).

At the end of the day, however, science really cannot say anything about God, or at least God as formulated by people in the Judeao-Christian tradition. An omnipotent, omniprescent being can do anything He wants, make it appear divine or natural at His whim, and thus can explain all possible observations, rendering the explanatory power of invoking such a being meaningless. The moment you invoke parsimony as a reasonable means of finding the best explanation, you tacitly admit that God is either restrained or restrains himself, and thus renders the question of His existence or lack thereof a question of no particular concern to science.

Anonymous Coward (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416369)

To stop teaching kids that religion is an alternate view to science. Religion should be taught nowhere near science, they are two distinct subjects. Oh yea and get rid of the crazies that bash science.. do these people not realize that pretty much everything they use in their life was adapted using the scientific method?

unstandard Science created religion (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416649)

Someone like yourself used a scientific method to decide what the past concluded historically that didn't materialize to the present as to why a superior race epicly failed at your footsteps. You ponder it wasn't suicide like a T-Rex evolving to a chicken, because you see massive impacts in the Earth's crust just like on the visible face of the moon.

Then again, it was your indoctrination that spawned a wrath of legalized Scientology that henceforth will be known in the State as Evolution. You will pay people to teach Evolution as the standard doctrine in the education of a young child. You will give that child collegiate-level determinations that will force it to default and accept your presumptions as fact and sarcastically surmise a grading system that is based on mere unsubstantiated memorization skills rather than the scientific Method to procedurally determine fact without respect of conjecture to origin.

Where's your Evolution god now? [youtube.com]

What's in it for me? (4, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416371)

Science's irrelevance is some of the long-time-in-coming consequences of a society that emphasizes short-term, extremely self-interested value system with a repudiation of the notion of social plurality.

Unless they adapt by supporting cavemen and women riding dinosaurs or hitching a ride on some other demagogue, Science remains irrelevant.

After all, I don't benefit from science in any special way. Where's my flying car so I (alone) can leave the unwashed masses on the ground. How about my super-smart pill so only my children and I don't have to work very hard?

I mean c'mon... This science thing is bunk unless I alone profit at the expense of everyone else.

Re:What's in it for me? (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416463)

Boy, what in the hell are you talking about?!

Easy solution (3, Insightful)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416373)

Naked girls. Guys would flock to science if there wers lots of naked girls.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416651)

Yup, you can't miss with that..
I'll show you the ONLY REASON I'm working as a Linux admin... http://linux-chicks.arny.ro/fsckme.jpg

Re:Easy solution (4, Insightful)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416713)

So how do you get the girls to flock to science?

The problem isn't with a lack of people entering the field; it's that the fields aren't seen as exciting. (Others might note that you can make more money in other fields; for example, I'd be making at least 2x what I make now if I was an electrician instead.)

You then have people who aren't interested in excitement getting into or getting pigeonholed into those fields. "Oh, Beardo is kind of quiet and smart. Perhaps he'll be a good scientist, sitting alone in a lab all day."

That's the problem. Science is exciting, no matter what branch you're getting into. I'm an Engineer -- an applied scientist. I'd like to think that I'm a reasonably exciting guy.

I bike around, I make speeches, I SCUBA dive, I have a house / car / family, I can build a radio with scrap, I've saved thousands of lives, and right now I'm working on a series of billion-dollar vehicles.

There are MILLIONS of people like me, but we don't sell magazines. It's not a matter of comprehension -- I have been able to adequately explain my job to my 5-year-old daughter -- but a matter of the stereotype of the scientist being a dork like Frink or evil like Baltar.

Nobody without decent charisma can do a good job. You have to be able to sell what you do and sell your opinions to you colleagues and supervisors.

DIY science (5, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416375)

a big part of the problem I suspect is that people don't get to do much science around the house or at school. I suspect that if they were actually allowed/encouraged to do so you would see a rapid increase in the public's interest in science. unfortunately, DIY science has been under attack for quite some time in the home and in the school system its self. mostly in the name of safety... The proper response to safety concerns would be to educate the public on relevant safety practices rather than ban or severely limit scientific experimentation by the public. It would also help to show how the sciences are relevant to everyone's every day lives. Much of the reason the public's interest in the sciences is lower than it could be is that they do not see why knowing basic science is useful to them. It has to be more expansive than "because it will create jobs" which it will certainly but the immediate impact of the sciences must be emphasized.

Re:DIY science (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416733)

I learnt much about electronics and radio growing up by getting involved in ham radio. You had to learn some theory to pass the exam for the license, and every month ham magazines had some new do-it-yourself radio project that even a 12 year-old like me could put together. The DIY aspect made it fun. Nowadays, however, amateur radio has mainly lost its appeal against the internet, and what novel things are going on within the ham community often require super-specialized electronics matched to complicated software that a young person just can't grasp entirely.

TL:DR (0)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416377)

Wake me up when the book is made into a movie.

kthx

How to make science popular? (1, Funny)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416383)

The only way you'll make science popular is to get society to quite worshiping brainless athletes. Sorry, but I don't see the moronic masses giving up their worship of sports because they lack the ability to understand science easily so they cling to the unintelligent things that they can easily grasp.

Ruling Class (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416389)

Do nothing. Just accept the fact that you and your kids will have good jobs and those that do not like science & maths will be fully qualified for menial labor. It's a self-correcting problem. The only downside is that in a democracy these people can vote. When it gets bad enough, just move election day to coincide with a popular televised sporting event.

It's all in the educational system (5, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416391)

Speaking as a European, actually science is pretty popular in the USA, globally (except for the mad handful who think science is the sworn enemy of their faith). Actually, I quite like to think of the USA as the country of nerds. Case in point, that's where all the Europeans nerds want to go cause since some time around the 1930s that's where all the big science and engineering are. In Europe (UK excluded, too much of an American satellite to be representative) we don't make offerings to the holy ghost of Charles Darwin, and we couldn't care less about science fiction (seriously, we care nowhere near as much as people in the USA do). But we're better at mathematics, physics, chemistry or biology, because secondary education didn't fail us. It's not a cultural problem, it's all an educational one.

The problem is not how "popular" or "cool" it is, the problem is with education. To put it simply and bluntly, your educational system sucks, particularly when it comes to science. Reform it. Education is pretty much the same problem for anyone, you're doing it wrong, look at how others are doing it right.

An obvious rift exists between many religious and scientific communities.

Yep, and there shouldn't be one. Science and faith aren't incompatible, some great men of science were also men of faith. But in America more than anywhere else it was turned into an epic science vs faith war where everybody picks a side and the battlefronts are shit that no one would normally care about, like biology and genetics or palaeontology or even palaeoclimatology.

Also, why the hell can't I post this comment? It says "There was an unknown error in the submission.". It seems Slashdot is crumbling to pieces day after day.

Re:It's all in the educational system (4, Interesting)

m3rc05m1qu3 (1611071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416507)

Here's a pretty solid quote from Alun Anderson, New Scientist editor, "Science writing used to be slightly apologetic: [puts on whiny voice] "this is all going to be terribly difficult, but I'll try and make it easy for you". Like they've sugar coated something you don't really want to take. Our goal was to really change that - change the people and the ideas - to be self-confident. Science often suffers from this sort of cringe factor - "I'm a boring scientist, you probably don't want to talk to me". My policy was if you're talking to someone else the approach is: "what's happening in science is the most interesting thing in the world, and if you don't agree with me just fuck off, because I'm not interested in talking to you". You had to have that kind of attitude." Teh article here--> http://www.sussex.ac.uk/alumni/notablealumni/interviews/alunanderson/ [sussex.ac.uk]

Re:It's all in the educational system (1)

raventh1 (581261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416627)

I agree, we should reform education. Example: Take all the money for Physical Education and force people to run outside and get fit normally. Use the surplus in funds and apply it to actual learning classes.

I still don't understand why people think they don't need classes even if they were to become some sort of athlete star. Too bad they didn't take classes to know how slim the odds are of that happening.

Re:It's all in the educational system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416647)

You know, I think it's possible the whole "war between science and religion" aspect could explain the greater scientific interest in the US. I mean, it's widely thought that the prevalence of religion in America as opposed to Europe is due at least in part to the greater religious diversity here, encouraging competition. The constant (and I agree, misguided) squabbling over scientific points and the competition with religion probably increases the attention paid to science and the amount of public relations things scientists do.

Re:It's all in the educational system (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416761)

Yep, when in the above comment I was writing about "shit no one would normally care about" it got me wondering if in a way it wasn't interesting (or at least familiarising) people with such topics they would normally ignore. Americans as a whole not just simply accepting the scientific consensus on climate warming for instance and deciding to take it to the streets into an all out brawl (which I find ridiculous) probably taught them a lot about how climate works. Not like that's the way things should be learnt, mostly when so many get it awfully wrong.

Our education system strives to not offend (1, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416729)

which means neither the parents, teachers, students, or politicians, are allowed to be offended by the results. The results are that we are not all created equal and testing can show it. Hence we dumb it down dragging some of the brightest down with us and discouraging some who may have had a chance to some of the brightest from ever showing it.

Throw in the self destructive behavior of certain cultural elements and the high minded liberal mindset where these self ascribed people with all the knowledge deem what each "group" can do and how best to "level the playing field" and we end up with a system which essentially declares one race inferior to another and backs it with claims that the test/course/etc is racially biased - as if information can be such.

Top it off with a system designed to keep bad teachers in the due paying roles and to lard up the administration with every family member a local politician knows of who needs a job and is it any wonder we fail our kids?

I do know one thing, it certainly wasn't religion that dragged down our education system, we did our best to drive that out of our schools we forgot to watch was being done by other means.

Re:It's all in the educational system (3, Insightful)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416749)

The problem is not how "popular" or "cool" it is, the problem is with education. To put it simply and bluntly, your educational system sucks, particularly when it comes to science. Reform it. Education is pretty much the same problem for anyone, you're doing it wrong, look at how others are doing it right.

This is the absolute truth.

students at a majority of US colleges and universities are there simply because they are told they need to to succeed in life.
Then they get there and basically waste an average of 5 years to get their 4 year degree.
universities do not care, because they have gone to a billing system where you pay the same to take the maximum credit hours possible, and the minimum to be considered full time. so they obviously push students to go for the minimum and thus allow the themselves (the universities) to make more money off the student.

Universities have become as bad (or worse) than any corporation in the world.
They routinely waste money in prolific ways, take every politically correct doctrine to the nth degree, will not fire people who obviously deserve to be, etc.
They will also pretty much allow anyone with the money waving in their hands to enroll. so much for being the intelligent ones if you're attending a university.

you want a microcosm view of everything wrong in america today? go to a university (public or private) and do a bit of snooping, you'll find every sordid tale imaginable.

now through in that "the gubment" thinks that all you have to do to increase education is throw more money at it, and you have the perfect recipe for the epic failure of education in america.

You want to bring back real education?
get rid of the teachers unions, get rid of tenure systems in ALL facets of education, PAY the teachers to be educators, force parents to police thier own children and kick out of school the children of the ones too fucking stupid to so, make kids actually prove proficiency for more than 1 week when "teaching them something", and finally stop telling us everything is "for the children" when it's not. It's for you and your political brethren.

Not subscriber, or not subscribed page (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416407)

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simple (4, Informative)

acomj (20611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416409)

Become Neil Degrasse Tyson's facebook friend. He's making science interesting again, especially with Nova Science Nows profiles on science. If science oriented kids knew there a lot of people like them, they'd be more likely to pursue it as a career.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/cosmic/ [pbs.org]

How to make it profitable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416411)

I think that part of it is that engineers and scientists are now directly competing with their third world counterparts which is depressing wages. Why bother going through the effort of getting a hard degree like science or engineering when you can waltz through a business degree instead and get paid similarly?

Mindgame (1)

Carra (1220410) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416415)

We could introduce mindgame [earthprime.com] .

Science is not popular, it's resultant procedure (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416417)

Just pass around The Scientific Method, and don't trust the religion called Evolution. Evolution is nothing more than legalized Scientology. This Youtube video is relevant. [anonymouse.org]

Rename (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416419)

... it to Popular Science?

Making Science and *Engineering* Relevant (3, Insightful)

compumike (454538) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416421)

If you're truly trying to integrate science with "mainstream culture", a big part of the overlap is in engineering. Science for the sake of scientific knowledge is great, but we've found that it's often easier to connect to people by looking at how science connects with their lives, which often falls into the realm of engineering (or medicine). We have tried to do that with our free educational electronics videos [nerdkits.com] .

Even as science and medicine and gadgetry continue to advance, it's important to make it accessible and exciting to those outside the field. But while the original book being reviewed argues that "the scientists themslves" must take up the lead in educating the public, the fact is that making these subjects accessible has its own set of required skills that are not necessarily the same as those needed for being an excellent scientist. Some will be able to do both, but it's not for everyone.

Easy! (4, Insightful)

raventh1 (581261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416425)

For public school situations take that damn football money and use it for science classes.
2nd Hire decent teachers that actually enjoy learning and teaching.
3rd Encourage questions. Ask the students questions, and then wait for a response. Let them actually think! Have some actual communication.

Optional: go places! Take students to new environments to get them to think outside of the box. Science is awesome, you don't have to dress it up to make it fun!

All else fails: Blow shit up! Then explain why it blew up!

scientists have to do the job correctly, though (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416427)

If you're going to be an evangelist for science, there are a lot of potential pitfalls. I personally was almost turned off science by the half-assed philosophy that many scientists seem to implicitly hold.

For people on the borderline---who might've accepted a scientific worldview but ultimately rejected it---anecdotally the biggest factor I've found is a feeling that accepting the scientific worldview is nihilistic. Usually this seems (again, anecdotally), to be a result of some particularly overreaching attempts to use science as a sort of naive-reductionist philosophy, where every discovery of mechanisms delegitimizes higher-level things, because now they're "only X", and in some sense don't "really" exist anymore. People particularly object to this with humans. Arguments like "X is just brain chemicals" or "Y is just evolved behavior" get thrown around, and you ultimately end up at claims like: "You don't really love her; that's just brain chemicals". "There isn't really any such thing as morality; that's just evolved group behavior". And people generally recoil at and reject that view, if you're implying that actually nothing about human existence is "real".

Of course, nothing in science actually demands that sort of explanation at a philosophical level. Nobody argues that since chemistry is "just physics", it's therefore in any sense not real or illegitimate. It's a perfectly correct way of explaining, at a particular level of description, how the universe works, and chemical properties are real properties, that really do exist. The fact that chemical properties are due to lower-level interactions doesn't change that. Daniel Dennett even coined a term for some of these kinds of philosophical misuse of science: greedy reductionism [wikipedia.org] .

Fortunately, I was saved from that by some more philosophically sophisticated scientists who pointed out to me that the views held by people who study physicalist [wikipedia.org] explanations of the world are much better thought out. And on, say, what the mind "really" is, fully defended physicalist accounts of mind [amazon.com] don't have the same greedy-reductionism that characterizes the rather questionable [slashdot.org] comments of a lot of neuroscientists.

Sure, there are all sorts of other problems, like fundamentalist Christians who won't ever accept any explanation not derived from the Bible. But as a scientist, I tend to think some outreach is better than just attacking them: there's plenty I might change about their organizations, but I can't, so what can I change about mine? Simply being more accurate about the philosophical implications of science, I find, helps to dispel a lot of unnecessary worries, while having the added benefit of actually being, well, more accurate.

Doesn't TV does this for us? (1)

herring0 (1286926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416431)

I thought this is why we've got 15 different CSI's on every week.

Are you saying we need more?

Re:Doesn't TV does this for us? (1)

raventh1 (581261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416555)

Ugh! CSI != science. If you'd said Nova or something to do with PBS I might have agreed. CSI is drama with a side of drama-whoring.

its cultural (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416433)

It is generally cultural. The best way to fix this problem is to make scientists super stars of sorts. If the entertainment industry were to make scientists in the main heroes of TVs and movies without it being comical or inhuman or superhuman. Show them as average people who are doing great things. Image like a CSI or ER or something where it is the people creating the drama and the science is merely the device for solving the problems. But you can't show the characters as super human like Spock or Data. They have to be average people and make the science exciting. Don't think it will ever happen but a guy can dream right?
There is also the problem that the average person doesn't know what a scientists does. Any idea how many people ask me what I do when I say I'm a scientists? And if you tell a girl that you have a phd in one of the hard sciences you have about a 75% chance of them doing their best to avoid talking to you again. And don't get me started on the pay scale compared to my education level.
So in summery; If you want more scientists
A)make scientists popular and sounds like fun and prestigious
B)make them appear actually human and not super or sub human
C)make it clear and concise what they actually do
D)make it easy to be in the field (but not necessarily to get into the field)
E)and pay them better!

Hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416435)

Take the "Bill Nye the Science Guy" show and give him a co-host. Preferably someone who is both sexy and science friendly (Kari [metapedia.com] from Mythbusters comes to mind).

Call it "Penetrating the Mysteries of the Scientific Method". Instant Success. Check please.

Competition needed (2, Interesting)

tomkost (944194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416439)

Not to make this a US only problem, but the books reference do apply strictly to US. There was a big sea-change in the 90s where smart became unpopular. The culture today is obsessed with celebrities and other voyeristic experiences. What is needed is some good old fashioned competition. When other countries start to drastically exceed the US in science innovations and applications to daily life, then some of us will wake up from the stupor and numbness of "reality" tv. It's already happened in several key areas like commonly available bandwidth to the home. Society needs to: wake up and rediscover the joy of learning, creativity, and exploration.

Some ideas... (4, Interesting)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416441)

  1. Graduate education should include mandatory classroom instruction, and a heavier emphasis on giving presentations. I regularly suffer through my colleagues' miserable presentations at conferences, so I strongly believe that scientists need to develop better communication skills.
  2. Re-orient science classes so they emphasise curiosity and skepticism rather than rote memorization. I've previously complained [dumbscientist.com] about the sad state of science education in high school and general collegiate physics courses. Some people still believe that the seasons are caused by the Earth moving farther towards/away from the Sun, and that sinks/bathtubs drain differently in different hemispheres. Maybe if science classes actually taught people how to think like scientists, these silly myths wouldn't be as widespread. Maybe people would even be interested in science in general if they didn't see the subject as a bunch of equations to be mechanically applied.
  3. The scientific community has a tendency to ignore bizarre claims because they don't want to give credibility to people who believe in things like creationism, electric universe, climate-change-denialism, moon-landing-hoaxers, relativity-deniers, etc. This isn't very productive, because some people apparently get the impression that scientists dismiss these fringe views because of a massive conspiracy of suppression. I think it's a better idea to slowly and patiently explain why these examples of pseudoscience simply aren't consistent with the available evidence. I'm trying to do that on my homepage, but there's only one of me versus a horde of pseudoscientists...
  4. Science journals need to be made open source, like PLoS ONE [plosone.org] and ACP [atmos-chem-phys.net] . Maybe the general public's science illiteracy is partially based on the fact that crackpots publish their "research" freely on the internet (which is why the internet is now a tarpit of scientific misinformation), whereas scientists publish articles in peer-reviewed journals that can't be accessed by anyone outside of a major university.

As you can tell, I think this article touches on a very serious problem. Sagan said it best:

"We have designed our civilization based on science and technology and at the same time arranged things so that almost no one understands anything at all about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster." -- Carl Sagan

Mo' Money! (1, Insightful)

CaptainPinko (753849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416443)

In today's society nothing draws crowds like glamour. So, get some researchers rediculously overpaid, have them hit the clubs in Bentleys sippin' Cristal. What is popular is what will lead people to live the way they want to live. Currently, that is through finance and investment banking. But, if you could make being a researcher more glamourous and fun (in terms of the lifestyle it would afford) then people would flock to it. After all, how do you make something popular when it leads to a decade of post-secondary and then publish-or-perish with a possibility of stability with tenure AFTER moving around englessly from post-doc to post-doc.

Forget about popularity (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416457)

What we need is decent paying jobs for scientists in the United States- not popularity.

More media attention for Academic Decathlon (4, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416459)

If each schools Academic Decathlon team got the same amount of exposure as the high school football team did then you would see a lot more interest in academics from the general population.

My senior year our Academic Decathlon team made it to the national conference in Chicago. I heard that we placed in the top 10 in each category, but I never did see a single thing about it in our local paper. And this was a small rural school.

Just Stop! (-1, Flamebait)

Louis Savain (65843) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416461)

You want science to be popular? Just stop the elitist condescension and admit that you don't know it all and that you (especially, the more famous scientists) may be wrong about many things. The public has the right to mistrust scientists just as much as the religious leaders. We don't like to be preached to from on high. We want respect.

As an example, if you ask a physicist to explain why two particles in relative motion remain in motion, you come face to face with bullshit and ignorance. One may tell you that nothing is needed (the magical unseen cosmic hand) while the other may insist that physics is not about the why but the how of things. To a thinking layperson, both answers are pathetically wrong. Learn about why an analysis of the causality of motion leads to the conclusion that we are swimming in an immense sea of energetic particles.

Physics: The Problem With Motion [blogspot.com]

3 steps (2, Insightful)

A Pancake (1147663) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416465)

1. Teach critical thinking - Kids need to learn at an early age how to figure things out for themselves. This goes from how do I turn the TV on to Why is the sky blue. Self exploration of knowledge leads to a door that's hard to close. Starting at an early age, this could be enough on its own
2. Teach humility - We've all ran into ridiculous theories and misconceptions perpetuated by someones unwillingness to admit error. Before any progress can be done to foster a world driven by scientific process people need to be willing to say "I was wrong".
3. Say goodbye to religion - I have no problem with any specific ideology but an organization whose very approach means ignoring point number 1 and some amount of point number 2 will have no place in a scientific society. Sorry.

A New Mission Statement Isn't Going to Do It (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416473)

We must all rally toward a single goal: without sacrificing the growth of knowledge or scientific innovation, we must invest in a sweeping project to make science relevant to the whole of America's citizenry. We recognize there are many heroes out there already toiling toward this end and launching promising initiatives, ranging from the Year of Science to the World Science Festival to ScienceDebate. But what we need--and currently lack--is the systematic acceptance of the idea that these actions are integral parts of the job description of scientists themselves. Not just their delegates, or surrogates, in the media or the classrooms.

They briefly touch on this when discussing movies but somehow everyone is forgetting that the problem isn't in science or scientists, it's in what motivates us. Our capitalistic society is simply getting better at convincing us that research and experimentation aren't rewarding. Making money is. A 9 to 5 job coding Jakarta Struts will net me more cash than working on my doctorate regarding AI or NLP ever will. Sure I could hit on something big and then put in 80 hours a week and try to launch a start up but that's like playing the lottery.

We don't need to destroy the whole system, just make it monetarily worth while to devote your life to science and the scientific process. This mission statement seems to just make scientists more popular or more prestigious ... that's not the answer. The answer is to increase monetary rewards for scientists. We can rip on intellectual property and intellectual property law but that's one of the few examples where our capitalistic system ties inventions and discoveries monetarily to their originators. And when that's in place we'll ask why it matters that those "scientific" progresses were made since we can't readily access them in a cheap manner?

Right now, you'll make more money as a surgeon doing gastrointestinal bypasses than you will experimenting in surgery and medicine. Because GI bypasses are a surefire bet in America. And one person doing them will help individual people but not really society unless you look at GI bypasses on the whole. The same can be said in so many other fields.

The funny thing is that the general populace isn't really interested in science, they're interested in how science can provide them cheaper things, better health, easier money, naturally selfish goals. Look at the quest for knowledge, it's only worth pursuing if it has very practical uses that are often tied to money. In short, you're not going to change this because capitalism's been so successful and changes to how it works now are going to make people unhappy. The discussion is worthless unless you're willing to change how the system rewards scientists across the gamut--not just special institutions or foundations but from the single scientist up to the largest corporation.

Gloriously Rich Scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416475)

Where are the gloriously rich scientists? Where are the magazines that follow their every move? Were are the TV magazine shows that detail the newest and coolest science trend and personality?

Has the media and non-scientific populous shunned science or has the science community shunned those that participate in popular media and those in society without science training or aptitude?

You don't get tenure by writing popular science books. You don't get credit for science reporting in main stream media outlets.

hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416477)

how hard can it be to glorify scientists in the same way we glorify pop stars and rich pretty people?

the hardest part is that maybe some of these scientists actually doing something to move the world forward arn't TV pretty.

Not just science. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416479)

It's not just science that is unpopular. Pretty much all higher learning is unpopular. Even basic literacy isn't considered important to a large section of the population.

Social and Economic Rewards (1)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416481)

Maybe part of the issue is an insular religious culture or something like that. Maybe. But I'm pretty certain that's not the whole story.

Even a lot of bright people with serious aptitudes for science show they know the score when they head for Wall Street. It doesn't take long for the socially aware to observe which kinds of knowledge and professional positions are respected and rewarded by society at large.

Sure, there's a literacy dimension to the problem: If you tell people you study math, 90% of them won't even know what that means. The educated ones will ask you: "What is there to study beyond calculus, really?" The rest (except the smart ones who went into business) will ask you: "What are you going to do with that -- accounting?" So, yeah, a literacy and cultural campaign might help... but the thing is, lots of people use social heuristics to decide what's important among the many things they hear about and investigate further. And for those who do, they're going to quickly see a lot of things yield better social and economic returns than math and science. You can have a lot of scientists doing public outreach, but until the societal cues change, I doubt it's going to make much of a dent. In order to solve the literacy/cultural issue, you're first going to have to solve a literacy/cultural issue. You're going to have to demonstrate rewards that matter to people.

Calling Bill Nye and the ghost of Carl Sagan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416487)

Another Sagan would help a lot with this. I mentioned Bill Nye but he'd have to do more than the kid stuff...

show and tell (1)

kyry (1526333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416491)

so, what, get the scientists from the national labs to do one show-and-tell a week in a school as part of their job description ?

Shut up "New Atheists"? (1)

Bobb9000 (796960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416501)

In true Slashdot fashion, I haven't read the book we're talking about, but I've read a lot about it, and while some of what they're saying is sensible (if not terribly new), the part about how "New Atheists" are being unhelpful with their stridency irritates me. So, people who don't believe in God are supposed to confront those who reject science on the basis of faith by being...nice to them? We've basically been doing that for decades, and it doesn't seem to have helped much. While some of the writers identified have been more angry than is perhaps helpful, most of them have simply not been willing to give faith a free pass. The problems America has with scientific literacy have a lot more to do with the fact that more people are unwilling to come out and say "that's absurd, here's the science", because it's seen as impolite, than because everyone's so scared of those "New Atheists".

you can lead a horse to water (1)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416515)

It's not just science -- intellectualism generally isn't valued (you betcha!). Society can benefit from an increase in general knowledge of science, but science bores individuals. I don't think the Internet is helping. When people took in their news in print or broadcast television or radio, they were exposed to all types of news -- the available technology compelled us to be generalists. We can now choose to focus on whatever we find interesting.

Probably (1)

wfWebber (715881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416521)

Calling it iScience would do the trick.

You have to show success stories. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416523)

In order to boost the image of science, and work in the field of science, you have to show that working in the field of science is desirable and successful.

In other words, you have to convince people that doing the extremely hard work of science is worthwhile.

Today, my general impression of scientist is person who is used by corporations to weave a web of self-serving patents for itself while giving little compensation or recognition to the scientist.

Dogma and Profit (0, Troll)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416543)

The first problem with American culture is simple credulity. There are accepted dogmas that are not meaningfully challenged in the mainstream. There are inroads being made, but there are two entities fully tied to the status quo, which are christianity and business.

For the most part, Christianity demands reason being left at the door. If you've seen the way young kids are indoctrinated, especially in evangelical circles, you immediately understand why skepticism has been eliminated from American vocabularies. There are some things you just don't question. Period. The bible is true - period. The world is 6000 years old - period. Anything outside of this one book is considered false until proven true, and only if it is congruent with a particular interpretation of the bible.

Business has similar dogmas that have now been accepted without skeptical analysis. The market always works. Unions are always corrupt and run by the mafia. Government is always bad, unless you're talking about nuclear weapons or invading other countries, in which case government is always good. (It amazes me some people can have a total meltdown over imaginary government death panels, and in the next breath praise former CIA torture policies.)

In a skeptical environment, these dogmas do not hold up to scrutiny. Therefore, a skeptical environment can only be allowed when it makes more money. Shell does not look for oil based on a Young Earth model, because that wouldn't yield oil. The Christian community will misuse scientific theory to strawman evolution, but would never apply any scientific principles to their own faith. Pharmaceuticals will claim that they have to gouge American consumers for their medications to afford the science, and hope you will ignore the fact that they spend more money on marketing than research. Every day drips with irony after irony.

There are elementary philosophical discussions that simply don't exist in American thought. Is it ethical to make money without working? Is it ethical to invade another country who has not attempted to invade you? Is it ethical to have private entities profit from going to war? Is it ethical to treat Christian churches as tax exempt entities when they are clearly creating wealth that is not going to charities?

All of this has a root in the idea that money is the only way to value anything. Once this becomes your basis for reasoning, you immediately eliminate all possibilities that don't involve profit. And unfortunately, many valuable things lay in areas which may never be profitable for the existing business infrastructure. How can new ideas flourish in such an environment? How can new technology replace old technology? How can we progress?

The answer is that we have lost our position as the meritocracy of ideas. Great minds from muslim states don't even bother applying for student visas. Exxon owns patents expressly so they won't be used. Businesses bully the rest of society with well funded teams of lawyers to keep markets uncompetitive.

We haven't woken up to these facts, because in true dogmatic fashion, we aren't allowed to consider the possibility.

Hmph (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416551)

We don't care much fer yer fancy book lernin' 'round these parts.

Asian cultures have it right (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416553)

Science is part of education which is valued by parents, especially in Asia. In America, parental expectations are not so high, especially among immigrants from the south.

We go through cycles where a samrt science type gets fabulously rich such as Edison or Gates. But money doesnt motivate scientists as much as a passion to know more things.

It's easy (1)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416557)

All you have to do is overthrow the government and put an autocratic technocracy in its place. All citizens would then be ordered to love science upon pain of death.

Then again, if you want people to genuinely love science, I suggest you find a more useful way to occupy your time. Science doesn't get funding because we're not in a cold war. Science got funding during the cold war, not because it was popular in a cultural sense, but because it was seen as a solution to winning the cold war.

So, I guess you could always get elected president and start a war, but that doesn't seem to be working too well recently. Alternatively, you could become a teacher and spout a bunch of drivel about how science will show us the way. Or you could just become a scientist yourself and stop worrying about what other people think. There is plenty of funding for science available. If you don't believe that's true, then I suggest you get your head screwed on right, because non-science professions at universities have to work with far less.

how can it be? It can't (1, Troll)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416561)

Western society in general and American culture specifically is a lost cause. Keeping the majority of people dumb is far more profitable in the short term for corporations, theocrats, bureaucrats and supporters of the police state. And most people are happy with it as long as they keep getting soap opera melodrama and fake reality tv. We are living in a culture where showing intelligence is looked down on, much less encouraged.

Sorry, I am not feeling optimistic today... :(

Re:how can it be? It can't (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416707)

In today's culture: Science is the 'thing' that keeps making cool things for us to benefit from (convenient). It is also a 'thing' that seems to give contrast between feelings and reality (inconvenient).

We widely accept and trust science when it gives us food, services, and products to enjoy. Now, when the pursuit of truth (science), is not in agreement with the goals of big business (corporations, religions, etc), then we see it ignored.

One way to promote rational thought and keep people in logic is put critical thinking in the K-12 spectrum instead of the college education; make logic/rationality standard education.

Some say to go one step further and consider preventing the influencing of children from being told irrational stories at young ages that will drastically impact their decision-making and ability to be rational.

Religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416573)

This may not be a popular answer, but maybe if billions of people didn't believe their imaginary friend is the answer to every question, they might care more about investigating the real reasons for things.

Stop the math religion (-1, Troll)

anotherhappycamper (1369685) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416583)

Science has been hijacked by mathmetitions and has now become a religion of mathmatical constructions pretending to represent reality. While they allow some computations to enable us to make predictions, they these methods do not represent the actual way that the universe functions.

Take a look at some of the revelations being brought about in Plasma Cosmology and you start to realize that there has been a free pass given to the Cosmologists to create mythological entities that shape reality in any way that they imagine. Curved space-time, black holes, big bang, neutron stars, quantum reality, quarks, gluons, etc. All of these coming from shaky logical foundations and mathematical tricks that diverge from reality. And notice that the large entities such as the big bang, black holes, and neutron stars, are completely unfalsifiable because we cannot create them in a lab. I think people are intuitively turned off by all of this because it has become a religion and anyone who questions it is ignored or attacked.

Let's get back to experimental science that can be demonstrated in the lab. The Plasma Cosmology models assume that gravity is a tiny force, and that the major force shaping the universe is actually flows of electrical energy and the resultant magnetic fields. Their predictions based on observable lab results are easily scalable up to the size of the universe and make sense without creating mythological creations such as black holes and curved space in an attempt to explain such behaviors.

We are about to see a major revolution in Science on the scale of Copernicus. Please do me a favor and at least do a little research before you start your inevitable attack on me as a straw man for your frustrations that Science has been off track for some time now.

"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." Nikola Tesla, Modern Mechanics and Inventions, July, 1934

Teach the Scientific Method? (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416589)

It's not really the facts of any given science that is interesting (since those evolve) but the way of thinking about the world that is important. Teaching kids about scientific inquiry will help them understand the nature of theories, evidence, etc. If we were feeling really adventurous we'd give them some basic philosophical education including epistemology. Most of the FUD surrounding various controversies that involve science is epistemic (e.g. deriding evolution as "merely" a theory, etc).

Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416599)

When a sizable chunk of the American populace believes that the world was created 6000 years ago by an invisible man in the sky, it's pretty much pointless to try to discuss science with them. Top it with a shot of "smart people are elitist", and the country is pretty much fucked.

What about the Politics of Science? (2, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416603)

The general idea being there is a lack of discord in fields of research because the money for research comes with strings attached in the form of corporate sponsored research or politically motivated public-sector grant processes.

Here's a nice example of one way the social science of economics has become irrelevant.
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/09/why-economists-rarely-saw-bad-things-about-the-fed.html [nakedcapitalism.com]

Improve programs (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416607)

I for one see lots of people going into science programs but then dropping out because they cant understand their professor's accent, or the professor could care less about the students than their next publication. Our main issue is we don't have any Science teachers out there. We have Grad students trying to pay their way through college, publication farms, and burnt out tenured profs.

Then for those passionate enough to make it through the academic minefield that is science, what do you have to look forward to? Post Docs? A highly competitive research field?

It is no wonder intelligent people go for their MBAs, it is much more efficient you just put a quarter the effort into it and earn 3x as much, get more prestige, and a have fraction of the workload.

It is the same problem with Political Sciences, who is crazy enough to waste their time doing it? By all accounts it isn't worth the effort.

Unpopular? (1)

Rasperin (1034758) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416619)

Isn't sciences already popular? All you guys like sciences. :-D. But to be serious, compared to say 200 years ago, we have a lot more people interested in scientific research then ever before. I find it pretty hard to believe that science is _unpopular_.

Well... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416621)

Hmm, "collaboration between Chris Mooney, writer and author of The Republican War on Science, and scientist..."

So it's a book between a political hack and a real scientist. I don't think that's how you make science "cool" again (i.e. with more of this bullshit polarization we've been going through in the last ten years).

A need to be less tolerant... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416623)

...of stupidity, in this case. Don't put a blind eye to it.

Though I'm not sure how it can be implemented in a planned way, if it's not really present in particular society; "you can have acces to something only if you show basic understanding of the principles behind it" is too harsh and probably not doable. What then?

Oh. and ditch fixation with religion (that one's easy, just fallow your own contitution for starters). Throughout the world there is a very strong iverse correlation between that and development indexes. It's not a direct causation so it takes time to trickle down...

Re:A need to be less tolerant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416731)

Exactly. Reduce the retardism that is increasingly prevalent in society, return to a(n admittedly-romanticised) Renaissance mindset of discovery that glorifies the acquisition of knowledge (yes yes forgetting what happened to Galileo et al.) rather than societal conformity....um....

Hmm, I'm probably asking too much to make the entire world into geeks.

OK, plan B. Let's have another cold war/space race instead of this 'gotta git thuh ter'rists afores they gits us' nonsense and make it financially viable for people, even regular people, to seek a career in science as a first choice, for salary or benefits or (insert other good, normal) reason here. And the hefty, hefty fee? Meh...we'll just let our grandchildren pay for it. Worked for my grandpa, anyway, and in return we got the internets and space and jets and all kinds of other cool shit.

Ooh! Or plan C, a money-free Utopian society a la Star Trek: TNG. Because that'll work for sure.

I think Kurt Vonnegut said it best (3, Insightful)

Mashhaster (1396287) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416637)

In Cat's Crade, in the guise of Dr. Hoenikker "Any scientist who cannot explain his work to an eight year old is a charlatan." If you can't separate scientific process from opaque jargon, you'll never be able to engage the layman. As such, IMO, the burden falls on every one of us to try and make scientific knowledge as accessible as possible to anyone who cares to listen. Also, spending some cash on science education (maybe as much as we spend on athletics...) to get good teachers, and engaging materials and activities might help. Or maybe another Star Trek TV series. It worked for me when I was growin' up.

Cheerleaders (1)

srobert (4099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416639)

I didn't read the article but... Cheerleaders. Why do you think 13 year old boys are more interested in football than physics?
Until young ladies decide that intelligence is a hot property in the males of the species, science will be at best a second or third choice for young boys. If I had a son, I'd advise him to consider becoming an athlete or musician before thinking of being scientist or engineer.

FUD.... (1)

gblfxt (931709) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416661)

How about not banning scientific tools and ingredients in the name of War of Drugs and War on Terrorism?

Chris Mooney science interview on Colbert (2, Interesting)

dotwhynot (938895) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416667)

Chris Mooney interviewed earlier on The Colbert Report about the importance of science [colbertnation.com] . Funny, tragic, effective.

There's some truth in the religion vs science part (2, Interesting)

DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416671)

I'm glad the article mentions this aspect of the problem. I work in a university maintaining computer equipment. Just last week I was in a biology class as it was ending, and the professor got into a heated debate with a student who was clearly a creationist. And it reminded me of how some who should know better do so very little to help the religious understand science, rather, they distract from the actual questions that need to be asked. (For the record, I was raised a creationist and I am certainly not one now, if I am religious in any sense it is perhaps in the vein of Einstein's 'god'.. and I can tell you that if anything impedes the creationist coming to understand evolution, it is belligerent atheists who do not understand the creationist mindset.)

As an example.. back to my anecdote: The creationist assumes that all scientists are acting out of some personal vendetta to get god, that's what his bible literature and church has told him. The teacher immediately makes the tactical blunder of outright implying 'you can't scientifically prove your myths' and as correct as that may be, saying this outright only confirms the fears of the student, making the student become defensive, hence confirming the fears the teacher has that his student is living in a delusion. And the conversation can go in circles for hours, the teacher not really helping the student, the student not learning anything about scientific methodology.

How different that conversation would have gone if the teacher simply started things off by saying 'science is simply a method for testing and observing the world. it cannot prove or disprove the existence of your god. that's not what it's for. some religious people think god exists and used evolution and the big bang to create the universe. scientifically, we can't know. all we know is that pretty much all observational evidence points out that the universe is expanding and that life is evolving. it doesn't tell us how/why/where it all came from.'

I don't know if this would convince the student, but it would at least be a start, rather than arguing about the student's internal belief system, which will certainly not get the student to crack that textbook and start analyzing the facts for himself.

This guy is part of the problem (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416681)

The argument this clown is using is exactly WHY so many distrust science. Because the scientists are so obviously political these days. Now this wouldn't be bad if they were political scientists (i.e. the fuzzy social sciences) but it has no place in physics or chemistry.

You can't have it both way folks, which view of a scientist do you want the masses to have?

1. The scientist as the almost monastic searcher for facts, discovering new wonders by relentlessly collecting facts in the field, doing careful experiments in labs full of shiny equipment, publishing carefully reasoned papers which are mercilessly peer reviewed and basically being devoted to following the facts wherever they lead. But in the end, scientists tell us how the universe works and what is possible. Engineers use that knowledge to build things after the marketing dept identifies a customer for it and then the politicians decide how to regulate and tax it.

2. Philosopher Kings. Politicians with PhDs. Victims of several bad ideas, namely that a) expertise in one narrow area implies a general wisdom; b) that rule by a technocratic elite is 'better' than rule by the consent of the governed; c) that just because science says something is possible means we must do it, because morals aren't scientific after all.

The last century has shown a marked shift in the public's idea of the word 'scientist' from the first to the second. This explains their change in attitude. In other words if Hansen and his ilk stopped the politicking and went back to their lab and produced some results that didn't get shredded people might start readjusting their views again. Even better would be if the other so called 'real scientists' policed their own a little, forcing the ones who want to take up a new career in politics to LEAVE science first. Because it should now be clear that attempts to lend the good name of science to a political argument doesn't actually work, that instead the bad name of politics attached to science.

And here is another good example of the problem. Carl Sagan's _Cosmos_. It is a wonderful introduction to science in many ways yet terribly flawed by Bad Idea A from above in that Sagan mistakenly believed himself an expert in Foreign Relations apparently for no other reason than he was a smart fellow. But the series is full of the most naive useful idiot twaddle of the sort that, with the Cold War ended, few would dispute. When the grandkids are older I plan on showing them the series and use it as an example of the problem of scientists trying to become political leaders without first investing the effort to actually become an expert.

Solution is so simple ... (1)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416697)

Bring in the money, then science will become popular again.

Problem with audience, not science (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416699)

The problem is with the audience for science, not science. Don't dumb science down, make it more "interesting", bla bla; fix the audience. The fact that science isn't popular is a symptom of a larger problem with the audience, not an isolated problem due to something with science. Well, perhaps attempts to dumb down or make more interesting science has contributed. I know I am very put off by most current science articles, with their stupid wit and over-simplification of things. But if I pick up things written 50 years ago, I a much more interested and enjoy reading them, since the authors just present the facts, without any wit or slang, and let the science itself entertain me. </rant>

Stop the Nerd/Geek Stereotype (1)

Y Ddraig Goch (596795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416705)

Hollywood please listen up!!!!! One of my role models growing up was Spock from Star Trek. He was not a Nerd or a Geek. Ever since the late 1980's Hollywood has been portraying intelegent people with a penchant for science as nerds and geeks, for example Erkle. Who would want to be like him? Now Abby from NCIS she's cool, so are most of the SG1 team. But those characters are in the minority. Hollywood, make being smart cool again!!!!!

blow stuff up! (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416719)

Learning how to make gun powder was very cool. Then of course, the chemistry and physics of it pushed me to learn more. And it also had an affect on how I viewed hisrory.

Maybe it's threatening? (1)

Tangentc (1637287) | more than 4 years ago | (#29416741)

I wouldn't say that Americans are particularly bad about anti-intellectualism. There is certainly some level of that present in our society, but I think that the same sensitivity to "elitism" can be found to varying degrees in any society. This really struck me during the presidential campaign in 2008 where elitism was made an issue. To say nothing of the political games involved, I think this worked primarily because no one likes to look or feel stupid, or hell, even inferior in any way to anyone else. Science can easily be perceived as threatening intellectually by those not well versed in it. It has come a long way in the last century or so and it is almost impossible to get a good grasp of any discipline in a short period of time. Because of this attainability of the knowledge for many, it is threatening and often ignored. I remember seeing many creationist videos using this for a political advantage. It is easy to demonize that which isn't understood. I just think we in the US get a little more militant about superiority issues because of a fairly aggressive attitude towards success. As mentioned by mpapet, we are a pretty individualistic society, and as such we might fear what could be threatening to our individual success, like the intellectual superiority of another.

arts and crafts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416751)

Honestly I believe that kids would be more responsive to education if it were higher quality. Teachers think their job is to inspire kids, teach them values (right, wrong, and the meaning of life shit), and appreciate art.

I shit you not my senior year of high school English was read Shakespeare and tell the class how it makes you feel (not even write about it just show and tell shit). That's it. The whole fucking year was Shakespeare. The previous year was all about being a creative writer. It didn't matter if you couldn't spell or come close to writing grammatically correct sentence or even punctuate it. If it matched the teacher's idea of what creative is... you win.

What does this have to do with Science class? The same two kooks that taught my English classes are now teaching biology and algebra.

There aren't science jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29416759)

I have a PhD from a top university, with a decent set of publications. After several months of looking, I was unable to find any science job, and switched to the tech industry.

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