I have just watched this science doc about perceptions of science in the public/media, it's presented by a top scientist who highlights a problem:
Scientists seem to lack the clear communication skills that are present in other walks of life. They have abjectly failed to get their message across, for example that evolution is theory and fact.
Is there a lack of clarity in science programming today? Let's take the example of a friend of mine who watched a doc on cosmology where he latched on to phrases such as 'we don't know' and 'we speculate'.
Now he applied that line of thinking (wrongly of course) to all of science. So that now he thinks this is how scientists view evolution for example, (as some kind of speculation) do you see where I'm going here?
He failed to notice that just because scientists don't know one little thing, that doesn't falsify the big picture. But it should not be my job to painfully explain this to him, it should be the job of scientists who are presenting a show to the lay public.
Do you agree here? Your thoughts?
I've recently had some further thoughts on this discussion. I have a friend who will spend hours of her day watching shows like "Ghost Hunters", "Jesse Ventura: Conspiracy Theory", and several other entertainment shows that delve into pseudo science and poorly founded fringe ideas that get inflated beyond plausibility by sensationalist claims (I'm not saying there is zero merit to all of these ideas). Anyway, she takes these programs in as legitimate scientific/journalistic investigations and then gets overwhelmed by the most trivial things like some jet contrails over her apartment building. This friend is a bit of an extreme example, but she is not extremely unique in her behaviors and resulting anxieties, just listen to an Alex Jones show if you doubt this.
Anyway, when I try to offer her some less extraordinary information, or even documentation that refutes some of her more exotic beliefs, she tells me, "I hate to read." So then I try to find documentaries that I think will catch her interest and also give her a basis for understanding the extraordinary nature of the claims made in the entertainment shows she watches, but she tells me, "I don't have time for a one hour documentary."
This leads me to believe that a lot of people out there believe in extraordinary claims because just thinking about such things gives them a bit of a rush. Furthermore, there is a strong preference for wild claims that can be slammed down in a paragraph citing no sources over a longer article that builds up its credibility by citing sources and developing explanations. The same goes for video: long videos on ghosts and conspiracies encapsulate claims in little sound bights and then crescendo with a flourish of wild ideas as 'evidence'; short videos just jump to the sugar of extraordinary events with neither claim nor explanation; science, on the other hand, can show cosmic marvels and intriguing ideas to explain them, but it just can't compete with the rush provided by sensationalists.
In the end, when people feel that science is just too much for them to grasp, one has to wonder if they have ever even tried to grasp it - or have they spent the last ten years on the sofa with their soda and corn chips mentally masturbating to sensationalist propaganda on the tube.
As usual, well said.
And, after all, it is a Demon-Haunted World.
This leads me to believe that a lot of people out there believe in extraordinary claims because just thinking about such things gives them a bit of a rush.
Yes. It also boils down to the fact that people do not understand nor appreciate facts and evidence.