Scientists’ fowl mouths

I’m always intrigued at how scientists view the nature of science.  Most of their words are accurate, but misleading to the general public.  They speak as though answers are inevitable.  Yet, a scientist knows that while answers in general may be inevitable, what those answers are cannot be predicted and is oftentimes only the result of years of investigation, wrong turns, and leaps of logic.  Unfortunately, this language of inevitability is misinterpreted by the public (likely because of their k-12 science experiences) to mean the answers are “out there” we just have to “discover” them.  This more simplistic view removes the role of uncertainty and creativity in science.

Unfortunately, getting scientists to “watch their language” is difficult :)

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One Response to Scientists’ fowl mouths

  1. Dave Baker says:

    Hmmm… Interesting point here. Communicating with the public about the ins and outs of daily science is really difficult. Generally I find that the uninitiated public really really wants to see science as it’s portrayed by the news (PR stories, TV news, Newspapers, etc…) instead of how it’s actually done, and so in spite of some of our best efforts, the conversation will devolve into sound bytes or “truisms” and such quite quickly. Robert Krulwich (of RadioLab fame) had a great talk on the subject of scientists telling good stories to help influence their friends, families, and colleagues in a positive way about real science. Check it out, and keep up the good thinking!


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