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  1. #1
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    Default Do you take pop science seriously?

    I'd especially love to hear people in STEM's input on this.

    Lately I've been hearing about how science popularizers are doing more harm than good especially with a lot of science programs and documentaries. When does pop science cross the line into pseudoscience territory? Which science popularizers do you respect (or don't)?

  2. #2
    Nips away your dignity Fluffywolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter pettishrooms View Post
    I'd especially love to hear people in STEM's input on this.

    Lately I've been hearing about how science popularizers are doing more harm than good especially with a lot of science programs and documentaries. When does pop science cross the line into pseudoscience territory? Which science popularizers do you respect (or don't)?
    Assuming there are no factual mistakes or blatantly wrong assumptions (which would move it to pseudoscience instantly) then it's all about misinformation, wether or not it is harmful.



    The 'pop science' stuff I like is where it's not so much about this is this and that is that. But more about the processes of thinking and experimentation that lead to the realization and understanding of this and that.

    If the target audience is kids for example, why not go a bit overboard, it's all going to be about imagination and wonder, perhaps the core of the science is 'meh', but when it comes to pop science for kids, it's not about teaching people the laws of nature, but to engage their minds and try to make them think about it for themselves, right? I think pop science is great for stuff like that.

    Where the danger lies however is when pop science is focusing on 'fringe' science, without accurately disclosing the fringeness of what it explains and causing misinformation. Pop science culture tends to spend most time in that space between science and fiction. Because it's interesting and sells well. If it lets the consumer know that it's less about the science and more about the philosophy behind it, meh fine. But often it doesn't, right? Often it's like "And in 20 years this will happen, and then that will occur and this is how doomed we are and that is what will become of the world". And it's main selling point is essentially shock and awe with no regard to legitimacy and without any form of disclaimer, then yeah, screw pop science.


    Unfortunately though:


    Bad pop science: "And in 20 years this will happen, and then that will occur and this is how doomed we are and that is what will become of the world"
    Generic response: Oohh! *Listens attentively with jaw dropped* This is some high tech shit!

    Better pop science: "And in 20 years this could happen, and then that might occur and this is how doomed we would be and that is what might become of the world"
    Pft. Who cares about what might happen. *so bored* Give me something else to consume *switches channels*
    ~Self-depricating Megalomaniacal Superwolf

  3. #3
    Sheep pill, broster asynartetic's Avatar
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    GZA is involved in trying to get inner city kids more interested in STEM fields via hip hop culture. He's a pretty smart dude and has said if he'd had the opportunities, he might've been able to become a scientist.

    I think it's good as long as the scientific method and empiricism are still taught.
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    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
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    Pop science is just a way to present professional scientific research and scientific literature to the people you're addressing, such as with hip hop culture, science for children, presentations for elderly and so on. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a good example of how to frame science. That does not mean we do away with scientific method, empiricism, peer reviewed literature and that's where it's, unfortunately, gone in many ways. Science isn't always going to be some colorful lure meant to get ratings and views and clicks. I would fight that to the end of time, it makes me crazy that anyone embraces it and treats this bullshit and these bullshit researchers as fact. Dr. Oz, Peter Popoff, Andrew Wakefield, any celebrity science wannabe, Infowars, Disclose.tv,....I'm looking at you.
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.
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  5. #5
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    Popular science is a means of making research accessible and engaging to the "lay" person. The scientific training process takes >7 years of intensive training before you acquire the skills necessary to analyse, evaluate quality of data and synthesise your own ideas. The lay person will never ever do that, but it's important that we still enable people to relate scientific principles to their daily lives.

    As a professional scientist, I understand people's criticisms of popular science. But it was never meant to be taken to be all that science is. As a percentage, what we call "SciComm" takes up less than 5% of a typical scientist's time, unless they're doing it professionally as a journalist or communicator. In that case, they wouldn't be actively involved in a research career. We need to talk about the other 95% and use it to supplement the 5% that people are exposed to in up to K12 education and popular culture (and that most never completely understand anyway). There are very, very few scientists involved directly in politics - we tend to act as consultants and leave others to make the decisions.

    But if we don't effectively communicate or get involved, everyone suffers. Pseudoscience is a problem with over-simplification and highjacking SciComm for vested interests, and it would be less of a problem if we clarify which parts are accurate and which are not (in a way that continues to engage).
    "How badly did you have to break it to make it care about people so much?"
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