we're in trouble! - (2 points)

Charles J. O'Kelly okellyc at megasun.BCH.UMontreal.CA
Wed Jun 29 22:11:05 EST 1994

In article <1994Jun29.004025.26110 at martha.utcc.utk.edu>, ctfaulkn at utkvx.utk.edu writes:
|> In Article <9406281315.ZM11768 at model.phr.utexas.edu>
|> rhodes at MODEL.PHR.UTEXAS.EDU ("David G. Rhodes") writes:
|> >Citation: The Scientist _8_(13); page 3 (issue of 6/27/94)
|> >
|> >In case you don't subscribe, the upshot of the article is that even though
|> >(in a survey of 1255 respondents polled by AMNH)     SNIP    SNIP
|> >about 1/2 "understand less and less about what scientists are doing today"
|> >and 59% feel that "science poses major risks to humanity" (37% disagree).
|> I believe it was Malinowsky who said something to the effect that "modern man 
|> has about as much faith and understanding of the workings of science as 
|> primitive humans do about magic and witchcraft".  Needless to say we need
|> to do a better job of getting our work into popular media such as "discover,
|> Omni, and popular science" if the objective is to promote appreciation and
|> understanding of scientific research.

I agree with another respondent to this thread, in that the media are suspect allies
in the quest to raise the profile of science.  The first and last goal of the popular
print/electronic press is to make money.  In the present state of the mass audience, real
science doesn't stand a chance vs. space aliens, Congressional or otherwise.  And the media
know their audience.  Their lives depend on it.  Businesspeople know their audience.  Their
lives depend on it.  Or haven't you noticed that, when something goes wrong the scientist
gets the blame, but when something goes right the businessperson who turned science into profit
gets the credit?  Edison lives!  Scientists would do well to understand their audience better.
The life of science depends on it.

I disagree with the poster who commented "elementary education does nothing" or words
to that effect.  I think it does - and that elementary education is not just restricted to
what goes on with the little kiddies during school days.  IMHO, the tide against science will
turn in the USA when scientists take participation in their "just folks" communities as a
normal part of life rather than as part of some (instantly suspicion-generating) mission.
Day-to-day contact with a person who happens to do science will do much to counteract the
"mad scientist" stereotype.  If the scientist can put off his all-too-typical cloak of
disdain, that is.

Don't expect instant results, either.  The problem has been a long time developing, it will
be a long time solving.

Folk in the US must remember that government support of science in this country is a 
Cold War-inspired aberration.  Science for its own sake has never been part of the 
business-oriented American mindset.  If living in such a community is important to you,
learn to speak German.

Moreover, the massive debts that the Western world has accumulated must
be paid off somehow.  The idea that science is an essential investment is an old one, always
brought up in threads like this one.  But, it is a long-term speculative investment.  And any
business manager will tell you that, in times of fiscal difficulty - and North American 
governments are in fiscal difficulty - the speculative investments have to take the chop in
order to look after day-to-day operations.  QED.

Construction workers (to name one such group) have been paying for the fiscal irresponsibility
of governments for years now, in elevated taxes, deteriorating services, and debased
standards of living, while scientists, who mostly depend on government, have been relatively 

I worry that the current screaming about "the demise of science" by scientists - most of whom
spend rather than make money, in taxpayer terms - will be taken as "so much whining and moaning
by prima donnas that don't want to take their share of life's knocks".  And treated accordingly.

Charley O'Kelly				Complex problems have simple,
Mad Protistologist			easy-to-understand wrong answers
okellyc at bch.umontreal.ca

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