Dave Barry's Column of 7/8/95

Charlie Wright Genetics cw117 at mole.bio.cam.ac.uk
Tue Jul 11 14:27:21 EST 1995

elmo at helix.nih.gov (Eric L. Cabot) writes:

>  Am I alone at being somewhat unhappy about Dave Barry's syndicated
>column last Sunday in which he lambasts a developmental
>study of Drosophila eye-formation and a biomechanical study of locomotion in

I'm afraid I missed the column... but neither as a Drosophilist nor as an 
American have I ever managed to find anything Dave Barry wrote to be 
particularly humorous. Perhaps I would have felt differently when I was 
at school... at any rate, I suspect you would not be alone.

It is unfortunate that a public that does not understand the
justifications (or has perhaps never heard the justifications) for basic
research will find this humorous, while a well educated public would find
Dave's column embarssingly ignorant of that which he lampoons (this does
not only apply to his understanding of science...)  However, as scientists 
we are ultimately accountable for public awareness of the importance of 
our respective fields, and the onus of improving the education of the 
layman and the light in which our work is seen does fall upon us.

I find it perhaps more unfortunate that many scientists I have known feel 
that the outside world does not need to know or want to know more. It is 
in some ways a strain of ivory-tower syndrome and in some ways a failure 
of some scientists to communicate with those outside their field (let 
alone outside science) that exacerbates the problem.

Trite as it may sound: "In many ways we have ourselves to blame." It struck 
me that in a recent piece I read (please don't ask for the ref....) 
dicussing public conceptions, particularly amongst younger school children, 
that scientist took a real beating. Children overwhelmingly described a 
"scientist" as some combination of a bald, middle-aged man wearing a 
white coat, glasses, and a scowl who hated children!? A "Doctor" was 
described by the majority as some combination of a kind, younger woman 
with a smile and a stethoscope who loved children. The two were not 
associated (scientists as doctors or doctors as scientists).

Talk about gender and role-models....  

Charlie Wright
C. R. Wright                                    Dept. of Genetics
+44 (0)1223 333970 telephone                    Univ. of Cambridge
+44 (0)1223 333992 telefax                      Downing Street, Cambs.
cw117 at mole.bio.cam.ac.uk                        CB2 3EH, England

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