Saturday, January 19, 2013

Science... Who cares?

Saw this statistic recently from Columbia Journalism Review...

   95 weekly science sections in newspapers in 1989
   34 weekly science sections in newspapers in 2005
   19 weekly science sections in newspapers in 2012

I think it's a sign of the decline of our culture (along with the crap they offer on channels like History, TLC, and others - the topic of a different ranting post).

Our local newspaper doesn't have a science section (a few years ago, I offered to write one for them and would have done it for free).  They do, however, carry astrological horoscopes every day.  As a matter of fact, our local newspaper has at least twice (and I cut out and saved the articles) referred to astronomical events on our campus as "astrological" events.  How can an editor not question that a college professor (that would have been me) was doing a night "astrological" observation for the community?

Without a doubt, a large percentage of adults in this country are scientifically illiterate.

Why is this important?  I think it's a problem because so many adults in this country also have no humility about their ignorance.  I can't tell you the number of times I've had clueless people pontificate to me about complete and utter nonsense they saw on television or the Internet - stuff that was factually incorrect.

We even see it at the state and federal level with many of our politicians (see this post about Rick Perry, for example).  As a society, we have to make collective decisions about climate change, what to teach in public schools, energy policy, healthcare, biomedical research, etc. and a majority of the people in this country haven't the faintest clue as to the science behind any of this.  They have strongly held "opinions" about the age of the Earth but couldn't tell you what an isotope is and why they're important in radiometric dating.  They have strongly held "opinions" on evolution but have never heard of the term "allele."

When asked why newspapers don't carry weekly columns on science, I think most editors would say that people aren't interested. I'm afraid they may be correct.  Those reading this blog, and others like it, are in the minority.

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