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Science [So What? So Everything] 
28th-Jan-2009 10:44 pm
Honestly, it's enough to make a public understanding of science geek like myself wonder if she's slipped into some strange world in which her priorities are suddenly someone else's priorities as well. Not only is 2009 the year of both Darwin200 and Astronomy400 (Which I have shamelessly merged into The International Year of True History at my blog), but our own Government has today launched of the Science [So What? So everything] campaign, in an attempt to persuade everyone who doesn't already know how important, relevant, and quiet frankly, how cool science is. And, just to make sure I'd really be convinced, they cater to my latest fad and also have a twitter account.

The trouble I often find with public understanding of science programmes - or Lies to Adults, as Pratchett, Stewart and Cohen named them - is that sometimes the people doing the lying use the opportunity  - not always consciously  - to lie for causes other than just making it easier to understand. So while it's exciting to see the Government championing a cause like "Science rocks!", I did go to the website with caution, worried I might find it loaded with Bad Science (or Bad Science Journalism).

And there is, a little - some of the news articles linked, for example, certainly made me cringe ("Hormone makes woman cheat!" indeed). But the site itself; the reminder that thanks to science we're healthier, more comfortable and living longer; the mention of vaccinations, the science of sport, and an overview of new media technology, it lives up to my standards.

The campaign claims to be trying to shake the image of science as geeky, elitist and irrelevant and make it accessible. To my mind a good public understanding programme should also do its bit to dispel misinformation of the sort you get when either the scientists are biased towards a certain conclusion, or when the journalists get completely the wrong end of the stick about the implications, both of which happen more often than I'd like. I'm proud to be a hopeless idealist. and I often think that if people realise first that it is possible to understand some of the things that go on with lab coats and test tubes, they might start to more critically look at the kind of things this 'science' is reported as saying. These thoughts usually dissipate as soon as I realise that Creationism is still going strong, however.

So kudos to So What? for staying scientifically accurate enough that my cursory look didn't  turn up any problems, and let's hope that the campaign actually does further public interest in science. We could always use more funding, and I'd quite like a job.
29th-Jan-2009 12:07 am (UTC)
Have you seen "What Darwin Didn't Know?" It was actually really good, discussing the "eclipse of Darwinism" at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century, discussed evo-devo, etc.

Not just good science programming, but good History of Science programming. (If I get the time tomorrow I'll try and do a proper review, while its still up on the iPlayer)
31st-Jan-2009 01:33 am (UTC)
We need something like that here. Science is woeful in Australia. It appears on the surface as great but the research pool is very shallow it seems at time.

I would love a science job too... I had one once.

1st-Feb-2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thread-jack! Interesting article, Seeing and Believing, by Jerry Coyne, which is a long review essay inspired by two recent books, Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, by Karl W. Giberson, and Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul, By Kenneth R. Miller. I doubt you'll find anything there startingly new, but still worth mentioning, I thought.
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