Making Science Popular

By Asha Brogan


Selfie with Ira Flatow and a friend

Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Kirshenbaum brings up a lecture I attended a few years back about how science had become so “unpopular “ in the eyes of the American public. The lecture was a life changing hour for me, and a total inspiration. It was given by the host of NPR’s Science Friday: Ira Flatow*. Flatow spent the duration giving examples of popular TV shows, personal life experiences and observations explaining how unpopular science had become and how dangerous that was for both the United States and the world.

Some of his most memorable comments were about how many college students are proud that they find creative ways to get out of taking college math and science classes, and while this may seem like an achievement to some students in college (especially the communication students) it creates many of the issues that Flatow discussed in his talk, and that Mooney and Kirshenbaum have illuminated in their book such as “ScienceDebate2008”. This was a movement in response to “growing fears the United States could be falling behind in science and innovation” (Unscientific America p. 54).

As I said Flatow’s talk was particularly important to me as it changed the flow of my education. I had previously wanted to go into prime time TV journalism, but hearing how much science was in danger and how much the US population was in danger of loosing their grasp of science (if they haven’t already!) I decided I wanted to combine science and journalism to work to help combat this awkward gap that has been created between science and popular culture. While Flatow laid out the problem I feel like he didn’t go into extensive detail as to how we got there and thus I have so enjoyed the opinions in Unscientific America on the rise and fall after Sputnik, the issues within governments, and the growing of the religious right. I think shows such as Science Friday and another science podcast Star Talk Radio* by Neil Degrass Tyson are healthy starts on combining pop culture and science and attempting to get audiences listening. The only issue, as stated in the October 4th lecture is people only listen to those platforms when they seek them out and otherwise can pretend they don’t exist. I feel the only way to push science in the face of popular culture is find a way to shove that information into the media consumption of greater populations and especially children and hope there is a way for this to be done.

*Find links to what Science Friday is and how to listen here

* Find information on Star Talk Radio



6 thoughts on “Making Science Popular

  1. Do you have much hope for change?

    I have never necessarily avoided science classes or math classes, although I was thankful I had received enough math credits to not have to take more in college. Actually, one of my favorite classes from high school was environmental science. I learned so many things that I didn’t know before. For instance, did you know that you cannot recycle a pizza box if it has grease on it? I feel like part of our problem may be that people don’t always see science as applicable, and that makes it hard for people to be interested. I think maybe even a change as small as stressing the reasons why people need to know and understand science before teaching it to them could change the way people see science and the science community.

    Halle Van De Hey


  2. I have finally finished all of my math courses so I can see never wanting to take anymore of them now that it is over honestly. However I agree with the book their needs to be more focus on those areas. I have a kindergartner and at the orientation we were told that they will be learning math unlike back when we were in elementary. Everyone was surprised but I know that we needed more emphasis on these skills back in school personally. I always find science Friday to be fascinating as well so thanks for the interesting post.


  3. After reading this I can admit that I fall guilty to be one of those people who look for a way to avoid taking the math and science courses. I now find myself wanting ti challenge myself and want to try and continue the benefit of science.


  4. My major is pre pharmacy so science and math is basically all I take. I look forward to these classes just for the purpose that I am interested in them so I think it just depends on how you think but this is a super interesting study.
    Lauren Reinhard


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