By Asha Brogan
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 http://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444525/science-friday
* Find information on Star Talk Radiohttp://www.startalkradio.net/