I was reading one of the news eLetters I subscribe to this morning, one devoted to academic research but written by publicists. It gave me a teaser title “Tyrannosaurus Rex Has Scaly Skin And Wasn’t Covered in Feathers, Says Study” and I realized that one of the problems of contemporary science, namely that the bogs are bored and uninterested, is due to this practice.
In the old days, outreach stuff was written almost exclusively by real researchers or people who had at least studied science extensively in college, (admittedly, this was a long time ago when SCP was a bairn,) and now it is written by journalists for pay. And the pay comes from people who are more interested in cash income than in accuracy and reality.
What I realized is that journalists like to make statements – or, at most, titillating questions. (Have you quit abusing your wife?) Scientists make statements too but how they compose them is entirely different. For example, a scientist would probably have composed the above as “A recent study casts doubt on the feathered dinosaur theory and supports the scaly skin theory.”
And that’s what’s wrong with science. Or perhaps, how science is harmed. Because the boggerate has been mindwashed by the journalists into being handicapped along the cognitive direction.
They can’t think for themselves. Except maybe in a social dimension. But not about reality.
And that’s another way that outreach is doomed. It doesn’t matter how much you write if none of the audience can read. Well, they can read, but they can’t (don’t) understand what they read and they don’t think about it. But in most cases, they just flat don’t read.
The good news is that we are on the road to new greatness: at the current rate, the literacy fraction of the nation who can read and comprehend what they read will be about 0.1 in a few years, which is the same fraction as when the nation was established.