There's an interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times regarding the extent that items which are pretty well proven as fact are denied by many.

Whether it's climate change or evolution there seems to be this weird backward skid in the number of people who approach science and technology in a rational manner.  It's like there is some deathwish to relive the middle ages.

The part of the article most telling to me was the bit about other academics deriding Carl Sagan for his willingness to go public with his views on science and culture.

Honestly I feel strongly that academics are a huge part of the problem.  Not because they are wrong but because they are so smug in their knowledge and unwilling, to the point of loathing and contempt of most ordinary people to bother to communicate in terms that we can relate to.  On the other hand, a Nazarene, Baptist, Muslim or other preacher understands the ways to get their message right to the heart of their congregation.  If the scientific community is to get their message across, it has to be in the same visceral, crafty, in your face way that the religionists are so willing to do.  Go for the gut and don't take any prisoners.

Effective communication means we have to come up with messages that speak to the heart as well as the head.  Fundamentalists prey on the reptilian brain and frame everything in terms of survival, specifically that of the "soul".  They work by exploiting fear and reward mechanisms quite effectively.

We may think ourselves above such rude communication but in our arrogance all we do is give ground to those who spread the language of superstition and prejudice, to the peril of us all.

Lest we forget the Great Library of Alexandria was taken down by the same kind of fanaticism that threatens rational thought today.  Who will be the next Hypatia?

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It is quite disappointing to read the data. I agree that academics living within their own islands are a major cause of the problem. Their unwillingness to effectively communicate the "long discredited studies" about the vaccination issue to the general public is their failure and not the community's.

Science requires activism too. The future is at stake.

Perhaps in the same manner, spirituality requires activism as well. If scientists are to blame for society's shortfalls in scientific progress and distribution, who is to blame for society's general atrophy of spirituality? Does that make it us?

Yes. I agree with you. We are to blame.

We need to look for spirituality within each of us rather than allow the messiahs to teach us.

But who should teach that "we need to look within ourselves" to the masses? Because they may genuinely not know. We all do the best we can with the knowledge we have, but the general public may have no knowledge of anything beyond the materialistic games which they are absorbed within. At least I didn't know, for a very long time. Is it our job to disseminate that knowledge, and make it applicable to others? I feel rather strongly that it might be. 

I totally agree with you, Seth. That is why I am thinking on a word, "Postspiritual".

The reason masses have not been looking within themselves, is because of learning by rote system of education. Be it the revealed text of the religion or revealed theories of science (though scientific theories actually come with proof, masses can't figure those out easily and just learn by rote). So unless we make learning experimental and exploratory, we may not succeed. Feeding of curiosity rather than suppressing it, has to be an integral part of it.

We did try to make a group study on Education here with these objectives in mind, but it did not take off due to lack of member's interest. You are most welcome to revive it.

There has been a long standing effort by whole factions of the scientific community who only work at figuring out how to get the subject matter presented in a way that students can relate to. This has been ongoing for a long time.

I admit It has not reaped much. It has baffled a lot of educators. results are not near as high as expected. 

To top it off, one is stuck with the fact that the student has to learn the material to do problems in homework assignments. It is a skill that is rather like learning to play a musical instrument, paint pictures, play chess etc. You have to learn it. 

Ultimately it must be done by the student. They have to really want to learn the material, and it can take several hours before a person gets the "aha!" that is needed for that "lesson" in the book.


as for PR lectures and going to the population to educate the masses, it is very hard to find someone to pay one to do so.

Bible thumpers (fundamentalist ones, in general) get a lot of people freely donating funds to achieve the outreach.


Some of the scientists who get on the airwaves are actually people who are loonier than the religious extremists. Many are promoting the skeptical inquirer style of science.  Professional debunkers. They do some good, but also do harm.


basically I have no idea what to do.

also - in science, one usually needs quite a scaffolding of Math as well.

Occasionally one can find  classes in college like "Physics for Poets" -- those are probably what you are looking for?

In High School, there is a push for "physics first". Traditionally, it goes 1 year of biology, 1 year of chemistry, 1 year of Physics. Physics is last so the math can be in place when they take the class. A current trend is to do 1 year of Physics (for Poets), then biology and chem.   

I also have seen the basics skipped entirely. One goes through high school and comes out with a specialty (Computers or construction e.g.)  and anything else the local businesses want. That way they can pay minimum wage to get a computer person etc.

It is a night mare.


I am always open for ideas.




Thanks John. Very interesting explanation and a factual description of the status.

What is it that allows "Bible thumpers" to collect funds at the cost of science. If the scientists can figure out the force of gravity and the laws of motion by analyzing the fall of an apple, surely they can figure it out too and beat the Bible thumpers in their own game. Perhaps it is not priority for them.

I just got my APS News letter today.

Some things may or may not be of interest; see APS News:

APS News


(stories and pages)

Brazil: I taught, I learned, I lived!        (page 3 and 6)

Zero Gravity  Page 4  (cartoon)

Winners Selected in APS Middle-School Science Program  (page 5 and 6)

Education Corner (page 5)

APS Committee Endorses Next Generation Standards (page 5)

Washington Dispatch (page 3 and 5)

Bridge Program (page 1 and 6)

The Role of Physics Departments in High School Teacher Education (Page 8)





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