sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

August 27, 2006

why people don’t like science
posted by soe 11:59 pm

I think that scientists don’t fully understand why the public dislikes and is confused by science. My theory is that the field has, as have many others, taken concepts that are ultimately understandable and swathed them in language that is so technical and specialized that it is virtually incomprehensible.

I recently read an article about research into the brain’s role on obesity. I have been looking into the subject of obesity for a year now and I still found it hard to follow. This is because in an article that was six paragraphs long it included a ridiculous number of multi-syllabic words (and I like multi-syllabic words!).

Included in the article were gems like

“The importance of these brain peptides and their expression patterns in energy homeostasis is underscored by central injection studies with the peptides themselves, as well as with antisense oligonucleotides that produce a local blockade of peptide gene expression”


“These investigations, involving both in vivo and in vitro techniques, enable us to unravel a cascade of factors controlling neuropeptide production, including circulating steroids, glucoregulatory peptides and nutrients, as well as intracellular proteins and lipids.”

The article is neither specifically aimed at the layperson nor at the science community, so it could be that the author did not intend it for the non-science community to read it. But if it was intended for wider circulation, the author (and other scientists who write similar articles) does the field a disservice.

If scientists want to present a friendlier front to the public, they will start teaching their up-and-comers how to present their materials in a way that doesn’t automatically isolate the general audience. As I used to tell science students, explain it as if you were talking to your grandmother. Once you can do that, the public will get behind your work and behind science in general, and it will stop seeming like it’s a club that doesn’t want any new members.

Category: life -- uncategorized. There is/are 1 Comment.

The trouble is that most scientists haven’t the gift of explaining something very complex in layman’s terms. I’ve known just a couple really brilliant folks who can do that (thankfully they were among my teachers 😉 ). I’ve always thought there’s a little too much posturing in the scientific community and not enough reaching out.

Comment by Julie 08.28.06 @ 7:16 am