Monday, January 17, 2011

Isn't that a bit backwards?

So I'm preparing the new intro for the talk I'll be giving next week at Illinois University. In it, I'm quickly discussing where the motivation for the talk came from (combating bad science) and demonstrating particular failures of public understanding.

Of course this means I'm looking over the Science and Engineering Indicators from this most recent year. In it, it lists the general "prestige" with which the public views various professions. Although Americans don't do very well on understanding science (but not much worse than most other nations except on some important issues), they generally rank Scientists as having a very prestigious career. The only one that beats it (by a mere 1%) is firefighters.

Meanwhile, down near the bottom, we find "actors". So can someone explain to me why the public isn't dying to see "Science Tonight" instead of "Entertainment Tonight"?


Wayne said...

Good point! I'm afraid scientists don't tend to get into enough trouble to make a good tabloid TV show, though.
"prestige" isn't a good indicator for that, "ridiculously overpaid" might be a better fit. Still, you'd think from this that scientists would get a bit more respect than we do.

indifferent children said...

Perhaps it's because aside from Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson, scientists are about as good at entertaining as entertainers are at science (*cough* Jenny McCarthy).

Michael Campbell said...

When people are watching for entertainment, they want to laugh, not to feel stupid.

Science CAN be funny, but often its not presented that way.

Also, when someone gets on the telly with more years of higher education than they spent hours in studying their whole life, the choice is clear. Contrast that to the mental giants on The Jersey Shore or Housewives of Atlanta; who can't feel superior to those reprehensible excuses for people?

Mind you, I grew up on documentaries with my father and I'm a docu-holic now; and my son is growing up the same way. He likes Modern Marvels and Nova ScienceNOW as much as Star Wars: The Clone Wars (well, almost as much), and I wouldn't have it any other way.