Cosmic Variance , a blog on Discover Magazine, had a post about Mr.John McCain’s snide and sarcastic remark on his Twitroll "nothing says new jobs for average Americans like investing in astronomy" – he quips. Cosmic Variance puts it down as an appeal to a feeling many average citizens have "Scientists are not You and Me", a sociopsychological reason for the relative unpopularity of science among the bourgeoisie.
There is another reason. It is purely my personal observation that many scientists are unambitious, happy to relax into a comfortable zone the moment they achieve tenure or another position in their career that is secure. The culture of science , as some people have mentioned, actually promotes lethargy after a certain point, because typically, very senior (in terms of years spent) scientists do not often have to justify themselves to anyone, much less the taxpayer.
This astounding lack of passion on the part of such scientists is actually worse than not being good communicators . It undermines the faith people have in science, thereby, relegating science to one of those fields where smarter than average people do what they want, for their own reasons. I imagine, if Albert Einstein asked for a grant to do a certain project, the taxpayers would have no apprehension , considering his public image – wierd, brilliant, and someone who has been so right.
As a graduate student, watching post-docs approach their mid fifties in some cases is not encouraging at all. I am not saying they are incompetent, but they certainly are not inspiring. To put it briefly, science is not “cool” to most people. Society being what it is, fostering religious dogma, not understanding what science is about and watching a fraction of uninspired lab toilers – there is no way they are going to see science as inspiring.
Our thinking and society needs to become more technocratic , for which scientists will have to be brilliant at showing off first (something not apprieciated in today’s science culture). It is little surprise that scientists of our time, who actually thrust themselves into the limelight (Craig Venter, or Dean Kamen, for instance) leave the strongest mark on the social psyche. For the part of the non-scientists, they need to adopt science for what it is, not as a “field” , “ideology” or “competitor to religion” – but simply the systematic study of EVERYTHING.
Pimp Your Science !
*the title of this blog post comes from a review on cell biology my supervisor wrote, titled ‘Pimp my Cell’