OK, so I’ll dash this off while I’m in a bad mood and then maybe I won’t feel so bad later, but this has really annoyed me. As I’ve noted on here before I do realise that comments on the internet are not the best medium of communication humans have come up with and tend to be exaggerated and problematic etc. etc. and while I typically eschew talking about such issues I’ll do so here if only to get it off my chest.
Science communication is a good thing. Researchers taking time to communicate to the public is a worthwhile exercise and the public is interested in science and helping them stay informed about our work is good when it comes to things like getting their support for important issues among other issues. Good journalists will help this of course, and the main point here is that people can be reached and many want to be reached. We can and should therefore make an effort to do just that. There will be those who will not and cannot be reached, but even influencing those around them and being able to swamp their nonsense with good science is I think valuable, being part of the silent majority is not always a good thing.
So onto the subject of my wrath / annoyance. Yes, as noted, it’s an internet comment but it encapsulates all that is wrong with the apparent anti-science / anti-intellectualism of some and in perhaps the fewest words possible. It was on the Times website on a story on dolphin intelligence and says (all of it) “Dolphins are wonderful creatures, certainly highly intelligent, but please don’t confuse the issue by telling us what ‘scientists’ think.”
Right, so who exactly should be talking about this issue apart for, to pick a non-random example, the highly trained and qualified and experienced researchers who have been studying dolphin intelligence? Oddly enough, I can’t think of any. How can the issue possibly be confused by people voicing a qualified opinion, especially one that basically consists of ‘dolphins are smart and should be protected’. Is that really too complex an idea? Surely people should be contributing ideas and information to a debate on animal intelligence / protection? Also, given that this issue (in the context of the article) was raised by these researchers then how exactly are they supposed to butt out of the debate they started (and / or how is the journalist supposed to avoid mentioning them)? And finally and obviously, why the ‘ ‘s around the word scientists? I assume it’s a simple snide attack to imply that there is (or should be) no such thing as a scientist and blah blah blah they make it all up etc. but it’s pretty lame all round.
Ugh. That’s it really. Not much beyond a mild whinge from me really, but it does so annoy me that people somehow seem to think that all science is wrong or that somehow years of study and research make you unqualified to talk about something, or that a lack of this education makes you as qualified. I’d be genuinely interested to find out exactly how a mind like that operates that increasing education / research / learning on a subject somehow makes you less qualified, but I can’t help but think that it would be very painful to find out.
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