Where science communication is failing

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When people cling to beliefs that are factually wrong, giving them more information isn't likely to set them straight, for reasons that are hard-wired into our brains. Science communicators need to recognize that, John Timmer writes on ArsTechnica: "People don't think the Earth is young because they haven't been exposed to sufficient evidence for its age; they want to believe that it's young because they feel a cultural affinity for other people who believe that way."

This rings true in my life. As a mother I often find myself drawn into the vaccination debate. As a scientists I became very frustrated when evidence for vaccination is dismissed. This "cultural affinity" is a hard force to reckon with. Interestingly some scientist and science journals are starting to recognize the need to address the emotional side of an argument in medicine. Here is a scientific paper exploring the power of personal anecdotes and experience. This paper is focused on how to best reach the anti-vax crowds.


I think that the issue here is dealing with indoctrination at a young age. A lot of these children are exposed heavily to religion and other forms of indoctrination that teach them things such as the Earth being young. Meanwhile, they have little or no exposure to science to suggest otherwise. By the time they are thoroughly exposed to science they have find it very difficult to erase their previous view that the Earth is young. I think science communication must start at a very young age in an engaging, and interesting manner in order for it to be effective. By adulthood it is often too late to get many of these people interested in science.

I recently stumbled upon an interesting science communication website that brings up this and many other issues involving science communication. They are trying to start up a science communication community there and I think that you would fit right in! If you have some time, feel free to check it out at http://plainlanguagescience.ca/