I suppose when beginning the endeavor of writing a science oriented blog, it is important for one to explore the context or status of the subject that is being written about—namely science. The purpose of this blog is to explore what is going on with science and the scientific community. However, I would like to begin with an examination of the role science plays in our society as well as the way that it is portrayed. Since we, as humans, are masters of noticing change (unless it is change within ourselves, of course) I shall mostly focus on the way that science’s status has changed in our society.
I can fondly recall my early interactions with science as a youth. I would sit at home and devour anything that was within my reading level and had anything to do with animals, space, or inventions. Then I would spit that information back out to my family, who listened patiently and were surprised at how much I knew about black holes at that age. So my early development was as peppered with science even more so than games of soccer (which is impressive in Eastern Europe). At this point, I suppose I must disclose that this scientific environment was greatly fostered by my engineer parents, so maybe my early experience with science was not that of the average 6 year old. I was surrounded by science and happily let it surround me.
When I arrived in the United States, I was immediately exposed to a new way to view science: television. (That is not to say that my original homeland had no tv’s. It was more so that the content had not yet evolved to the degree that it had/has in the good old U.S. of A. A good chunk of the programming that I followed in my formative years was science oriented (“Bill Nye The Science Guy”, “The Magic School Bus”, “Kratz’ Creatures”, “Wild Discovery”, etc.). Now a good chunk of that was clearly thanks to PBS, but there were plenty of Discovery Channel shows that also kept me in the science loop. I was fascinated by science, and it was just as easy for me to access it whenever I turned on the TV. That all has seemed to change. We all know that Discovery Channel has become to science what MTV has become to music. And a quick glance of the PBS kids lineup shows a slight decrease in science programming. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that the most science exposure on TV these days is on crime shows, and that science is tenuous at best.
Now we can consider it a step forward that science is front and center in prime-time television in a way that it wasn’t before. The amount of courtroom dramas that have reached a conclusion due to DNA evidence is astounding. But the question is whether or not that’s a good thing. You can argue that displaying scientific advancement more prominently is a good thing and that it could inspire more people to tinker or get that Biology PhD. But the mode in which Science is presented now feels very diluted and almost robbed of its essence. The scientific method may be boring and it may eliminate a lot of explosions on “Myth Busters”, but it is also important to value and understand. And I feel that science itself is great enough to pique to curiosity of anyone without having to dress itself up with cool effects and oversimplifications.
So I say, bring back Bill Nye and bring back intelligent programming that delves into the heart of science. As much as we like to underestimate the intelligence of people watching, sometimes we don’t give them enough credit. Besides, watching someone light pure oxygen is always fun.