Monday, November 23, 2015

Don't Be Such A Scientist

I recently finished Randy Olson's book, Don't Be Such A Scientist.  After establishing himself as a scientist by teaching, doing field research, and publishing;  he decided to change his calling and make films.  Quite an odd progression it seems to me.  He desired to make documentaries that called on his science expertise. In order to pursue his new career he took acting classes.  The experience helped convey to him what stirs an audience.   He claims some of the very personality characteristics that help a person be a good scientist are a hindrance to science communication.  It is one reason much of the public has problems with understanding and being convinced by scientists in regard to climate change.

He says scientists are typically "handicapped by a blind obsession with truth."  They do not care much how something is said or by whom it is said as long as it meets scientific rigor.  However, the public is more likely to believe someone if they are likeable and good at telling a story.  They much show passion, emotion, and humor.

It is a difficult problem.  When I've read or see in the news about research and developments with which I'm familiar, I find simplifications and minor inaccuracies.  It has been awhile and specifics have left me, so I cannot think of an example.

I saw myself in his characterizations.

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