"Blissful Ignorance"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 02 July 2018. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

In a perfect world we would just open up the doors, let folks filter in to take their seats, and start talking about science. They would listen, agree that it's pretty awesome, and go home to tell their friends and family what they just learned.

But as luck would have it, we don't live in a perfect world. There are innumerable barriers between scientists and non-scientists, and between science presenters and (potential) audiences. Some of those barriers are due to societal structures that we need to guard against and mitigate. And some of those barriers are due to biases that people carry against science - I wrote about that last week.

But some of those barriers are built with our own hands. Sometimes the walls between science and society are anchored in our own biases, assumptions, and stereotypes about non-scientists.

How many times do we shame people for not knowing basic astronomy facts? Or ridicule climate change skeptics or evolution deniers? Or chuckle about those idiotic flat-earthers? How many times do we harbor suspicions that non-scientists simply don't - or can't - "get it"?

Those expressions may feel good in the moment, and get that old fashioned team spirit going amongst science communicators and their fans. But don't those biases slither into the way we communicate and share science? Don't they turn audiences off and turn people away? Doesn't one negative interaction cause a ripple effect that makes it even harder to fulfill our mission in the future?

Some people don't know basic science facts. Some harbor beliefs that we may find repugnant. But they're also people. We must overcome what we *think* they might be in order to find ways to build genuine bridges. After all, if we allow our biases to cloud our judgement, we can't very well claim to be accurate representatives of the scientific worldview, can we?

About the Author

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter is COSI's Chief Scientist. He is an astrophysicist and offers a wealth of knowledge about our universe. In addition to his COSI position, Paul Sutter is a Cosmological Researcher and Community Outreach Coordinator at The Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP).