Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

The Dangers Of Pop Science

Not too long ago, science was painfully uncool. Anyone remotely interested in the field was seen as an eccentric nerd that nobody could stand to listen to for more than a few seconds: Velma from Scooby Doo, Hermione from Harry Potter, Lisa from the Simpsons, and Ross from Friends. 

Each of these characters were ruthlessly teased for liking books and science. They were dorks.

But today’s fictional scientists are increasingly cool and bitchin’ party animals who fly around in iron suits. (Yes, that is an Iron Man reference.)

Thank you, pop science! You made learning about the laws that govern our universe rad. 

But making science accessible to the masses also has its downsides. 

Explaining something as complex as string theory in under ten minutes isn’t really possible. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. And since the non-professional audience doesn’t know shit from string, pop science is often taken as the whole enchilada.

But it’s at best an introduction.

Is that the fault of the popularizers of science? No. Even if done correctly, reducing the refined into the simplified will always leave out essential nuances. Nuances laypeople aren’t aware of.

Another thing many of us aren’t aware of with popsci has to do with science. 

The faces of pop science don’t really care too much about truth, they care about spreading ideas that catch on. That’s why many science entertainers cherry-pick their data. Only scientific studies that support their views are mentioned, any opposing studies are often conveniently left out. 

That’s why the ideas of popsci can do so much harm. The people that take in these bits of infotainment think they’re getting a robust and refined idea, and the people that serve the tidbits see it more as a snack that sparks conversation.

To make things more confusing, not all forms of popsci are equal.

Some mouthpieces of science really care about getting it right, while others feel fine dishing up speculative ideas or downright junk. 

And unless you’re already somewhat of an expert, it’s hard to separate the junk from the good.

Pop science can be light on the science. So be careful about what you embrace as truth.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach