Easy to digest or just marshmallow fluff?
I’ll admit I don’t completely understand this hot button issue known as “framing science“. At first, it seems Nisbet/Mooney are onto something – package a science story in a way that reaches more people, especially those who aren’t normally reached (for various reasons). Let’s bring modern marketing ideas to science. It’s obvious that the lesson was learned via the repackaging of creationism into a shiny new version called Intelligent Design that allowed for more people to latch on. There is no doubt that scientists must talk more and make themselves understood to the everyday (scientifically uneducated) person. Making people feel equal and important instead of ignorant is utilizing the “get more flies with honey than vinegar” metaphor.
In a way, I see how framing can be a good marketing tool. (How can we make this all glittery and glamorous in order to get attention?) Unsurprisingly, it seems that real scientists have more genuine ethical values than mass marketers, advertisers and others pushing an agenda or making money. Framing sounds phony. It seems hypocritical – too much like spin and distorting the truth. They aren’t willing to do it. They consider it a serious subject, not one that should be sugarcoated or made more palatable simply for mass consumption.
The alternative of encouraging more people to learn about and love science is really admirable but not very practical. You can’t get everyone interested in the ins and outs of parasite biology, for example, no matter how important it is to human health in Africa. There must be a process to reach those who watch Entertainment Tonight or the 700 Club exclusively for their current news.
Now, I realize that the whole 800-lb gorilla called religion is in the room here. Is that the reason why it has raised such a rancor? With some issues, it’s nearly impossible to avoid offending someone’s religious beliefs if religion is the framework of their life. I can’t see how to get around that.
It’s vitally important that we recognize today’s news is just as much entertainment as fact (perhaps more of the former). But, too many people are blinded by the views of their political party or dogma to see through the emotional wrapping put over news by the media (overemphasizing conflict, patriotism, heroism, innocence, etc. when it may not really be so). It’s obvious that’s not taken into account by the average American who still believes much of the news they see and read *must* be fact. Plus, people tend to buy into a good story even if they think it is petty, appalling and ridiculous. (Exhibit A: Anna Nicole Smith)
Make no mistake: I am thoroughly disgusted with the media these days. They have failed to legitimately serve the American people in so many ways, I can’t even count. I think Nisbet and Mooney have good intentions and might be on to something here but I have my doubts they can get it to work. And if it does prove successful, I hope it won’t spin out of control. We have enough useless nonsense floating around.