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Why we are doomed unless we sort out scientific literacy - Brian Cox on Science and Democracy.

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posted on Oct, 9 2012 @ 07:21 PM
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Brian Cox Restates The Same Extremely Important Point Carl Sagan Made Decades Ago

Short one minute clip, yet such a VITALLY important point for the future survival of our species.





We live in a society, as the great physicist and communicator Carl Sagan always emphasized, a society that is completely based on technology and science. It's based on technology and engineering.

All the great important decisions that our democracies will be forced to take in the next decades and onwards into the 21st century are based on science. They are based on reason and evidence, and understanding what reaching a conclusion based on evidence is. And if the presentation of science in the media is a Frankenstein presentation of science, a complete misrepresentation of what we do, a complete mislabeling of the wonder of exploration and discovery, then we have a problem in our democracies.

And it's the same problem we have if we don't have an educated population. For a democracy, a modern scientific democracy to at least function correctly, we need as many citizens as possible to at least have an understanding of the scientific method. When asked why do you always want to want to explore, Humphry Davy said:

“Nothing is so dangerous to the progress of the human mind than to assume that our views of science are ultimate, that there are no mysteries in nature, that our triumphs are complete and that there are no new worlds to conquer.”




The original Sagan interview in which he said very similar is here:



Brief excerpt:


Rose: What's the danger of all this . . . ?

Sagan: "There's two kinds of dangers. One is what I just talked about, that we've arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is gonna blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don't know anything about it?

And the second reason that I'm worried about this is that science is more than a body of knowledge, it is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If, if we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we're up for grabs, for the next charlatan, political, or religious, who comes ambling along. It .. It's a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on. It wasn't enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a constitution or a bill of rights. The people had to be educated and they had to practice their skepticism and their education, otherwise, we don't run the government, the government runs us."




posted on Oct, 10 2012 @ 03:15 AM
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I think Sagan made the point far better than Cox. Cox specialises in a particular kind of passive, elitist view of science which always favours the contemporary view of the field. He sees the population as mere spectators to the show performed by the current rulers.

I notice you have conveniently cut off the full quote of what Cox actually said about how he expects the population to 'understand' science:

"For a democracy, a modern scientific democracy to at least function correctly, we need as many citizens as possible to at least have an understanding of the scientific method, if not the fact."

Is that what Sagan was warning about? No. Have a close look at what he was really warning about:

"we've arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is gonna blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don't know anything about it? "

Cox wants you to blindly eat up the 'scientific method', but doesn't really expect the proles to have any thoughts of their own or to have any role in disputing it (aside from through the permitted channels). Whereas Sagan, who was from a wiser, less propagandised age, realises the very serious dangers within science itself if it is left to be run unchecked by industry and anointed elites.

If Cox were are real scientist, he would offer dissent. I've never once heard him offer dissent (aside from against the general population), so I don't trust him.


edit on 10-10-2012 by yampa because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 10 2012 @ 09:25 AM
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I've never much liked Cox either. I think he's clueless about the real inner workings of science and oversimplifies it too much.

This clip just made sense to me, but I too prefer the Sagan one.

Who exactly is running the science and technology? I guess is the question ...
edit on 10-10-2012 by ZeuZZ because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 10 2012 @ 09:58 AM
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Originally posted by ZeuZZ
I've never much liked Cox either. I think he's clueless about the real inner workings of science and oversimplifies it too much.

Considering he's a physicist involved with CERN, I'd wager he has a pretty darn good understanding of "the real inner workings of science", far more than you or I. As for simplification, he's explaining things to laymen (such as you and I). Criticising science that you only understand from layman explanations is like criticising a dad's explanation of what he does at work to his 5 year old son. Of course it's simplified, (post) doctorate level physics isn't a walk in the park that can be explained away with a few animations and PowerPoint slides, as much as pseudo-scientific YouTube videos would have you believe.
edit on 10-10-2012 by john_bmth because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 10 2012 @ 10:08 AM
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Originally posted by john_bmth

Originally posted by ZeuZZ
I've never much liked Cox either. I think he's clueless about the real inner workings of science and oversimplifies it too much.

Considering he's a physicist involved with CERN, I'd wager he has a pretty darn good understanding of "the real inner workings of science", far more than you or I. As for simplification, he's explaining things to laymen (such as you and I). Criticising science that you only understand from layman explanations is like criticising a dad's explanation of what he does at work to his 5 year old son. Of course it's simplified, (post) doctorate level physics isn't a walk in the park that can be explained away with a few animations and PowerPoint slides, as much as pseudo-scientific YouTube videos would have you believe.
edit on 10-10-2012 by john_bmth because: (no reason given)


I guess he's doing us a favor by simplifying science for the masses. Similar to Sagan.

I only did a degree I never got a doctorate.



posted on Oct, 10 2012 @ 10:10 AM
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reply to post by ZeuZZ
 

I'd rather he pique people's interest in science through gross simplification that is entertaining to watch than to not bother at all. Same goes for all PopSci figures. Without their TV programming output and media appearances, the general public's exposure to science (bleeding edge or otherwise) would be even worse than it is now.

As for the degree/doctorate thing, bear in mind that at doctorate level you have to make useful, novel contributions to your field of study. People like Dr Cox have been round the block and proven their mettle academically-speaking so I wouldn't be so quick to cast judgement on their understanding of their field.
edit on 10-10-2012 by john_bmth because: (no reason given)





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