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Topic: History of Dumbing Down
Dumbing down science
Take one part science, dilute with two parts hype, distil off the jargon and reduce to easily digestible chunks. Is popular science part of the anti-intellectualism trend known as ‘dumbing down’? Critics have it that traditionally ‘high-brow’ activities are being so oversimplified that thinking is no longer required, or – frighteningly – no longer even expected. So science faces a dilemma. On one hand there is a desperate need to integrate science with popular culture, not least because science needs to build a better relationship with the public. On the other hand, attempts to bring science to a wider audience face accusations of dumbing down if they are seen to be undermining science’s intellectual foundations. There is a fine line between intellectualism and elitism. If science is to be for life, not just for science week, a makeover is in order. Here we examine how the message changes as it moves from the scientific to the popular arena. We also look at the medium, at how technology facilitates engagement with science. Finally, the motive is scrutinised: why popular science is not part of a dumbing down process but one of wising up.
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Topic: The Message
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Although scientific breakthroughs are thrilling and scientists often lead interesting lives, they publish their results in a deliberately jargon-filled and often turgid style. Newspapers want hype and drama, but scientists feel ill-equipped to met this demand. Is ‘dumbing down’ the only solution?  > more

Topic: The Medium
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Scientists have long been sceptical about the value of popular science, which to them means dumbing down. However, modern technology has given us TV programmes such as Walking with Dinosaurs and through interactive television it also offers scientists a dialogue with the general public.  > more

Topic: The Motive
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Why do scientists need to bother with the popularisation of science? Because modern science cannot ignore the general public. Science needs political support for research funds and liberal laws. It has to become more appealing or lose that support.  > more
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