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Emotional Science

Here’s two facts I find concerning: 1. a recent survey showed most Americans don’t value science highly; and 2. the Creation Museum has similar numbers of visitors to many major real museums. Sure, not every country is as bad as certain parts of the US – most western countries are far less prone to religious superstition although some succumb to other forms – but it occurs everywhere to some extent.

Maybe a major issue is that people don’t connect emotionally with science. Of course science is all about avoiding emotion and other biases and sticking with the facts, and that is the way it should be when people engage in “real” science but there’s also a place for experiencing science emotionally, especially when communicating it to non-scientists.

There have been cases where this has been done before – Carl Sagan’s famous “Cosmos” series was a good example – but overall it doesn’t happen enough. Compare the way religious people present the emotionally satisfying (but obviously untrue) creation story compared with how science usually presents evolution. Its obvious why many people prefer the former.

One of the problems is that the scientific alternatives are universally accepted as true amongst sensible people. Why would you want to present evolution in a positive light when its really the only possible explanation of the diversity of life on Earth anyway? Compare this with the creationists who know they are in a losing battle against the dominant paradigm and so have to present their story in the best possible way.

Its almost like scientists are being too confident of their facts or being too complacent, or perhaps even not recognising that there is a possibility of an alternative. Science never accepts any theory as 100% true but there is a point where old theories are forgotten and well supported current theories are so well accepted that they effectively become facts.

It is possible to connect emotionally with science and many scientists and science enthusiasts do. I’m an amateur astronomer and the latest discoveries about the Universe (HST photos for example) do that for me because really the truth of how the Universe works is far more amazing than any silly creation myth.

As I said above, real science research should be disconnected from emotion but science communicators should use of it to make science more acceptable to everyone. Emotional science does have its place.

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