Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Place of Science in Society

Anyone who has ever watched an episode of Friends, has seen an example of the way that today’s media portrays science. Whenever Ross, (the Geeky palaeontologist) launches into talking about dinosaurs, everyone falls asleep, behaves as if he is boring them senseless etc… More to the point, all of the trendy, beautiful people fall asleep (i.e. Rachel).

My childhood was spent in the 80s, and at this point, I am fairly sure that dinosaurs were still one of the most exciting things to read about, play with, learn about etc… When along the continuum, did something as absolutely fascinating and exciting as the topic of dinosaurs become so boring it manifests as a modern day taboo, relegated to discussions by only ‘perceptually undesirable’ people?

As a joke in a sitcom, you might be forgiven for chuckling (as I did the first time), but then after giving it some thought, it hits you that this is pretty much today’s society in a nutshell. For some reason, it is deemed sexy to be in a fashion career, working for one of the biggest brands in existence (we’ll get to brand names shortly!) – a job where the extent of higher level thought consists of what colours go with what, and what bizarre unwearable pieces of clothing are in this season. And seriously, what the f*** is the phrase “That is soooo last season!”. (A phrase you hear more and more on television) What a bizarre and shallow world we have created where an item of clothing (that might be a personal favourite) is deemed unsuitable to wear because it was fashionable about 150 days ago….but no longer???

More and more, on media, this image that it is untrendy to be ‘clever’ or more worryingly, to be interested in anything of any substance. Many people may think I am being melodramatic, but I think there is a general underestimation of the power of the media on young children. Apart from CSI, is there anything on television at the moment, aimed at the teenage/young adult audience that portrays scientific curiosity as sexy and desirable?

The modern day population in the Western world is increasingly being made up of very shallow people who think it is cool not to use your brain, and consequently who follow ideas blindly like sheep. The age of the idol – for instance. We live in an age of hero-worship, but who are our heroes? They are people like David Beckham and Posh Spice, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Britney….etc.. etc… It could be argued that these are not “heroes”, however but we are obsessed with them, we all know who they are, and the media panders to what the public wants. If we weren’t interested in them, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The BIG names in the Western world tend to be people that are famous for ….well…for being in a job that doesn’t require a whole lot of scientific curiosity or though (actors, models etc..). I would bet a substantial sum that many young people (actually not just young people) have no idea who Watson and Crick were. Scientists who arguably made one of the, if not the biggest scientific discovery of the century, fade into obscurity while Angelina rises to eternal fame because she has had a few injections of Botox and a boob job.

NEXT – Brand names/mobiles/fashions