Framing Science

Over at the liberal blog site Daily Kos, the anonymous “Dark Syde” reviews the book Unscientific America. The review, unfortunately, echoes the all-too-common “fall from grace narrative” about the place of science in American society, a distracting if not harmful myth that we discuss in a forthcoming journal article and that I noted Friday.

All the trademark “fall from grace” metaphors, catchphrases, and references are included in the Daily Kos review including claims about a rise in “anti-science,” “know-nothingness,” open contempt for science, and a “long national slide into pseudoscience and willful ignorance.” There’s even reference to a mythical Golden Age of science appreciation in the form of the Space Race, the Cold War, and Carl Sagan, complete with a call to return science to this state of previous grace.

As I remarked last week, the strong disconnect between how some bloggers frame the place of science in American society and the conclusions of research in the peer-reviewed literature is interesting to track. Scibling and information science PhD student Christina Pikas makes additional note of this disconnect, dispelling at her blog several of these common myths with references to recommended reading in the area.


  1. #1 Michael Hawkins
    July 13, 2009

    I think what’s happening here is that there are a few major issues the public rejects without sound scientific reasoning and it is that which is being interpreted as open contempt for science.

    For example, in this recent survey we see that Americans are saying they appreciate science, yet only a third accept evolution as fact. Similarly dismal numbers are present concerning global warming.

    People like and appreciate the vast majority of what science has to offer, surely. But there’s a large number of people who reject it when it becomes inconvenient.

  2. #2 Amos
    July 15, 2009

    If the “fall from grace” narrative was in the book he reviewed then I can hardly blame him for repeating it. Was it in ‘Unscientific America’?

  3. #3 Matthew C. Nisbet
    July 15, 2009

    That’s a fair assumption.

  4. #4 ponderingfool
    July 17, 2009

    Can anyone point to me to demographics of who read the science sections/articles in newspapers? I am curious to see who in the mythical golden age was actually actively engaged in reading these sections (what percentage of the population as a whole, which subpopulations, etc.). Thanks.

  5. #5 Matthew C. Nisbet
    July 17, 2009


    I believe I recall those figures being addressed in the article below, though I don’t have time right now to go back and check.

    I seem to recall them reporting the audience as highly educated, about 10% of the public, not much different from today (see figures on attentive public to science and technology at NSF Indicators Chap. 7).

    Swinehart, J.W. & McLeod, J.M. (1960). News About Science: Channels, Audiences, and Effects. Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 4, 583-589.

  6. #6 ponderingfool
    July 18, 2009

    Matt, thank you. I will take a closer look at.

    I am guessing just on your quick potential summation- mostly then white upper middle class, where most focus usually falls. I will take a closer look at the cited work.

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