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Problems with paleontological portrayal
What difference does it make to the world if only a few can understand
it? Scientists from all fields, not just paleontology, fly off the
handle as soon as someone not from their field mis-interprets or
incorrectly portrays their beloved work. I don't think this is the fault
of the layperson as much as it is of those responsible for doing the
I know that this is a radical concept, but I believe that academicians
should make every effort to make their work understandable to people at
all levels of education. I am not in any way suggesting that researchers
"dumb-down" their work, but I do think that it is not too much to ask
that they explain their work so that all can understand it, not just
those who have spent years learning the intricacies of whatever field
they may be studying.
Being a new a grad student, the thing that frustrates me most is that
most all scientists use ridiculous language full of mathematical
calculations to explain their work, seemingly just to impress their
peers by adding more elegant mathematical calculations than the last
guy. I believe that scientists should use whatever means necessary to
uncover the truth, but it is important the the message isn't lost. The
goal of science is not to separate itself from the rest of the world.
The goal is to discover that which is unknown and add to the collective
knowledge amassed over the ages.
I really ahte to preach, and personally, no amount of technical lingo
or mathematical garble deters me from struggling through somwething if I
know it contains something that may be important to my research. People
are more willing to try to understand something if it is presented to
them in a fashion they can understand. The more confusing you make it,
the more it will be watered down. Most just take what they understand,
ususally just the neat, bloody, destructive, (add adjective here), and
stop there. If researchers really want "laypeople" to stop portraying
just the Hollywood aspects of science, we need to start considering
putting it in terms that anyone can understand.
Early ecology (c. 1900) was all frills and poetry and still contained
much useful information that anyone could enjoy AND learn from. Most of
this style of writing is a little too flowery, but a happy medium would
best serve all.
A humble grad student from Richmond, VA,