New! Improved! Science! Maybe a nice logo would help.

“Then there are the Scientists, in their iconic white coats. The public seems not to like the white coat, and it doesn’t help to point out that Scientists don’t really wear white coats anymore. This is about perceptions, and you don’t change a perception by labeling it a misperception; you change it by providing another perception. There needs to be a new uniform, and everyone needs to wear it. Perhaps a white cape. Or a black cape. Or something else entirely.

“I don’t know. The fact is, an effective rebranding of Science would require an official committee of scientists and style gurus making these sorts of decisions—and I will only add that evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins should not be allowed anywhere near the thing. Marketing is clearly not the man’s strong suit. His endorsement of a proposal that rational atheists start calling themselves ‘brights’ still induces a squirm four years later. And now he’s gone and founded a teen-friendly OUT Campaign, intentionally modeled after the gay liberation movement. Because of course, there’s no surer way of persuading Middle Americans to your cause than to stand on a chair in the cafeteria at lunchtime and publicly liken yourself to a homosexual. Good thinking there, Richard.

“The bigger problem with rebranding efforts, though, is that they often fail. By this point, Science may simply be carrying too much cultural baggage to be convincingly reintroduced to the public.

“In which case—in fact, in any case—the second and superior solution is just to get rid of Science. Let physicists be physicists and geologists be geologists, and forensic scientists be…well, they can be crime-scene investigators. The word ‘science’ would never be spoken, at least not by anyone who cares about it. Just deny all knowledge. If you’re a physicist and some drunken rube calls over to you at a party, ‘Hey, Alan! You’re in science. Isn’t it true that cows have seven stomachs?’ just shrug and walk away. They’ll get the message eventually. The magazine Science would have to change its name or fold, as would Scientific American, and institutions such as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Council, et cetera.

“But what else would we really lose? What benefit is currently accruing to the scattered fields of botany, Mars exploration, quantum physics, and so on, by being thought of as mere branches of a greater, more boring whole? They don’t really gain by association with CSI, so what would they suffer by coming to be thought of as self-contained pursuits, like telemarketing or cooking?”
A Modest Proposal for Science: End It, Don’t Mend It. Science was rendered obsolete by its own smashing victory, by Bruno Maddox, Discover Magazine, November 6, 2007

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