Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture

Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture

Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture

Science Talk: Changing Notions of Science in American Popular Culture

Synopsis

"Drawing on his analysis of magazines, newspapers, journals, and other forms of public discourse, Thurs describes how science - originally used as a synonym for general knowledge - became a term to distinguish particular subjects as elite forms of study accessible only to the highly educated."

Excerpt

Modern science seems to suffer from a paradox. Numerous observers have noted “the awesome authority that science possesses” in the western world. Sociologists Barry Barnes and David Edge have claimed that “in modern societies, science is next to being the source of cognitive authority.” Simply labeling a piece of information scientific has often commanded attention and respect, if not assent. Science has, by most accounts, become an especially powerful incantation in American popular culture, even to the point of inspiring supposedly “childlike faith.” As early as the 1920s, journalist Frederick Lewis Allen claimed that in the minds of the “man in the street and the woman in the kitchen” the “prestige of science was colossal.” in a variety of surveys, Americans have consistently expressed their positive views of science as an engine of progress and a force for good in the world. Popular movements, such as those that arose around eugenics and public health reform during the early 1900s, have occasionally clothed themselves in scientific garb. and American consumers have routinely demonstrated their enthusiasm for science-enabled technologies. By the closing decade of the twentieth century, anthropologist Christopher Toumey reflected that the symbolic power of science as a means to “answer any of life’s questions” was so great that American citizens respected it “as a kind of religion.”

It hardly seems any wonder then that many modern science watchers have concluded that modern science has “become too important to be ignored, even by those who do not understand it or who reject it.” and yet, Americans seem to have found ways to ignore it easily enough. Philosopher . . .

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