Mission to Abisko: Stories and Myths in the Creation of Scientific "Truth"

By Anders Karlqvist | Go to book overview

8 TELLING SCIENCE

ANDERS KARLQVIST


Resting on Your Laurels?

Popular science writings are not an expression of hard work, they are resting on your laurels. Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow — you doze off and die in your sleep.

Those are the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein. 1 But he is far from unique in his opinion. The statement reflects an attitude toward science communication which is quite typical in the scientific community. It is risky business to spend time on popularizing your work. It may even be harmful to your career as a scientist. Success as a writer and popularity with a lay audience are met with suspicion by your colleagues.


Science for the Initiated

The idea that science is an exclusive enterprise, to be understood and appreciated by a limited elite of "initiates," is not new. Throughout history the power of supreme knowledge has been the privilege of a select few. The Pythagoreans in ancient Greece were persecuted. Pythagoras himself had to flee from Samos to southern Italy where he established his famous Brotherhood, who regarded themselves as bearers of special secrets.

The threatening power of scientific thinking was most forcefully demonstrated in the bitter clash between the Church and the early proponents of modern science in the 16th century. Giordano Bruno, philosopher and mystic, was executed in Rome in

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