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Science by authority is a poor model for communication

4 Apr 2015, 16:55 UTC
Science by authority is a poor model for communication
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Thirteen, wait, ten science books for every non-scientist to read and live by.
The Guardian recently ran a lengthy essay by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg on the “best science books for non-scientists”. He begins with Aristotle, and proceeds to give a brief overview of popularizations of science. Weinberg might seem like a good candidate for this kind of thing; after all, he has written a number of popular science books, including the bestselling The First Three Minutes that introduced many non-scientists to the field of early-universe cosmology. However, the resulting article, and his list of “13 best science books for the general reader” came across as a prime example of how not to try to communicate science to non-scientists.
A number of Weinberg’s points are good and valid.[1] It is imperative for scientists to speak to the general public, and to engage with the culture at large (not least since the practice of science influenced by culture, and anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish). Professional science communicators are also necessary, whether they are trained as scientists (like I was) or not.
But then he gets to his list, and hangs a lampshade on one of the major flaws in his ...

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