Frustrations with the general populace's lack of interest in science

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I have personally always had an interest in "how things work" from an early age. It seems to me to be our responsibility as such to have a basic understanding on how the world around us functions, came to be, and what causes things to be the way they are.

I struggle to truely comprehend how so many people just go about living their lives without a care in the world about how we got here or have any understanding about the world around us.

I recall getting all exicted when the news was anounced that gravitational waves had been detected, when I tried to explain what this meant to my manage he responded with "What's the point of space anyway, I mean it's just there and it doesn't do anything".....

Does anyone else also have these feelings or is it just myself?
 
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"Populous, meaning having many inhabitants, is always an adjective. Populace is a noun referring to a population or the general public. So we might say, for example, that a populous city has a large populace. "
 
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I stand corrected :)
 

phinds

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Does anyone else also have these feelings or is it just myself?
It can be very frustrating at times, and it is certainly a VERY poor reflection on the general education and interest in knowledge of our populace, but it is hardly limited to science. People who love to read and are well read see the same thing with the general disinterest in literature, and that's just ONE other example. There are many.

My son was recently wanted to describe to me a that a thing he was talking about was unlike the things around it and that it had a powerful presence. He simply said "it's like the jar in Tennessee", which was perfect and said all of that (it's from a poem by Wallace Stevens) and I later stopped to think ... how many people do I know who would get that reference? Not many, which is a shame. Enjoyment of the elegance of a literate discussion is not something that is widespread in our society, just like the widespread lack of an interest in science and other areas of knowledge.

You'll just have to learn to live with it.
 

russ_watters

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It can be very frustrating at times, and it is certainly a VERY poor reflection on the general education and interest in knowledge of our populace...
Why? Isn't your literature example a counter-argument?
I have personally always had an interest in "how things work" from an early age. It seems to me to be our responsibility as such to have a basic understanding on how the world around us functions, came to be, and what causes things to be the way they are.

I struggle to truely comprehend how so many people just go about living their lives without a care in the world about how we got here or have any understanding about the world around us.

I recall getting all exicted when the news was anounced that gravitational waves had been detected, when I tried to explain what this meant to my manage he responded with "What's the point of space anyway, I mean it's just there and it doesn't do anything".....
Well your supervisor is right, isn't he? The odds of that discovery ever impacting his life are extremely low. So why is there a responsibility to know things that don't matter? And the other side of the coin, do you even have a responsibility to know everything that does matter? That isn't even possible.

It's the same with art or literature or sports. You get to like what you like and they get to like what they like and neither of you are more or less right to like it; it's just personal preference. So you have to just let it go.
 
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I recall getting all exicted when the news was anounced that gravitational waves had been detected, when I tried to explain what this meant to my manage he responded with "What's the point of space anyway, I mean it's just there and it doesn't do anything".....
It does. It curves. Which makes the Moon go around Earth, and Earth go around the Sun. And makes us stuck to Earth. :smile: (you probably knew this, but I could not resist)


Does anyone else also have these feelings or is it just myself?
Yes. But I am here on this forum, and there is a lot of people here with the same interest in science, physics and how things work, which is nice. :smile:
 

BillTre

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Does anyone else also have these feelings or is it just myself?
I would agree on this, as it seems from the responses, do several others.
On the other hand, you clearly can't expect everyone to be interested in science or everything, as also pointed out.
This goes along with my general view of human diversity that "there's always someone who ______" in any population. Fill in the blank with whatever.

However, it would give me a better feeling about things if people would be more interested in making use of the method of science or scientifically derived information when considering particular problems.

It's the same with art or literature or sports. You get to like what you like and they get to like what they like and neither of you are more or less right to like it; it's just personal preference. So you have to just let it go.
While this makes sense, I would dispute that letting it go is the sole response.
Yeah, you should probably let it go if you are getting too worked up about it.

However, as a non-nihilist who considers himself a science proselytizer, I would claim there are things that can be done to increase other people's interest in science, such as:
  • Discuss things you find interesting about science with others (includes Physics Forums!)
  • Make informative and entertaining videos about science (such as the Sixty Symbols one linked above)
  • Dispense information about history of science (which can be quite interesting and demonstrate the real world impact of past scientific discoveries on life today; such as vaccines)
  • Make clear the relevance of science to people in today's world
The important thing is to appeal to interests people already have or to create new interests and work on that to promote greater interest in science.
To some extent, this seems like a media project approach to me.
 

phinds

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Why? Isn't your literature example a counter-argument?
Not a bit. I'm old enough to have gone to school when they were better than they are now. Not that the material was better or taught better but that far more parents taught their kids to love learning and teachers did not put up with any nonsense. If you failed you didn't move on to the next grade.

Today, my wife teaches 6/7/8 grades in a school near Cornell University and there are 8th graders who can only read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. They HAVE to be promoted to the next grade even if they fail every single class, unless a parent insists that they be held back and she says she's never seen that happen in the 20 years she's been teaching there. The kids spend most of their time in class on their smartphones, have no hesitation at all talking back to the teachers.

My kids were not raised that way and certainly not ALL of her students are like that but it's not one or two bad ones it can be as many as 10 or 12 in a class of 28 or 30.
 

StatGuy2000

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Not a bit. I'm old enough to have gone to school when they were better than they are now. Not that the material was better or taught better but that far more parents taught their kids to love learning and teachers did not put up with any nonsense. If you failed you didn't move on to the next grade.

Today, my wife teaches 6/7/8 grades in a school near Cornell University and there are 8th graders who can only read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. They HAVE to be promoted to the next grade even if they fail every single class, unless a parent insists that they be held back and she says she's never seen that happen in the 20 years she's been teaching there. The kids spend most of their time in class on their smartphones, have no hesitation at all talking back to the teachers.

My kids were not raised that way and certainly not ALL of her students are like that but it's not one or two bad ones it can be as many as 10 or 12 in a class of 28 or 30.
My understanding is that grade retention or repetition (i.e. repeating a grade) is still standard in the US, as it is in Canada, and so students who fail their classes must be held back a grade. Are you telling me that this is not the case in your area?
 

russ_watters

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Not a bit. I'm old enough to have gone to school when they were better than they are now....

Today, my wife teaches 6/7/8 grades in a school near Cornell University and there are 8th graders who can only read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level.
Ok, so when you said "literature" you just meant basic reading skill? When I was in high school I'd burn through a thousand page Tom Clancy in a week, but my mother would still lament that I wasn't reading "literature".

Yes, I agree that reading is an essential life skill. Appreciation of "literature" is not.
 

phinds

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My understanding is that grade retention or repetition (i.e. repeating a grade) is still standard in the US, as it is in Canada, and so students who fail their classes must be held back a grade. Are you telling me that this is not the case in your area?
That is exactly what I am telling you.
 

russ_watters

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However, it would give me a better feeling about things if people would be more interested in making use of the method of science or scientifically derived information when considering particular problems.
I completely agree; the critical thinking skills involved in understanding and applying the scientific method are essential skills that many if not most people lack.
While this makes sense, I would dispute that letting it go is the sole response.
Yeah, you should probably let it go if you are getting too worked up about it.

However, as a non-nihilist ... I would claim there are things that can be done to increase other people's interest in...

Discuss things you find interesting about...
[snip, snip]
....The Philadelphia Eagles.

With Carson Wentz back and apparently healthy, and with some new weapons around him, I think their championship prospects look good this year.

Sure, it's fine to discuss things I'm interested in and try to get you to be interested in them too. But it's just good social sense to recognize if you aren't interested in the Eagles and not to push you too hard to become interested.

Cowboy hatred, however, should be part of the mandatory k-12 curriculum in at least 4 subjects.
 

russ_watters

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My understanding is that grade retention or repetition (i.e. repeating a grade) is still standard in the US, as it is in Canada, and so students who fail their classes must be held back a grade. Are you telling me that this is not the case in your area?
A policy is only relevant if it applied faithfully. Parents complain if their teachers hold back their kids, and who wants to listen to that?
 

phinds

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Ok, so when you said "literature" you just meant basic reading skill?
No, and I think that response is disingenuous. You can't become literate without first learning basics reading skills and if you have trouble reading you'll never get there.

Yes, I agree that reading is an essential life skill. Appreciation of "literature" is not.
And I never suggested otherwise. I said it was unfortunate that people don't have those skills (including science) not that it was necessary that they do have them. Most people get by just fine with little or no understanding of science, to get back to the starting topic of this thread. My wife has a PhD and is a teacher but has very little knowledge of science.
 
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I recall getting all exicted when the news was anounced that gravitational waves had been detected, when I tried to explain what this meant to my manage he responded with "What's the point of space anyway, I mean it's just there and it doesn't do anything".....
Hehe, I could not simply get that quote off my mind. Space (more correctly spacetime) is described by relativity, which in turn is used to make GPS navigation work for us. For me personally, this makes me able to use the app MapFactor GPS Navigation to show me where I am and get directions to various places.

Thank you, Einstein! Not only did you revolutionize physics, you also made it more easy to find good restaurants!
thank-you.jpg


@MikeeMiracle, you could try to show these videos to your manager 😄 .

GPS, relativity, and nuclear detection (minutephysics)


If he likes that one, he can watch this 5 minute clip too, where Brian Cox describes the connection between relativity and GPS:

Einstein's Relativity (Brian Cox)
 
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StatGuy2000

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A policy is only relevant if it applied faithfully. Parents complain if their teachers hold back their kids, and who wants to listen to that?
My understanding is that schools have authority over what happens in the classroom, and if students don't pass their classes, then they repeat the grades, regardless of what the parents say. That has always been the norm in Canada even today (as far as I know), and am surprised that isn't the case anymore in the US.
 

russ_watters

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No, and I think that response is disingenuous. You can't become literate without first learning basics reading skills and if you have trouble reading you'll never get there.
While it is true that you can't appreciate literature if you can't read, the reverse isn't true, so they aren't linked in both directions. Please reread your posts #4 and 8; I don't think it is unreasonable to read them as being totally separate points, and calling my interpretation - an honest attempt understanding your point - "disingenuous" is unnecessarily harsh.
 

russ_watters

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My understanding is that schools have authority over what happens in the classroom, and if students don't pass their classes, then they repeat the grades, regardless of what the parents say. That has always been the norm in Canada even today (as far as I know), and am surprised that isn't the case anymore in the US.
It is of course policy, but it is not faithfully followed.

Here's a random example - there are legions of them in a google search:
Some teachers in the District's public schools feel pressure to alter grades and attendance records so that underperforming students can pass, according to survey results released Thursday by the Washington Teachers' Union....

The survey was distributed and analyzed by employees of the Washington Teachers' Union....

More than 600 teachers participated, with 47 percent saying they felt coerced by an administrator to pass or change the grade of a failing student....

Teachers, who were not identified by name or by the school where they teach, commented in the survey that they had tried to fail students who never came to class but that the students ultimately passed because administrators changed grades or forced teachers to provide makeup work.

The survey did not parse the results by school but found that 55 percent of high school teachers said their school's graduation rate does not accurately reflect student performance.

Of course, there is an easy way around this: just lower the standards. That way you can say you're requiring the students to meet the graduation standards while still avoiding the disappointment and inconvenience of high failure rates.
 

phinds

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I completely agree; the critical thinking skills involved in understanding and applying the scientific method are essential skills that many if not most people lack.
Yeah, that's really the crux of the matter. Whether or not someone is literate has relativly little impact on their understanding of the world but if they cannot evaluate facts then they become anti-vaxers and such.
 

phinds

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It is of course policy, but it is not faithfully followed.
Perhaps on average around the country it is but in Ithaca it is not. The policy is to promote. Period.
 

pinball1970

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Hehe, I could not simply get that quote off my mind. Space (more correctly spacetime) is described by general relativity, which in turn is used to make GPS navigation work for us. For me personally, this make me able to use the app MapFactor GPS Navigation to show me where I am and get directions to various places.

Thank you, Einstein! Not only did you revolutionize physics, you also made it more easy to find good restaurants!
View attachment 245455

@MikeeMiracle, you could try to show these videos to your manager 😄 .

GPS, relativity, and nuclear detection (minutephysics)


If he likes that one, he can watch this 5 minute clip too, where Brian Cox describes the connection between relativity and GPS:

Einstein's Relativity (Brian Cox)
I like Brian Cox because he made Science cool and kids identified with him.
Patrick Moore and David Attenborough did the same thing decades before. I was already studying science when I came across Dawkins in the 80s and he made a huge impact on me. Academic smart kids with parents who nurture will be good. Kids who do not have that may need a little push or a hero. The general population do not care about science that much, they are not stupid, they just want to make sure the kids get to school on time and they can pay the bills at the end of the month.
A lady in the office had never heard of Einstein, she is not that young. She has 3 kids and a full time job so GR is not a priority. That's fine.
My only issue is when similar people say, ' I don't understand but I think it's wrong because I saw this thing on Facebook.'
 

phinds

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My only issue is when similar people say, ' I don't understand but I think it's wrong because I saw this thing on Facebook.'
Which is what you get when people lack the essential skill of critical thinking, which is what Russ pointed out and I agreed with. Not understanding history or literature or geography, etc., or even very much of science itself is not only not terrible, it's true of most of us that we understand fewer of those things than we are familiar with (in detail at least). The fundamental thing is critical thinking. If you don't have that you can't figure out what's BS and what's not.
 
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epenguin

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But what the OP was talking about was not even lack of higher critical and (which means trained) faculty but of something that comes before it, the most basic curiosity about the universe. Curiosity which can be satisfied now, up to a certain level of getting more difficult as you go on. (And at the very end no one is there, but it's quite a long path to get to that point.)

I know what he means, and have come across it. On another forum not long ago talking about gravitational waves somebody said well that is not going to cure cancer so who cares, and in the end it got quite acrimonious, mods deleting posts etc.

The OP's attitude is normal and natural. But for the others let me let you into a little secret I think I've sussed out. A lot of these guys who affect indifference or hostility are phoney. They are putting on an act. They say these things because they think they ought to, that they are obliged to, or that they will sound smart by it. Philistinism is not always, not usually IMO, just a lack of interest or lack of something, it is a positively self-imposed thing. An aggressive posture. No need to ask why it is affected, just take no notice and be indifferent to the indifference, not wasting your time and energies reacting to the provocation which it often is.
 
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wow, lots of responses :) I don't get worked up about this stuff and can let it go perfectly easily, like i say it just occasionally gets frustrating.

Going back to that literature example (not literate,) I do not feel this is even slighty comparable. True everyone has ther own nieches and interests but without literature in this world we would be no worse off. Without science humanity would not be would probably be stuck in the victorain ages. It is science that progresses humankind and is even allowing us to have this dicussion over technology.

This is my point, literature and other similar example are only an "interest" and do not affect our day to day lives or progression as a species.
 
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In my math classes I get the usual "why do I need to know this stuff"?! I'm not very motivated to give a proper answer. Then they ask me, why I need 'that stuff'. That's simple: it's interesting. I need to know. Asking about why I need this or that specifically would assume one has sufficient foresight. I am not very confident in making that assumption, at least about myself, especially in mathematics.

As for the 'general public'. Sciences are not the only thing out there. So I live and let live.
 

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