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Why are athletes and music artists our biggest heroes?

  1. Oct 13, 2012 #1
    The fact that the biggest heroes in America are athletes, music artists, and movie stars is a testament to the idiocy of most Americans. Why are Tim Tebow, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Michael Jackson, and Michael Jordan more famous and held in higher esteem than Sir Alexander Fleming, Edward Witten, Louis Pasteur, and Jonas Salk? Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the medicinal effects of Penicillin and has thus far saved many, many millions of lives (including probably mine and probably many of us), yet Babe Ruth (a contemporary of Fleming) is far more famous to Americans and far more of a hero to most people.

    Athletes should not be the biggest heroes in America. In fact, professional athletes should not be considered heroes at all for their athletic feats. Yes, Michael Jordan might have worked extremely hard to slam dunk a basketball and shoot a basketball, but it did not do a thing to relieve human suffering. It merely made Michael Jordan a lot of money. I have more respect and appreciation for the garbagemen who take away my garbage than I do for Michael Jordan.

    We glorify these athletes, yet we consider our greatest scientists and physicians (who do an enormous amount of work to relieve human suffering) to be nerds.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2012 #2


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    Why do you have a need for them to be called heroes? Are they knocking on your door personally and complaining that they aren't held in a heroic light? If they don't care then why do you care?
  4. Oct 14, 2012 #3
    I think there's two different things going on with sports heros and music heros.

    Concerning sports: the first thing to realize about it is that it is what war originally was: a show of force and bluster intended to intimidate an enemy into backing down. In a lot of primitive societies we know about, war was just about ritualistic, with both sides obeying mutually agreed upon limits on how far violence could go. People get exited about sports because it taps into a primal interest in the outcome of group conflict. Heros will emerge in sports just as they will in full out war because the former is really a more civilized and tamer version of the latter.

    Music in primitive societies is tied up with religion and religious awe. Drumming, chanting, and dance were engaged in to work people into hypnotic states where they had 'trancendental' experiences. Music has a powerful neurological effect on people, something neurologist Oliver Sacks devoted a whole, large book to: Musicophilia (a book I very much recommend). The rock star, or music hero of today stands in for the cult leader or shaman of yesterday.

    So, I think the answer to your questions lies in understanding the primal human attraction to war and religion.
  5. Oct 14, 2012 #4
    The individuals we idolise are fantasy figures – we dream of being them or of being like them, or at least of living their lifestyle. Of course, the reality of their lives is nothing like the fantasies we have, but that is why it works. They provide us with relief from the lack of glamour in our own lives by providing a fantasy of what it would be like to live their lives and to be the hero.
  6. Oct 14, 2012 #5
    My heroes are those guys in the top of the forbes list :wink:.
  7. Oct 14, 2012 #6


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    I think the term 'celebrity' would be more appropriate than 'hero', although some may consider certain figures as heroes. It's partly a consequence of the media promotion of celebrity, and partly the fact that most people probably can relate to music and sports in a way they cannot relate to science and technology.

    In my early years, it was scientists, engineers and technologists who inspired me more than musicians or movie stars.
  8. Oct 14, 2012 #7
    Maybe not always :uhh: :tongue:


    But otherwise, neat analysis, which would include ones own projection on the hero.
  9. Oct 14, 2012 #8
    They are not heroes. They are celebrities. When scientists were more famous than athletes and musicians there was a greater proportion of scientists to entertainers. Early scientists only came from an aristocratic or wealthy background. These people were well known for both science and their wealth.

    Plus, there are still a few famous scientists.
  10. Oct 14, 2012 #9
    There are celebrities that try to promote the work of scientists and their work, and look up to them, Seth Macfarlane is one that comes to mind.
  11. Oct 14, 2012 #10
    I don't know about any athletes that do though.
  12. Oct 14, 2012 #11
    When celebrities do something notable, everyone immediately knows it because there's barely any prerequisite knowledge you need to know it's notable.
    And when they do it, they usually do it on their own.

    When a scientist does something notable, you usually have to know some things. Say if one of them discovered the "theory of everything", for an extreme example. How many people actually understand what that even means?
    And it's rarely just one guy who does it, it's a team of people, so there's not just one person to put in the spotlight.

    And if a celebrity does something notable, the things he does are usually able to be done again and again. Like make a good song or score a lot of points in a game. So they can keep being put in front of everybody to be fawned over.

    How often do individual scientists do something notable? Not nearly as often.
  13. Oct 15, 2012 #12
    I think the two categories are fundamentally different. Musicians fall under the general category of "artist," which is someone who creates forms of expression that at their best, speak to our experience in a transcendental way. Scientists can do the same thing with their work, but it's harder to access for the general public. There is crossover between the two. The frontman of my favorite band Bad Religion is also a distinguished biologist, and this perspective definitely is expressed in his lyrics. In fact, for me personally, music is very much about discovering truth, albeit in a different way then science. But hearing a great song and marveling over something discovered about nature is a very similar experience for me.
  14. Oct 15, 2012 #13
    I have a lot of respect and admiration for certain entertainers and athletes. I can't imagine it's easy to get to that level of success.

    You got me on Tim Tebow, that one I have no explanation for.
  15. Oct 15, 2012 #14
    :confused:so you mean if it were you, they couldn't be where they are now, should it be much lower?
  16. Oct 15, 2012 #15

    I have no idea what you're trying to say. I just meant that it's not easy to make it in either one of those fields entertainment or sports, so I have respect for them. Why shouldn't I?
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