Why "Cosmos" Can’t Save Public Support for ScienceRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: Cold War, Science, technology, Cosmos
Audra Wolfe is a writer, historian of science, and the author of Competing With the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America.
...If the conversations on Twitter (#cosmos) and science blogs are any indication, though, people seem to want more from Cosmos than quality edutainment. The New York Times’ Dennis Overbye wonders if Cosmos can solve the fracking debate. Clara Moskowitz, an editor for Scientific American, hopes that Tyson’s series can reeducate the quarter of Americans who think the sun revolves around the Earth. In a taped lead-in to the show, President Obama suggested that the show could play a role in the future of American innovation, urging viewers to “Open your eyes, open your imagination,” because “the next great discovery could be yours.”
As is so often the case with science communication, the assumption seems to be that public understanding of science—sprinkled with a hearty dose of wonder and awe—will produce respect for scientific authority, support for science funding, and a new generation of would-be scientists. If only Americans loved science a little more, the thinking goes, we could end our squabbling about climate change, clean energy, evolution, and funding NASA and the National Science Foundation. These are high hopes to pin on a television show, even one as glorious as Cosmos....
Sagan’s Cosmos first aired on PBS in 1980, a moment when Cold War tensions were heating back up. This is critical, because so much of postwar funding for American scientific research depended on an implicit bargain with the military-industrial complex. The federal government supported research in science and technology, and, in exchange, scientists offered their expertise should it be needed in times of war. Public support for science was an easy sell, in part, because so much of the Cold War rivalry depended on high-tech weaponry built on cutting-edge science....
comments powered by Disqus
- The ‘nation’s report card’ says it assesses critical thinking in history
- A ‘Quest for Justice’ for Murdered Civil Rights Pioneer, 52 Years Later
- Under Trump, Most Americans Lack Basic Knowledge to Understand Current Events, Study Finds
- Trump wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on July 4th
- What Happens When an Entire Campus Is Rooted in the Confederacy?
- Male historian tapped to lead Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas
- Decline in History Majors Continues, Departments Respond
- He’s 75 now. When he started teaching at the University of New Orleans students walked out on his class.
- ‘Fake news’ from 1738 offers lessons for modern historians, says Missouri scholar
- Peter Dreier calls on Americans to build monuments to liberal heroes