Science! Inspire the Public or Expose the Muppets?

If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?

I recently stumbled upon two interesting videos on YouTube. The first is interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson by Stephen Colbert. If you think it’s an odd situation when an astrophysicist is interviewed by a comedian, yup. That’s what makes it interesting — and funny. And smart — because like someone once said, comedians are smart, they have to be. And both are really on top of their game:

(yup, audio is a bit crappy though)

The other video is Thunderf00ts take on ideologues undermining movements: Quinnspiracy and does ‘maybe’ mean no? As usual, sometimes extremely funny, sometimes … yup, you get that facepalm moment when you see some of these muppets (beautiful term).

It was interesting to watch one after the other, because it provided an interesting comparison of possible ways to “educate the public”. And yup, I agree with both of them. You need to foster that interest in science, and especially a scientific literacy to understand that scientific findings can take lifetimes before they become “useful”. But on the other hand, you also need people who take fraud seriously, who go after people who undermine movements and pervert them.

And in many cases, the people who inspire others about science are also the ones who go after fraudsters. Neil deGrasse Tyson did explain how scientific literacy can help you detect fraud (à la crystal rubbing), and Thunderf00t also does very inspirational videos about what science can tell us about the world. Perhaps it’s because when you see the beauty of science — and how it can help you to understand the world — you are really … pissed when it’s perverted to suit the ideologies and personal power of nitwits.

So yup, when it comes to science and ideas — you need inspiration and criticism. Or to put it in as an answer to the title question: Both.