Are “science” and “information” the same thing?

The first questions that come to mind starting this project are, of course, the obvious: what is science communication? And (to put it simply), why is it a thing? By that I mean, why does science communication exist, as a study, profession, or specialty? Does it not seem remarkable that a whole separate academic field has been dedicated to the simple task of taking “science” and “communicating” it? Whether or not you answer “yes” to this question might depend somewhat on whether you think “science” and “information” are the same thing.

I’ve been reading Science and Society by Peter Daempfle (2014), an introductory textbook of sorts which “shows the reader how to think like a scientist.” Daempfle says that “a modern definition of science consists of three parts. First, it is a body of knowledge about the natural world. Second, science is a method… Third, science requires reasoning…” It is the latter two which separate science from other kinds of things we consider knowledge. Because it is developed through a stringent method and based on reason, we consider scientific knowledge to be, “the most respectable kind of knowledge” (Imre Lakatos in Curd, Cover, and Pincock, 20). But the important point is, science is more than just the knowledge it produces. It seems to me, though, when non-scientists talk about science, the most common focus is simply the knowledge part, while the rest falls by the wayside. Try Googling “science says,” it’s entertaining. But the point is, there is a widespread tendency, it seems, to focus on only what the science says with little consideration for how that conclusion was reached. Thus, communicating science isn’t just about telling people what the science says (that’s just information), but how it says it and why and whether those things impact how we should treat the information we gather from it.

I am beginning to think that herein lies the crux of science communication. Science communication isn’t just about sharing information, it’s explaining to someone how they must think about that information in order to understand it correctly. Over the course of this study, I hope to explore this claim further through cases and examples.

 

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