Traditional views of popularisation of science take for granted the idea that it aims at transmitting important scientific results to lay people. Whatever the reasons of such educational intentions (democratic rights to information, vindication of public financial support, propaganda for more funds, humanitarian concern, etc.), the didactic efficiency of popular presentations of science seems to be extremely low.
 
Various surveys aiming at the assessment of public understanding of science have lead to pessimistic conclusions in the United States as well as in Europe.
 
Various studies on the rhetoric of popularisation of science have shown that the didactic dimensions of the texts were to be understood more as a way to comply to the regies du genre than to transmit scientific knowledge to lay people. The question, therefore, which must be asked is : What is the purpose of the popularisation of science if it is not inspired by educational purposes ?
 
In order to answer this question, we must remember that popularisation of science was historically initiated from within thre scientific community itself. Thus, one must look at what benefits scientists might obtain through popularising their own work to lay audiences.
 
The hypothesis of this paper is that scientists have a direct epistemological interest in popularising their knowledge even though they may not be aware of it. Discoveries and innovative works in science are intimately connected with some change in the perspective that scientists have on their object of study.”Perspective” should be understood here as a very general term referring to either a new technological device, a new paradigm or sub-paradigm, a shift in the conceptual approach, etc... The problem is that the results obtained through such changes of perspective are connected with technical or conceptual particularities of the perspective itself. Peer scientists can, most of the time, reconstruct the legitimacy of the perspective, but as long as the results are understood within the frame of the perspective involved, claims concerning their correspondence to realities may remain suspicious.
 
In order to base the “reality” component of such results, it might appear necessary to suppress perspective in their assessment. This suppression would lead to what has been called “a perspectival objectivity”, is spontaneously present In the pragmatic use of everyday language, the language of common sense, that is, a language that can make sense without having to refer its propositions to the perspective of the speaker.
 
Popularisation of science might just do precisely that : get rid of the scholarly perspective on scientific results in order to give them meaning without the limitations associated with the non-easily accessible perspective of the scientist. Scientific statements are introduced into ordinary language at different educational levels in order to blur their perspectival significance.
 
The end-result of such a linguistic operation would allow scientists to make legitimate claims on their right to propose new definitions of that very same reality we all live in. For reality, to be what it is, must be the same for all. It presupposes unity and universality, independently of the cultural diversity entailed in the various ways human beings see it.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The epistemological significance of popularisation of science

Baudouin Jurdant  

Traditional views of popularisation of science take for granted the idea that it aims at transmitting important scientific results to lay people. Whatever the reasons of such educational intentions (democratic rights to information, vindication of public financial support, propaganda for more funds, humanitarian concern, etc.), the didactic efficiency of popular presentations of science seems to be extremely low.
 
Various surveys aiming at the assessment of public understanding of science have lead to pessimistic conclusions in the United States as well as in Europe.
 
Various studies on the rhetoric of popularisation of science have shown that the didactic dimensions of the texts were to be understood more as a way to comply to the regies du genre than to transmit scientific knowledge to lay people. The question, therefore, which must be asked is : What is the purpose of the popularisation of science if it is not inspired by educational purposes ?
 
In order to answer this question, we must remember that popularisation of science was historically initiated from within thre scientific community itself. Thus, one must look at what benefits scientists might obtain through popularising their own work to lay audiences.
 
The hypothesis of this paper is that scientists have a direct epistemological interest in popularising their knowledge even though they may not be aware of it. Discoveries and innovative works in science are intimately connected with some change in the perspective that scientists have on their object of study.”Perspective” should be understood here as a very general term referring to either a new technological device, a new paradigm or sub-paradigm, a shift in the conceptual approach, etc... The problem is that the results obtained through such changes of perspective are connected with technical or conceptual particularities of the perspective itself. Peer scientists can, most of the time, reconstruct the legitimacy of the perspective, but as long as the results are understood within the frame of the perspective involved, claims concerning their correspondence to realities may remain suspicious.
 
In order to base the “reality” component of such results, it might appear necessary to suppress perspective in their assessment. This suppression would lead to what has been called “a perspectival objectivity”, is spontaneously present In the pragmatic use of everyday language, the language of common sense, that is, a language that can make sense without having to refer its propositions to the perspective of the speaker.
 
Popularisation of science might just do precisely that : get rid of the scholarly perspective on scientific results in order to give them meaning without the limitations associated with the non-easily accessible perspective of the scientist. Scientific statements are introduced into ordinary language at different educational levels in order to blur their perspectival significance.
 
The end-result of such a linguistic operation would allow scientists to make legitimate claims on their right to propose new definitions of that very same reality we all live in. For reality, to be what it is, must be the same for all. It presupposes unity and universality, independently of the cultural diversity entailed in the various ways human beings see it.

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