“of the vital importance of understanding scientific information”

Today, the general public is showered with all kinds of information relayed by the media and social networks as quickly as possible. While you need to know how to take a step back, you shouldn’t question everything – the current pandemic is one example. For the 20th anniversary of Futura, the importance of understanding scientific information is more relevant than ever.” That’s why we should intensify the effort to popularize science ».

Lessons from media staging of science and research during global pandemic should be drawn. We were given an almost historic opportunity to patiently present to the general public, day after day, the scientific method: its trial and error, its progress, its many biases. protocolIts mistakes, its successes. But also to explain in a pedagogical way what a double-blind test is to evaluate the effectiveness of a perceived treatment, good use of statistics or probabilities, the essential distinction between coincidence, correlation, and causality (including compounding). often wreaks havoc), or even the actual features of the “exponential function”, which have been horribly abused in the media and now derogatory to a function whose only characteristic is very To grow fast…

But instead of seizing the opportunity outright, we saw the setting in a rat-race scene between personalities who were able to confirm what they knew louder and more clearly than what they knew. Some attribute their “feelings” so much that they managed to solve complex questions with one sentence.

Science is not a simple matter of opinion

It must be feared that part of the public has allowed themselves to be deceived, and now believes that science is a simple matter of ideas that collide without ever converge. This scares me even more because the tendency to have an opinion on everything and spread it widely is gaining power. Social Networks. In view of this, it dispels the idea that science is only one belief among others. In short, it would be the kind of church that issues publications like Pope of the Bulls, which non-believers have every opportunity not only to dispute, but also to be riddled with cookie-cutter remarks.

When a scientist speaks in the media, he must have the courage to say as often as necessary: ​​” We know that, and we wonder what “. Such a formulation engages us first: it indicates that it is a community that works, exchanges, speaks after discussing, and not a particular individual who gives his personal opinion. Then , this sentence alone marks Separation Between science – what we know – and research – what we don’t know yet. Sciences represent bodies of knowledge that are not needed – until further notice! – to question: the earth is round instead of flat,nuclear is present,Universe Visible expansion, cash Animals evolve, etc. But this knowledge, in its incompleteness, raises questions that we do not yet know the answers to: where does it come from that the antimatter present in the primordial universe has disappeared within the present universe? Is there any extraterrestrial life? The goal of research is to answer questions whose answers are not known to scientists (or anyone else). By nature, it therefore has to do with skepticism, whereas science is made up of acquired skills that are difficult to question without extremely strong arguments. Solid.

But when this distinction is not made – as has often been the case in recent months – the image of science, wrongly confused with research, becomes hazy and tarnished.

rigor in scientific information

This is why the mission that Futura-Sciences has given itself has never been so important to the careful decryption of scientific information. This is far more than twenty years ago when it was built, because in the meantime, digital The organization of our existence came to structure. Specifically, they modify our reading of reality by transmitting elements belonging to very different registers in the same communication channels: knowledge, beliefs, information, opinions, comments, etc. fake news…essentially, the respective positions of these various elements are corrupted (How to differentiate the knowledge of a particular community’s belief? fake news ?)

Digital technologies contribute above all to the progressive but surprisingly rapid arrival of a new status quo of the contemporary individual: once he is connected, he can now shape his access to the world from himself. smart Fone By choosing the digital communities that are best suited for it. In turn, it is partly shaped by the material it continually receives. Thus he builds a sort of tailor-made world of a “conceptual house”. echo With myself In addition, he does not need to consciously desire it: some community that is likely to be favorable to him can be proposed by algorithms.artificial intelligence able to identify their psychological profiles, their political leanings and infect all cells cultural or intellectual, and of course its relation to science, which may also influence her in her deepest beliefs.

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It’s called Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America) “Small societies”, i.e. types of clans with very homogeneous beliefs and views, and in general a particular reason to defend. Therefore these small societies are by no means a place of reflection or paradoxical debate, as were the salons of the 18th century.I century, but echo chambers of the collective ideas of particular groups.

In such a context, it is difficult to spread scientific knowledge and, when this happens, to maintain its unique position. So we should intensify the effort to popularize science. I have long believed that in order to popularize a scientific result, it is necessary to work on it “thoroughly”. my main topic first quantum physics, I thus studied the equations that constitute its formalism, the conclusive experiments that supported it, its history Evolution, the life and work of its founding fathers, its philosophical implications… Once that work was done (which takes years), I felt able, right or wrong, to talk to all kinds of people about it. . And I thought it was effective because people read my books, attended lectures, asked me relevant questions. But, he COVID-19 showed me that this conclusion was very biased: the number of people who are not at all impressed by such popularity is enormous. So we must review the way we do things.

Do we have to tell science differently?

There is no doubt that we should put more “culture” in the way we tell science, especially by explaining how, throughout the history of thought, we knew what we know. take physics. Obviously there are laws, formalisms, equations, but there’s also a whole other story to tell: How did such and such theory appear? Who are the characters who set it up? In response to what kind of problems? How did he put himself? Thanks for what facts, what arguments? Reflection, knowledge, emotion, thus, can produce a kind of feast of the soul: not of lanterns, but of euphoria.Lightning, rebellion in thought.

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The idea of ​​defending an academic concept of democracy is far from me. You can be a good citizen without knowing anything about science, and besides, no one knows all the sciences. However, it is up to the scientists to make people realize that in fact” problems of sexuality “. For this he must expand his words so that they are eclectic, poetic, exciting, contagious. With physics, it’s easy enough, because it’s show bureaucracy »: Its most fundamental laws are not directly deductible from the spectacle of the world. Rather, they move from a detour through concepts, in other words through abstractions. That’s what makes it the best way to learn” think against your mind », to use the beautiful phrase of gaston graduate.

All items of special day . with Etienne Klein :

This year, Future celebrating its 20th anniversary. 20 years of the discovery, discovery and popularity of science.

To fully experience this adventure with us, don’t hesitate:

  • Send us your birthday messages and a . good luck for Tookivre d’Or special 20 years Feather this page.
  • Find all exclusive content for the 20thI futura birthday on us dedicated page.
  • Follow the anniversary on our social networks with #Futura20ans.

Stay tuned to celebrate these two decades of success, we have many surprises By the end of 2021!

Futura. View all 20 years of content on

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

Analyst. Amateur problem solver. Wannabe internet expert. Coffee geek. Tv guru. Award-winning communicator. Food nerd.

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