When you hear the word “scientist” what do you think of? A crazy eyed man or extreme intelligence? A white lab coat who is overly systematic? A pompous man with bozo hair and large glasses?
Well, for me, I immediately think of Sheldon Copper from The Big Bang Theory. (If you haven’t ever watched The Big Bang Theory I would highly recommend going on Free TV and watching an episode or two OR you can watch this Sheldon Cooper Example for a taste of the one and only Sheldon Cooper). Even though he is unquestionably intelligent and performs his job as a physicist with unimaginable precision and care, Sheldon, like many other real-life scientists, lacks a characteristic that prevents him from sharing his discoveries with the public. This fairly standard yet very essential trait to life that the scientific community lacks is compassion.
Now, you may think why would a scientist ever need to be compassionate? Don’t they just have to perform experiments and report their findings to the public? Do you really have to be sympathetic or sociable to do that? What many people do not realize though, is that the job of the scientists is going beyond simple experiments and results; scientists are now through the advancement of technology debunking many common beliefs, which is where a scientist’s need for compassion and understanding comes into play. A scientist can not merely go out into the world one day and nonchalantly tell society that some of the basic ideas that they grew up learning are wrong; Al Gore can’t simple call up Joe the Plumber and tell him to change his consumer life-style because climate change has been proven nor can Bill Nye the Science Guy tell a congregation of Christians that creationism, a 2,000 year old belief, has been disproved by a couple of old, dirty fossils. If scientists try shoving their belief-changing finding down society’s throat, then the people will not only NOT believe the facts but they will also begin to question science as a whole (SPOILER ALERT: this is already happening with climate change, evolution, and many other findings).
In order to avoid a mass distrust in science, scientists must shift from being Sheldon-like to adapting to a more compassionate way of life. A scientist must approach the controversial issues with great tact. He/she must understand that the topics they are discrediting are deeply rooted in people’s culture. Therefore the scientific findings must be released with compassion in order to avoid an emotional response from the public. Only then will our society have even the slightest possibility of becoming entirely scientifically literate.