Why Science Isn’t Getting More Popular

Why Science Isn’t Getting More Popular

Nicholas Goldberg: Can scientists moonlight as activists — or does that violate an important ethical code?

This week, the New York Times reported that scientists who were initially paid to work on climate change and other environmental issues now moonlight as activist leaders for causes such as animal rights and the legalization of marijuana.

That is not a criticism that is being leveled against the scientists in question, who are in the vanguard of their profession seeking to understand the threats to the planet and to our way of life. Rather, it is about the way they approach the world and the way they raise awareness about the problems we face.

The idea that scientists should be working for a cause while also being active as researchers makes me wonder whether we are missing out on opportunities in an era of declining public interest in science. Indeed, it may be time for scientists to work on issues that are not purely scientific, but rather issues that are rooted in social concerns — such as animal rights, gun control, and legalization of marijuana.

I don’t believe we can separate the two. I think the fact that scientists have to be activists is part of the reason that scientific research is less popular — and why some scientists have become activists.

For example, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Stephen Hawking as a scientific adviser to the British branch of an animal rights organization. For me, it was fun to learn about his early life, and to hear his thoughts and ideas on how to help animals. For example, we discussed how our brains grow in utero and how these babies get a lot of the things they need.

Yet as we talked, he also explained his thoughts on evolution. His theory of mind is that, based on the way our brains are wired, our own brains have evolved by accident and are not the same as our brains in other mammals, and we need to understand evolution to understand what happened when we began.

In short, to understand evolution in our species, we need to understand biology. We need to think about how our brains are wired and how our minds work.

What this means for me is that we need to think about these things while we are thinking about the problems we face as a species.

This is what drives me to work for causes in the non-scientific world. I care about animals, and that is why I have a lab full of them. I also care about issues related to human evolution and the development of the brain.

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