Week 9- Emotion in Science Communication

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s powerful emotions about space came from where she grew up and that impacted her professional life. She grew up in East Los Angeles, California where most of the kids her age didn’t go off to college but became a part of gangs. Chanda worked so hard to disassociate herself from the stereotypes that were placed on her back because of where she came from. Throughout her blog, The right to know and understand the night sky, she talks about how it should be a human right to be able to understand the universe at night. “Let us demand human rights for all, including the right to know and understand the night sky, not as the context of desperate and dangerous searches for freedom, but as the beautiful place that holds the answers to how we came to exist at all.” (Prescod-Weinstein, 2019). She realized that many students from urban areas would never have the opportunity to look at the night sky the way she did during her first time at the telescope facility due their socioeconomic status.

Unlike Chanda, in David Kirby’s blog post, Evangelizing the Cosmos: Science Documentaries and the Dangers of Wonder Overload, his powerful emotions about space are less emotional and more scientific based. He believes that wonder and religious views shouldn’t be involved when it comes to learning about space. “In Cosmos Michael Faraday may have been a good Christian but he was an even better scientist because he checked his Christianity -along with its conception of “helpless wonder”- at the lab door.”(Kirby, 2015) In most scientific documentaries (he talks about the film Cosmos in this blog) they have displayed space as this wonder-filled and Christian like discovery that he doesn’t agree with. Kirby emphasizes the danger of using wonder in space or science in general by saying, “An over reliance on wonder in science documentaries gives the false impression that scientists are never wrong and that uncertainty is not an integral part of the scientific process. The danger for the scientific community is that an overdose of wonder can lead to disillusionment when science inevitably proves to be fallible.” Kirby strongly believes that using the term wonder in relation to space will only do the scientists a disservice and only forces them to be always right, which is almost impossible.

I believe, in a sense, both Chanda and Kirby are correct. Of course, Chanda’s emotions are more involved because of her upbringing but I feel as though in order for diversity to be apparent in science, everyone must be given the same opportunities as one another despite their socioeconomic status or where they go to school. While Kirby’s emotions are more based on serving the scientists, I have to agree with his points. Using wonder in reference to space only places the scientists in a cage where they can only afford to be right, but let’s be realistic here. Science is meant to have mistakes and incorrect formulas because that’s what makes progress, progress. I think Bucchi was trying to say that emotion in science could help in bridging the gap between scientists and the public. It gives the scientists a sense of understanding of the public and vice versa.

Kirby, D. (2015, January 25). Evangelizing the Cosmos: Science Documentaries and the Dangers of Wonder Overload. http://thescienceandentertainmentlab.com/ evangelizing-the-cosmos/

Prescod-Weinstein, C. (2019, March 23). The right to know and understand the night sky. Medium. https://medium.com/@chanda/the-right-to-know-andunderstand-the-night-sky-3a9fb4e04d92

Fall 2020 LB 492-011