The Social Role of Popularized Science

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Virginia Tech


In this thesis I will argue that popularized science books should adhere to normative criteria regarding the presentation, interpretation, and understanding of the natural sciences. The increasing popularity of popular science texts (PSTs) - based on sales, critical notice, and scholarly attention - indicates that they can function to interest and partially educate the lay public in scientific principals and practices. I will identify and analyze the narrative, rhetorical features of two popular science texts: Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See and Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams. These texts are selected based on a series of normative criteria, criteria constructed for the purpose of enhancing the public understanding of science. Additionally, these criteria are needed to help the lay public develop a proper appreciation of science. A proper appreciation of science, I argue, enables people to make better informed decisions regarding their own personal welfare and also that of the natural world. Finally, a proper appreciation of science, stimulated by PSTs, may help both scientists and the lay public reconceive the possibilities of narrative, public writing, and civic discourse.



Deficit model of popularization, popularization, disciplining, specialist knowledge