The difficulty with “selling science” is rooted in basic human psychology. We humans are very good at categorizing things, and extremely good at shoehorning things into those categories.
A “side effect” of that ability is the desire to have things with definitive answers. Science cannot provide that, thus passing science along to people who make snap judgments about “right or wrong” is very difficult.
Further, people’s preconceptions and “first impressions” are frequently not conscious, thus when they’re brought to the forefront it’s a shock to their system and most handle it by withdrawing into a defensive posture.
Logic goes out the window when deep-seated emotions override our ability to think clearly. We’re all subject to it, some more than others, and each of us has our “hot spots” into which we will not travel. It’s all part of the human experience.
I would say, to pass along some sort of science to people, you have to understand where they’re coming from first and approach subjects subtly when necessary. Make them come to the question rather than hitting them over the head with it, ask what their reasoning is, and guide them rather than drag them to the appropriate path.
A side comment on names of degrees and their relationship to the field of study.
A B.Sc. is, correctly, a Bachelor of Science degree, and an M.Sc. is a Master’s of Science degree. While one could make the argument psychology is a science (a “soft” science, in many respects), I’ve heard nobody argue marketing is a science.
I have a Bachelor of Arts… in geology. Does that mean I didn’t study science? Nope… it only means my college decided their degree would be a BA. The name of the degree has little to do with the subject matter studied, both degrees are more-or-less interchangeable.
Science is more than something we name; it is a process of observation, prediction, experimentation, and back to the start. When there’s enough evidence to merge various predictions (hypotheses) into something with which (reasonably) accurate predictions can be made, that’s a theory. Theories are still subject to the original process and are always being updated.
Therefore one should not make a claim to be a scientistsimply because of a title; you have to do science to be a scientist. I have two degrees in sciences (and half of another), all inter-related, and have worked with scientists in all three fields (geology, biology, paleontology)… but I am no scientist. I understand how science works, and my thesis advisor agrees, but I’m no scientist as he is.
As an aside: Richard Nelson is a scientist by all means but continues to brand himself as a Science Communications Market Leader, difficult science to comprend but please continue to enjoy the results here on FreelanceScienceWriting.com
- Science Fun and Hubpages: The No Brain Way to Learn Everything (freelancesciencewriting.com)
- How to Use Freelance Science Writing (freelancesciencewriting.com)
- Can Psychology Be Considered A Science? (psychologytoday.com)
- Science and why we should all care (stuff.co.nz)
- The Atheist Shrew: Strict Scientific Researcher (freelancesciencewriting.com)
- A Call To Arms For Young Science Journalists (blogs.scientificamerican.com)