Getting out of the Bubble: Public’s Views about Science

by Jemvy Grace Sedano and Alexandra Ysabelle Macasaet

From Canva

Have you watched the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”? It’s about an aspiring young scientist named Flint Lockwood who built a machine that converts water into food. With this technology, he was able to make tasty treats fall from the sky and establish himself as a local hero.

However, his story wasn’t always suns and praises as he used to get bullied by his classmates back when he was a child for having an extraordinary admiration for science.

He was practically tagged as a nerd which undoubtedly happens beyond movies too – people being called “nerds” because of their great enthusiasm for science. In an online interview we conducted, Jose Alberto Dunca, an officer in the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Laguna, actually said that “science is for the nerds” when asked how he viewed science. 

However plain and blunt it may sound, it actually paints a thousand words, too. Just like Flint Lockwood, our world also knows scientific nerds who all reign supreme in their fields such as Larry Page, who co-founded Google, Mark Zuckerberg who oversaw the birth of Facebook, Elon Musk who founded SpaceX, Tesla, and Twitter to name a few, and Jeff Bezos who further developed e-commerce through the establishment of Amazon. Coming from different backgrounds, they’ve all shared this common passion for science and its uses which led them to their notable discoveries and innovations. 

As recognized, science is the methodical pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social worlds. However, how do different publics view science? Can we say that science is really just for the “nerds”?

Speaking Public, Evolving Science

We interviewed representatives of the academe, government and non-government organizations, and community members to understand how different publics perceive science.

Looking at it through the lens of a government employee, as someone who works at the forefront of scientific work at DENR, Mr. Dunca said that science-informed policy decisions are vital in laying the groundwork for a sustainable future. Understanding our changing climate and its repercussions on everything from public health and safety to economic stability, for instance, can lead to methods to prevent and adapt to the consequences. Hence, science and development are two concepts that are closely intertwined. 

On the other hand, Ms. Pearl Garcia, a teacher from Maranatha Christian Academy of Los Baños, stated, “Science re-gears individuals to transcend beyond reality, whether logic, spatial, or numerical knowledge.” It is achievable because science enhances the learning curve and guides individuals on where to focus their efforts. 

However, Mr. Nathaniel Arogante, a BS Chemical Engineering student and current Vice President of the UPLB Society of Pre-Med Students, does not see the former as the epitome of the latter. Science and development are necessary for understanding the world, but science’s continuous seeking of knowledge cannot make the world stagnant, according to him. Science needs more ethical considerations and responsibility for the information it disperses while development holds a broader sense of comprehending issues such as human connection to the progress of their society, economy, environment, and culture.

Making use of science

From the components of her laundry detergent to the different cooking methods she does everyday, Mrs. Marites Rosario, a 48-year-old full-time housewife, said that science can be encountered on a daily basis with all the regular tasks we do. Science helps us understand how fundamental ideas are linked to more complex ones and enables us to better apprehend how things function and why they function in such a way. 

In the same context, science allows us to uncover the causes of man-made and natural destruction, unraveling the solutions to prevent these from happening, said Ms. Garcia. 

Looking further, science has made all treatments and preventive measures possible, according to Mr. Arogante. He explained that the advancement of contemporary medicine is parallel to the advancement of technological, biological, and medical sciences. 

Crux of the Matter

With all that has been said, science is definitely not just for the “nerds.” Different publics view science in different ways, which we can say depend on how they make use of science and how they encounter it everyday. Despite these differences, however, lies the fact that science is still truly relevant to anyone at any age, any designation, or any affiliation. 

Various publics equate to various taboos and scarlet-tainted stigmas which can make science appear as an overwhelming or intimidating concept. Hence, the notion of science being exclusive only to those who possess great knowledge and understanding about it – the notion we need to debunk. 

Life without science is both impossible and incomprehensible. Without it, the advancement of discoveries and innovations, along with the potential to provide authenticity or truth to every event in our daily lives will be out of our reach. It is significantly relevant in shaping our world, driving progress, solving complex problems and ideas, and improving our societies. It provides a powerful framework for understanding the natural world, making informed decisions, and addressing the challenges we face in this ever-changing world. We could say the same about science without the different publics – all impossible and incomprehensible. 

Flint Lockwood and the scientific nerds we’ve recognized above are surely all praise-worthy and commendable for their exceptional contributions to science and our societies, not to mention the great scientists, experts, teachers, and students out there as well. However, we must also acknowledge that science is a collaborative effort of the different segments of the public as scholars and experts in the field exist to serve, preserve, research, educate, and make sense of people and our surroundings while it is through our very existence that they thrive and fulfill their roles.

Science may be perceived, understood, and appreciated in countless ways, as evident in the interviews we’ve conducted. Nonetheless, it is known and relevant to anyone and any public.