Of the eighty-plus channels that we receive via our cable service, few are devoted to science education. Most offer sitcoms, reality shows, info-entertainment, celebrity worship, sports, crime investigations, cooking and home improvement. Indeed, there is more religious than science-based programming, an unsettling commentary on American society.
Though the Discovery channel launched with a promising array of science programs, it, like many others, has succumbed to the appeal of reality series, often devoting long segments to the dangerous work of crab fisherman, ice road truckers and chain saw warriors. PBS and the History Channel offer some quality science programming but, relative to other topics, its time allotment remains quite small. Finally, the Weather Channel, which prides itself in keeping us informed about storm threats and atmospheric conditions, is chock-full of melodramatic sagas, giddy celebrities, personal interest stories and tangential entertainment.
While science programming must appeal to the general public in order to serve an educational role, it need not be watered down with drama or comedy to be palatable. Those of us with an interest in the natural sciences regret both the dearth of attention that they receive and the manner in which they are often presented to the public.