I’m not talking about idiots or ignoramuses. I’m talking about the kinds of dummies that read all of those books that are ostensibly written for “dummies.”
I contend that they are written for anything but classic dummies.
Take a look at some of the titles of these books, and you’re bound to be impressed at their breadth of knowledge. There’s a lot of practical, tutorial-style books on software and applications such as “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies” or self-help books such as “Living Gluten Free for Dummies.”
There are also books on subjects that one might otherwise take in advanced college courses such as “Nanotechnology for Dummies” or “Genetics for Dummies.”
In “Physics for Dummies,” there’s a chapter on quantum physics, which is so arcane that it once inspired Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr to comment that if it doesn’t totally confuse you, then you don’t understand it.
It seems that quantum physics makes everybody a dummy.
As a science educator, I have a particular affinity for those various “dummies” books on scientific topics. Where is an intelligent person – who doesn’t happen to be a rocket scientist – turn to get scientific information?
You could do worse than a “dummies” book.
There’s actually a societal need for more science “dummies.”
In their book “Unscientific America: How Science Illiteracy Threatens Our Future,” Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum describe how, in an era when science and technology are essential to American prosperity, greater public awareness of science is essential.
Another book, “Denialism” by Michael Specter, states the case plainly in its subtitle: “How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.”
These authors further suggest that enhanced science literacy should start with our elected officials, who too often twist and mangle science for political purposes.
From energy policy to global warming to the avian flu, there are hosts of headline-grabbing subjects that have their basis in science and technology.
I personally don’t have a great deal of confidence that some politicians grasp the nuances of these issues, or even if they do, they wouldn’t distort them for political advantage.
In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama vowed to “restore science to its rightful place” in the public dialogue and political decision-making.
In that regard, I would be encouraged to know that there are a few serious civil servants in Olympia who carry “dummies” books in their briefcases.
Maybe someday I’ll write a “dummies” book. I’m not sure what subject I know well enough to qualify as a bonafide dummy, though.
Except, maybe, I could write the definitive “Dummies books for Dummies.”
Gregg Sapp, a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors, is dean of library and media services at The Evergreen State College. He can be reached at email@example.com.