Nieuws - 30 april 2014

Blog: Think Milgram

When people ask me about my studies, they are often surprised when they learn that I study communication science in a place like Wageningen.

Why on earth would an agricultural life science university need a communication science department? My guess is that it  probably has to do with the fact that innovation needs to be implemented in order to make a difference. Laypeople need to be informed and persuaded for their own good. They've got problems, we've got answers, because we are science. Use condoms, get your vaccinations and eat more veggies. But wait a minute. One of the few truly valuable things I have come to know during my study as a social scientist is that people are pretty gullible and irrational. And scientists are no exception. At all.

We believe bullshit just like laypeople do. We believe each other’s bullshit. And we are open to bullshit marketing. We are laypeople in white jackets, thinking that we've got it all figured out.

But be that as it may, we still bear the responsibility that goes along with this garment. Just go and check out the Milgram-experiment, and you'll know what I mean.

We should be the voice of reason and we should be utterly hard to convince of anything. As students, we have to be aware that we are among the powerful of tomorrow. The marketing that we are subject to, is not about vacuum cleaners. We are sold ways of thinking, doing science and eventually business and policy. And then we are all science-communicators. But what to communicate? What to promote and what to shun? I've got no answers, but it is good to be aware that in Wageningen, science and economy are in bed together. Don't believe even for a second that this has no influence on the things that we are taught. Ethics is a mere sidekick to this great show. A tiny trumpet in the stampede of today’s economic interests.

Think for yourselves!