Writer Adam Gopnik wrote a lovely thought about how a message is like a baseball: “The trouble with mental catch is that the ball you throw changes in mid-air into another.”
He meant that you might have one idea in mind as a writer, and that idea might shape-shift into something else when you toss it to readers and viewers.
I’ve been wondering about that with science communication. Seems there’s a campaign to change the name of “corn syrup” to “corn sugar.”
Corn syrup—particularly high fructose corn syrup—has gotten poor press of late with speculation that it contributes to obesity and that it’s tough on the body. It’s a bit odd to me that sugar is perceived as being healthier.
As a survivor of the Seventies, I remember how we eschewed sugar in favor of honey, and how, as kids, we were told that sugar was bad for our teeth and skin.
So it’s intriguing that sugar is the preferred term, but I suspect that’s a marketing ploy rather than a scientific one, as it appears the data just aren’t available yet about the health effects of corn syrup. Still, some of us just want to believe one perspective because it fits our personal agenda.
There are data about controversial topics, but we still ignore the evidence because it doesn’t match our worldview.
Vaccines don’t bring on autism yet some parents refuse to immunize their children. And fluoride in water occurs naturally in many bergs without harming residents, but, given the choice, voters usually refuse to fluoridate their water.
Our choices aren’t always scientific or data-driven, but we like to play mental catch and reframe facts so they’re compatible with our prior beliefs.