Becoming human for the sake of science education

tree personScience does not approve of the practice of attributing human characteristics to non-humans. To say that a bird is ‘happy’ to be flying about on a sunny day is not permitted. But if the cause is to educate, is it permissible to anthropomorphise? To improve engagement with the public or to get a point across? I’ve sometimes fantasized about what it might be like to be a plant. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to craft a video game about plants with feelings? Or to actually be a plant? Anger that your leaves are infested with mildew? Relief that the rain has finally arrived after months of drought? Or let’s take the point of view of a molecule of water, as it journeys through its water cycle. We could imagine all kinds of sociological undertones as a water molecule interacts with all those other water molecules struggling to evaporate (me first, me first). The point is to use this tool to get people thinking about, and appreciating, science. With so much aversion to science these days, I think it’s ok, and perhaps necessary, to bend the rules. If people are to embrace all the wondrous detail of the natural world, we need them to identify with that world. And I think the plants would agree.

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