Sunday, December 18, 2011
As you may have noticed, I haven't had much to say over the past few months. Which is to say, before yesterday, I hadn't posted a thing since October. I'd like to say that's because I've been busy on some big project. But, the truth is, I just decided it wasn't worth the effort anymore, and I stopped. But the other day, I decided to make a trip to my local Barnes and Nobel, and suddenly, I remembered why -other than for my own personal entertainment- I started doing this in the first place.
Upon arrival at the store, I was first annoyed to discover that, once again, the science section had apparently migrated. After making several laps around the floor in search of it's new hiding place; pausing briefly to glare at the MASSIVE religious/spirituality section that had swelled to gargantuan proportions since my last visit, I decided to ask for help in my search.
More than slightly annoyed, and a little bewildered by the idea that the science section might actually be gone altogether, I approached an employee and asked,
" Um, do you not even have a science section anymore?".
"Yes, we still have a science section", the clerk replied, "it's right over here."
He then proceeded to lead me to the back of the store, where, crammed onto a few shelves facing the back wall -safely shielded from view of the casual browser, and centrally located next to the bathroom and encyclopedias- sat the tiny, sad little selection of science books seen above.To put things into perspective; remember the obscenely large religious and spirituality section I mentioned? Well, here's a photo of just the floor space this particular store has dedicated to bibles alone.
Including the section labeled, "Religious Fiction" (Ill spare you the obvious observation here), the books seen in that photo represent about 25% of the total collection of books on religion and spirituality available at this particular store. Now, take a moment to consider the rest of the credulous, pseudo-scientific, nonsensical, and superstition filled publications that we all know dominate the shelves of this, and every other bookstore in the country, and you'll start to see why this trip managed to set off something in my brain. Because, these days more than ever, brick and mortar stores like B&N have to make the most of their inventory in order to compete with online retailers like Amazon -less they suffer the same fate as Borders. Which means, the content of this, and any other store's inventory, is a direct reflection of what people actually have an interest in buying, and clearly -it ain't science.
Now, I know that this may not sound like much of a catalyst for an Epiphany. But for me, watching the selection of science books -which actually used to be fairly large at this particular location BTW- slowly shrink, and disappear from view, was a stark, and frankly depressing, reminder of just how unpopular science and critical thinking are -and just how prominent irrational thought, and supernatural belief, continue to be in the mind of the average person. so while I still harbor no delusions of grandeur where my place in the world is concerned, it did manage to remind me of why any effort to promote science and critical thinking, however small, was well worth it.