In the episode “Moondust” of The Crown – one of Netflix’s most popular originals in recent times – astronauts returning from humankind’s maiden voyage to the moon, visit Buckingham Palace. Prince Philip’s anticipation of their arrival is unrivalled. Diligently he prepares a list of questions for Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins hoping to plumb the depths of weighty realities – the universe, time, and the meaning of life. The much-awaited moment finally arrives and he asks them: “What were your thoughts out there, your perspectives, observations about our earth from up there?” The prince prepares himself for the profundity he expected to hear from these intelligent young men who had walked where no one had walked before. But that exchange turns out to be wholly anticlimactic. While the prince was expecting the profound and the sublime, the astronauts were not too keen on anything beyond the practical.

     I think, this scene (regardless of its historical veracity) demonstrates what is known as science-curiosity, or more precisely, the lack of it. Science-curiosity can be understood as the desire to seek and consume science-knowledge for its own sake. Science-curious people so derive immense pleasure from learning scientific truth, that they proactively seek it; not to achieve distinction in school or at work, rather, to enjoy it for its own intrinsic value. Science-curious is not the same as science-intelligence. For example, one might be endowed with the remarkable ability to comprehend mind-bending concepts such as quantum mechanics or neuroplasticity but not quite have the curiosity regarding Tabby, the neighbor’s cat, and his self-cleaning ritual. While there is no doubt the astronauts in The Crown could comprehend complicated scientific information, what they appeared to be lacking was science-curiosity.

     Well, science-curiosity, it would appear, potentially holds the key to unlocking a ubiquitous problem of our day: the problem of echo chambers. An echo chamber embodies an unwillingness to make room for, or engage with, a perspective of truth that differs from its own. Members of an echo chamber distrust the views and voices of anybody outside the confines of its limiting walls. Faced with the same set of facts, those in one echo chamber will vehemently affirm one interpretation of truth while those in another will affirm a radically different interpretation. And both groups will shut-off its social and intellectual spaces to possibilities other than its own effectively closing-off any genuine conversations. Discussion and debates on social-media frequently follow this pattern that I am sure most of us can attest to.   

     While a number of reasons could be attributed to this phenomenon, one that comes from Social Psychology is the concept of motivated reasoning (MR) – underlying motives affect one’s reasoning (interpretation) of facts¹. And when these motivations are as foundational as relating to one’s identity, they are even stronger and difficult to overcome contributing to the formation of echo chambers.

     It is in this context that the conclusions of a recent empirical study on “Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing” led by Dan M Kahan, Professor of Law and Psychology at Yale University, are fascinating. The study claims: 

  1. Those with ordinary science-intelligence tend to be more influenced by MR as they utilize their science skills to further support their motivated reasoning.   
  2. Those with science-curiosity, in their quest to experience the awe and surprise coming from science information, are more willing to seek and consume information outside of their motivated beliefs².

     In other words, science-curious people are more open to seeking knowledge, information and views outside of their current predispositions in order to experience the inherent pleasure of awe and surprise that such learning and acquisition of knowledge brings. To put it quite simply, an echo chamber cannot hold captive a science-curious person. 

     A key aspect of science-curiosity is the pursuing of knowledge for its own sake – as an intrinsic good as Aristotle would say. As those trained in the Applied Sciences, our professional actions are almost always tuned towards their instrumental value. One way to help us develop science-curiosity would be to take a step back, step outside of our immediate context and look at the larger picture – a “zoomed out” perspective if you will; for in the final analysis, science-curiosity arises out of a sense of awe and wonder at the world we live in with its myriad perspectives³. 

     In The Crown, Prince Philip expected to hear from the astronauts something resembling this – an inexplicable sense of amazement and wonder at the immensity, beauty and diversity of our world, perhaps even extending to notions of purpose and reciprocity. Even if the astronauts failed to demonstrate such a curiosity, we can attempt to. Anyone, with a little bit of effort and intentionality, can develop science-curiosity. It will enrich the intellect, broaden our outlook on life and who knows maybe even contribute towards a better society – one that values, appreciates and respects a diversity of people and perspectives. 

¹Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480-498

²Dan M. Kahan, “Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing” in Political Psychology, available at; accessed July 19, 2022.

³ An “Overview Effect” Open Letter, available at; accessed July 19, 2022.


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