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'Sexy Science'

In a guest post at the Intersection blog, Jeffrey Toney, the dean of the College of Natural, Applied, and Health Sciences at Kean University, says scientific messages in advertising are increasingly being used to sell products, even as the public is often "disinterested and skeptical of scientific claims." Whether claiming something is "clinically proven" to work, that a product represents a "scientific breakthrough," or using high-tech animation of double helices or chemical structures, ads are using science to sell everything from face creams to diet pills. "Use of science within advertising somehow bestows upon the product a higher status, a gravitas, the excitement that this thing that the consumer must have is one of a kind, a rare breakthrough discovery," Toney says. But the public that finds itself buying these products is still conflicted over evolution and climate change, Toney adds, and the coverage of actual science in the new media has declined in recent years. Debunking the so-called scientific claims in these ads would be easy, Toney suggests. But the real question, he asks, is why are marketers using such pseudo-scientific language directed at a public that remains "generally apathetic towards science." It's a worthwhile research project, he adds.