Why is science so poorly understood by the general public?
E.g. Evolution, climate change, gm crops, bioengineering, stem cell research.
Science consists of bodies of knowledge and approaches in the accumulation of knowledge. There are forces prejudicial to science like astrology, religion, Big Pharma and manufacturers of medical equipment and conventional drugs. Some approaches in science are difficult to master, especially theory-making; that is, making of hypothesis and verification of hypothesis that graduate into theory. read more
I get the impression from some people that if something's not interesting and presented in a way that is easy to understand, they get bored. Also, if they do not comprehend what is being presented, they tend to get frustrated. If they get frustrated, they stop paying attention.
As far as evolution, climate change, GMOs and GM crops, etc., these are areas of science that people may not want to admit they have a hand in creating/preventing, because if they understand these sciences, they will have to change their habits and not be so lazy. They don't want to do that, you see.
Because those who teach it teach in such a way to appear above those they teach. If everyone understood it would it controlled by specialists?
I think the problem isn't necessarily with science or science education, but with a lack of critical thinking skills. This applies not only to science, but other areas of learning as well.
Education systems may be too focused on teaching facts and formulas, and not enough on enabling students to discover knowledge for themselves. Critical thinking doesn't lend itself well to standardized testing, so in our results-based education systems it is not a priority.
The problem with this focus on the facts and formulas is that it creates the impression of science as this ivory tower of learned scientists handing down facts to the teeming masses. This leads to the idea that scientists are conspiring to concoct evolution and climate science, or hide evidence of aliens and rogue planets.
Science should instead be taught as a process of discovery that anyone can engage in. Yes, most of us don't have particle accelerators or mass spectrometers in our basements, but we can certainly buy a telescope or download raw ice core and genome data. It is a sad irony of the internet age that we in the lay public now have more access to scientific data and papers than ever before in human history, yet many people are using this medium primarily to spread pseudoscience and woo.
Much of this, I think, would be solved by making sure kids learn basic critical thinking tools before they leave elementary school. The ability to evaluate evidence and separate fact from spin will improve understanding of science, civics, literature, history, math, and most other subjects.
I have this idea that critical thinking skills should be taught throughout a child's education, beginning as early as 1st grade. It would seem to me, though, that some powerful force within society does not wish this to be the case.
Organized religion prevents people from accepting evolution because it reveals the truth behind what has come to be a 2,000-year hustle. Stem cell research is also stopped by religion even though it has nothing to do with debunking religion. It is more of a team-building rally to celebrate arbitrary religious doctrine. In that case, the religious people got the spirit of a general moral case correct, but missed the mark. I think there does need to be some moral bulwark that stands in the way of science. If not, I am sure certain biologists would happily perform vivisections on helpless people and other animals in the name of private or corporate research. Given carte blanche to scientific progress and research can be as dangerous as religion. Christians didn't invent the atomic bomb and they don't invent diseases. We do have to accept the fact that some geniuses can be apathetic and so socially maladroit that they couldn't be trusted with making moral decisions in the name of discovery or progress.
Philosophical point aside, the general public does understand climate change--just not in the United States. We have the best universities in the world and worst public education in the first world. People who never went to college are susceptible to getting all of their information from TV, where everything is argued and politicized. I'd blame private industry for this, but industry is actually moving in the direction of clean energy right now. Again, I smell the Christians behind the climate change lack of information. If you go into any oil company, you'll find that it is full of either greedy Christian zealots or 80-year-old greedy dinosaurs ready to retire. The defense industry is the same way. Church leaders also preach against the notion of human-induced climate change. I don’t know why.
True religion never, disputes true science. The Bible speaks of the "circle of the earth hanging upon nothing", and David spoke of God knowing him before he was born and parts of him being written down in a book....DNA? weather patterns described...
I think it's because for every fact that's out there, there's a lie...and most of the time, the public can't tell the difference.
I love to say "percentages are the ammunition of the public" because they totally are- you hear all these people spouting numbers that they never bothered to RESEARCH before, and it annoys me so much!
This will sound TOTALLY off the wall, but I think the structure a person's spoken and writtten language, as well as the syntactic structure of the spoken language affects the ability to think on the left side of the brain. I have often thought that the vertical, pictoral dipiction in Asian languages somehow relates to the understanding of science. Those who speak English and who understand science have a naturally more developed left side of the brain in spite of the language they speak; the rest of us who are English speakers need that spatial relationship, visual, mathematical aspect of our brains exercised more thoroughly.
...totally an intuitive hunch on my part
Interesting idea, though I tend to think language works in the same part of the brain whether the language is alphabetic or character-based. We recognize words by shape, rather than letters, wchih is why you can sitll raed tihs snetnece.
Sometimes intuition provides ideas for concepts and relationships that can go for a hypothesis. Concepts and relationships must be tested for truth. If a hypothesis passes the test of truth then it graduates into a theory.
Science is a very broad subject. If some research was done, it might reveal that some people are very knowledgeable in some areas of science and no so knowledgeable in other areas.
We learn a lot of things in school--a lot of lot of it was unnecessary. I had to memorize the periodic chart of the elements. That is something that has never come up in conversation. Living in the southern United States I have studied on my own a lot about coastal erosion and weather patterns that deal with hurricanes. Many people are knowledgeable as to how computers work and recognize what they can do with them. I do not understand the details of organic chemistry, advance aspects of physics or even explain with any authority the Theory of Relativity. However, I do not think I am ignorant of science. My wife, a former elementary teacher, can explain a lot about how flowers grow, insects and other things that I once knew but have forgotten. Most people understand the concept of time and other forms of measurement.
I think people understand what they need to know in their daily lives and what interests them. I work as a sales clerk, after losing my public relations job of 22 years. I had a deaf couple in the store. As a child I learned how to finger spell. So, I could say, hello, good bye and thank you with sign language. I have decided to start studying American Sign Language. That is not science, but it interests me. Someone else, may want to study the mineral content in their yards, so they can plant the appropriate garden. That is science. It is something that interests them. Assuming that people do not care about science, is doing a disservice to the many aspects that make up the thing we call science.
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A science paper is supposedly objective truth. But if language is the medium of expression, and all language is subjective, how objective the language of science?
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