Thursday, October 30, 2008

Science: Attitudes and Knowledge

A non-political, non-presidential post.
How rare, and refreshing.

I was reading this
study that examines the relationship between attitudes about science and science knowledge. I love the title of the first section: "To know science is to love it?"

The authors conducted a meta-analysis of 193 surveys conducted across a lot of countries. As a PhDweebish aside, a meta-analysis is basically taking lots of studies and doing a statistical test of their statistical tests. I did one meta-analysis and I'll never do another. It's like actual work.

They found a "shallow but broad" positive relationship between attitudes about science and how much people know about science. Makes sense. They find stronger relationships between general attitudes and knowledge than more specific kinds of knowledge, like genetically modified food. There are a lot of complex tests in here, but the result is fairly staightforward -- a positive attitude about science is related to knowing more about it.

So what? Educate people about science and you hope they will have more positive attitudes, though causality here gets messy. Maybe people who know more are more positive about science? I don't think that's it. It certainly doesn't work that way in political knowledge. A more likely scenario is attitude -> knowledge. No one has really tested that, as far as I know, but it seems more likely.

Science matters. Some partisan and ideological nut cases have waged war against science. It's taken a beating over the last few years, much like the news media, and losing either one to partisan frivolities is a danger to democracy and the nation.

No comments: