Friday, October 15, 2010

Science Literacy

Everyone (I think) agrees that's important for people to have some degree of science literacy, and there's been plenty of survey results that suggest Americans don't know as much about science -- or, let's face it, any other topic, like history or health -- than they should.  Here's a really good essay by Matt Nisbet that explores this question, in particular whether science knowledge plays a role in how resistant people are to new or emerging scientific techniques or findings.  What's interesting is something I'd never considered before -- how scientists and social scientists differ on whether science knowledge really plays a role in this resistance.

In fact, it’s possible that the current debate relative to science can draw upon valuable research focused on why people participate in politics generally, and why people trust (or distrust) various government institutions. This research shows that knowledge, trust, efficacy, and deliberation are all closely related. Enhanced knowledge of politics leads to an increased belief among individuals that they can make a difference in politics, and also leads to increased trust in political institutions. Deliberating or discussing politics with others enhances knowledge, but also gets people involved. 
An excellent, thoughtful piece.

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