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Americans like science, but don't understand it

  1. Jul 11, 2009 #1


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    "Americans like science. Overwhelming majorities say that science has had a positive effect on society and that science has made life easier for most people. "

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2009 #2
    I love it.

    I think that people should be aware of scientific issues, whether or not they agree with certain scientific conclusions. For instance, while it's alright to question the idea of global warming's being caused by human activity, or macroevolution, you should at least know enough about them to ace a quiz like that one.

    Jeez. If you don't know that much, you can't pretend your opinions are justified.
  4. Jul 11, 2009 #3
    (I think that the public's ignorance is a failure on the part of the scientific community.)
  5. Jul 11, 2009 #4


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    That's a completely ridiculous statement. It's a failure of the educational system, not the scientific community.
  6. Jul 11, 2009 #5


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    Hard to make any sort of interpretation of this, since the same survey wasn't done in any country but the US.

    It would be interesting to see what the general public's attitude is in different countries with regard to science.
  7. Jul 11, 2009 #6


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    The understanding of science questions are particulalrly bad:
    http://people-press.org/reports/images/528-13.gif [Broken]
    The FDA does say aspirin can treat heart attacks but doesn't recommend taking it as a precaution (although most doctors do)
    GPS - Is that really science?
    Water on mars, it was announced then denied, then argued that the new reporting was hasty, I don't know if the general opinion is that there is currently water on Mars.
    Pluto - did they change their minds again or not - I don't know
    And the worse one - "antibiotics do not kill viruses as well as bacteria" - answer that over the phone, without having to parse how many negatives are present to get a true false answer.
    Electrons are smaller than atoms - thats just remembering words. Is a type I supernova brighter/fainter than a type II ?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Jul 11, 2009 #7


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    Compare this with the NSF's 2008 Science and Technology Indicators.

    http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind08/c7/c7h.htm [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Jul 11, 2009 #8
    We need a cultural shift in thinking so that when people make statements such as:

    "I'm bad at math"


    "I don't like science"

    they get a dirty look and the snide remark they deserve. I really can't think of many examples where science is thought of in a positive light.

    My hypothesis is that people view science as an attack on their religion (evolution, stem cell research), and so they automatically turn away from it. As a society we readily accept a lot of holistic crackpot medical therapy methods, astrology charts in the newspapers, you can find more examples yourself. The point is that these are all diametrically opposed to the scientific method and what it stands for. There is a major disconnect between the public and science. The keynote speaker at my friends graduation (engineering) premised his speech on how the graduating class has the responsibility to educate the ignorant public on science because the situation has become so bad. The speaker is a former dean of engineering at a top 10 engineering school, which took place in spring of 2008.

    These crackpot types of methodologies and pseudoscientific methods really should be laughed at publicly and humiliated for the stupidity that it is. It's todays version of alchemy.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
  10. Jul 11, 2009 #9
    I'd like to see the correlation with a similar poll concerning Pizza, pizza makers and pizza eaters.

    I predict similar results.
  11. Jul 11, 2009 #10
    Expect for the fact that knowing how a pizza is made is irrelevant to how a society progresses and maintains its global influence, economy, and status.
  12. Jul 11, 2009 #11
    This constitutes an exception to...what?
  13. Jul 11, 2009 #12
    You are quite right. Replace the first sentence to read:

    Knowing how a pizza is made is irrelevant to how a society progresses and maintains its global influence, economy, and status. Therefore, I have no idea why you brought this up - or what intelligent point you are making.
  14. Jul 11, 2009 #13
    There are many people who are not interested in mathematics and science. Why ought they be deemed dispicable for this? The vast majority of people learn and pass highschool through rote memorization without really learning the subject.* They just aren't all that smart. Its not their fault or anything that they ought to be blamed for.

    *Edit: by the way do you want a source on that? ;-)
  15. Jul 11, 2009 #14
    Knowing how to cook food (pizza) is as relevant as knowing how politics, ethics/laws, businesses, languages, economics, and cultures work and contribute to the society progress/economic growth (but one does not need to know everything as far specialization is at work). Science is no different than other fields. Where would be the science if people simply don't have enough food to eat/money to spend (due to recession, politics or other reasons which might be caused due to people ignorance about those fields)?
  16. Jul 11, 2009 #15
    The world does not revolve around science, no matter how much we might wish it. On the other hand Pizza is round, and can be delivered fresh in a matter of minutes.
  17. Jul 11, 2009 #16
    Sorry, but this "statement" is flat out wrong.

    I would strongly suggest you read the book:

    [1] "https://www.amazon.com/Science-Technology-World-History-Introduction/dp/0801883601"" by McClellan and Dorn

    so that you may speak intelligibly about this topic and not waste everyones time with nonsensical statements.

    Note[1]: Please read the reviews in the link above, and who is making them. This book I referenced you to isn't some crap written by and old bozo.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  18. Jul 11, 2009 #17
    Let me try again, changing mgb's quote to the wonderful world of pizza.

    You see it everywhere. A myopic proclivity to one's profession. For firemen it's fire safety. For MD's it's maintaining health. For policemen it's all about fighting crime. For lawyers reality is dictated by law. Can scientists do better in objectivity?


    "Americans like pizza. Overwhelming majorities say that they like pizza and their friends like pizza too. Half-hour pizza delivery has made life easier for many people.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2009
  19. Jul 11, 2009 #18
    Science is different than other fields, and your argument is terrible. I'm sorry, there is no other way to say it. I would recommend you read the book I linked and come back and have this discussion because you really don't have any firm footing for what you just typed at all.

    I will give you a very, very brief run through of the book: Technology, through science, has lead to the progression of countries and allowed for the expansion and betterment of life. It is vital that society be scientifically literate for its survival and furtherance into the future.
  20. Jul 11, 2009 #19
    I'm not saying that they have to be interested in science, but they need to have an understanding of basic science, and -at the very least- what the scientific method is and what it means.
  21. Jul 11, 2009 #20


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    If this were a true statement, then we wouldn't be here today, since the vast majority of society has never been scientifically literate throughout the entire span of human history. On this basis alone, your argument is invalidated.
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