February 18, 2010

Public perception of science

I read an article today that said 84% of the general public believes science has had a positive impact on society and has made life easier for most people. [And that is despite the fact that 36% of those surveyed said that science conflicted with their religious beliefs!] Scientists were listed 3rd, below military personnel and teachers, in terms of overall contribution to society.

The vast majority of scientists, however, feel that the public's lack of scientific knowledge is a major problem and that the media is to blame. Scientists also differ from the general public in the belief in or acceptance of the theory of evolution (87 vs. 32%) and global warming (84 vs. 49%). 

Not surprisingly, those who believe in creationism -- that humans existed in their present form since the beginning -- are more likely to hold a negative view of science and scientists.

The article does reference the Bush administration's refusal to publish reports that conflicted with their point-of-view, but I'll have to look more into that. Science should be considered valuable regardless if it supports or doesn't support a given hypotheses. Science is about learning, and sometimes the best lessons are those that don't turn out as expected.

The article also has a link to a quiz with 12 questions to test your knowledge of science. [I can't tell if the quiz is designed to test general topics or more complex ones.] I'm happy to report I got a perfect score.

Public praises science; scientists fault public, media

The science knowledge quiz