Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Science Skepticism

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Science plays a critical role in the way we look at the world around us, for designing things as different as a new efficient car engine to treating disease and developing solutions to combat world hunger. It is present in our lives everyday, and involved in almost everything we do. And yet, Science is under attack. It had been undermined by the media; confusing and distorting stories. It has been betrayed by scientists themselves; either from misquoting, cherry picking of statistics or publishing articles which have not undergone peer-review scrutiny. It has become something that the public has been made to feel wary of, and in some cases fear. Many examples come to mind when considering scientific advances which have been misinterpreted and condemned, GM crops and IVF treatment to name just two. It is vital that scientists address this problem, in order to regain the trust of the public and gain there support. BBC’s “Horizon: Science Under Attack” 1 highlighted many of these issues and tries to reconnect the scientific and public community, because only through exchanging ideas and becoming involved by asking people what they are worried about, are you then able to address these issues, before they become a problem. Communication and education is key in regaining the support of the wary public, and the Horizon program explored the underlying question of ‘why people believe what they believe’ in order to determine why past scientific advances have so much fear and hostility against them, and then work out a way to address these issues. Either way, science needs the backing of the public and government in order to secure funding and continue research, and so it is in the scientists’ best interests to interact with the public more, getting them more involved. After all, the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown.

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