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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Why have we become scientifically illiterate?

'Americans built the bomb, reached the moon, decoded the genome and created the Internet. And yet today, the country is also home to a populace that, to an alarming extent, ignores scientific advances or outright rejects scientific principles.'

Tom Jacobs writes:
Fifty years ago, on May 7, 1959, British novelist C.P. Snow made his famous "two cultures" speech, in which he warned that the sciences and the humanities were increasingly separated by "a gulf of mutual incomprehension."

But another, even wider gulf has developed, this time between science and the rest of society. Polls routinely reveal high levels of scientific illiteracy among both Americans and Europeans. We love the gadgets that science and technology produce, but have no basic knowledge of how they work — and we're not especially interested in finding out.

Two new books approach this dilemma from different perspectives. In Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum provide a detailed diagnosis of the problem and how it developed over the decades. In Am I Making Myself Clear?, Cornelia Dean offers practical advice to researchers who are interested in making things better. READ MORE

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