Friday, July 06, 2007

Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much

CHICAGO - When Jon D. Miller looks out across America, which he can almost do from his 18th-floor office at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, he sees a landscape of haves and have-nots - in terms not of money, but of knowledge.

Dr. Miller, 63, a political scientist who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at the medical school, studies how much Americans know about science and what they think about it. His findings are not encouraging.

While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are "scientifically savvy and alert," he said in an interview. Most of the rest "don't have a clue." At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people's inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process.

Over the last three decades, Dr. Miller has regularly surveyed his fellow citizens for clients as diverse as the National Science Foundation, European government agencies and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. People who track Americans' attitudes toward science routinely cite his deep knowledge and long track record.

"I think we should pay attention to him," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, who cites Dr. Miller's work in her efforts to advance the cause of evolution in the classroom. "We ignore public understanding of science at our peril."

Its a good read ...

I'd link to the original in the NYTimes but I don't have a subscription. And that costs money!

No comments: