Public And Scientists Views On Science And Society
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Among scientists, the public’s knowledge about science — or lack thereof — is widely considered to be a major (84%) or minor (14%) problem for the field. Chapter 3 looks at public and scientists’ attitudes on each of these issues in more detail along with several topics asked only of the general public, including access to experimental medical treatments, bioengineering and genetic modifications. While a majority of the public sees U.S. scientific achievements in positive terms,the share saying U.S. scientific achievements are the best in the world or above average is down 11 points to 54% today, compared with 65% in 2009. A majority of the general public (57%) says that genetically modified foods are generally unsafe to eat, while 37% says such foods are safe; by contrast, 88% of AAAS scientists say GM foods are generally safe. The gap between citizens and scientists in seeing GM foods as safe is 51 percentage points. SPS offers travel support for SPS chapters or individual students reporting on a national physics meeting for SPS, where they are treated like other members of the press.
Some ancient knowledge was lost, or in some cases kept in obscurity, during the fall of the Western Roman Empire and periodic political struggles. However, the general fields of science (or “natural philosophy” as it was called) and much of the general knowledge from the ancient world remained preserved through the works of the early Latin encyclopedists like Isidore of Seville. Another original work that gained influence in this period was Ptolemy’s Almagest, which contains a geocentric description of the solar system. The Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos (310–230 BCE) was the first to propose a heliocentric model of the universe, with the Sun at the center and all the planets orbiting it. Aristarchus’s model was widely rejected because it was believed to violate the laws of physics.
Because of science, we are able to increase our quality and longevity of life while avoiding many of the illnesses our parents and grandparents endured. Science has broadened our understanding of just how intricately our physical, mental, and emotional health are tied to the foods we do or do not consume. This dichotomy is dependent upon how science and technology are used by individuals or groups of individuals. As an example, the 1952 polio epidemic in the US infected nearly 58,000 people in that year alone, of which 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. But as there are no signs of such devastation around us today, some people are willing to take the risk of bringing similar horrors back, parroting claims that have been completely refuted by the scientific community. Even more alarmingly, this kind of “make-believe” is increasingly spreading also to advanced societies.
Many scientists pursue careers in various sectors of the economy such as academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Science magazines such as New Scientist, Science & Vie, and Scientific American cater to the needs of a much wider readership and provide a non-technical summary of popular areas of research, including notable discoveries and advances in certain fields of research. Tangentially, the science fiction genre, primarily fantastic in nature, engages the public imagination and transmits the ideas, if not the methods, of science. When a hypothesis proves unsatisfactory, it is either modified or discarded.