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Well No Wonder!


chefranden
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So the question is why is it that we put millions of children into a school system that 12-16 years later poops out ignorant consumers instead of enlightened citizens?

 

216 Million Americans Are Scientifically Illiterate (Part I)

The good news: America's science literacy rate is up from a pathetic 10 percent in 1988. The bad news: it's still only 28 percent.

By David Ewing Duncan

 

“Ignorance feeds on ignorance.” – Carl Sagan

 

Let’s start by focusing on the positive. In just 17 years, over 50 million people have been added to the rolls of Americans who can understand a newspaper story about science or technology, according to findings presented last weekend at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

 

Michigan State University political scientist Jon D. Miller, who conducted the study, attributed some of the increase in science literacy to colleges, many of which in recent years have required that students take at least one science course. Miller says people have also added to their understanding through informal learning: reading articles and watching science reports on television.

 

Okay, now let’s talk (dare I say rant?) about the 200 million Americans out there who cannot read a simple story in, say, Technology Review or the New York Times science section and understand even the basics of DNA or microchips or global warming.

 

This level of science illiteracy may explain why over 40 percent of Americans do not believe in evolution and about 20 percent, when asked if the earth orbits the sun or vice versa, say it’s the sun that does the orbiting--placing these people in the same camp as the Inquisition that punished Galileo almost 400 years ago. It also explains the extraordinary disconnect between scientists and much of the public over issues the scientists think were settled long ago--never mind newer discoveries and research on topics such as the use of chimeras to study cancer, or pills that may extend life span by 30 or 40 percent.

 

As Carl Sagan eloquently wrote in The Demon-Haunted World, ignorance reigns in our society at a moment when science is on the cusp of doing amazing and wonderful things, but also dangerous things. Ignorance, said Sagan, is not an option.

 

Indeed, given that we live in a culture based on science and technology, this situation is dangerous. It conjures the specter of a society in which a cadre of elites knows and understands the essentials of the science that underpins our civilization, while everyone else uses and depends on that science without having a clue. This scenario is troubling in a democracy that assumes a baseline of citizen knowledge. The outcome could be that the illiterates become so fearful of science and technology, so resentful of the exalted position of the elites, that they try to slow down the progress of science, or stop it altogether. Or the opposite could happen: the scientifically elite may grow frustrated with the illiterates and try to co-opt or even control them.

 

The forces of ignorance have squelched science across history, from the mob in ancient Alexandria, which chased the astronomer Aristarchus out of town for suggesting that the earth moved around the sun, to the present restrictions on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.

 

Elites’ exploiting their scientific knowledge for power is also not new. Mayan elites, for instance, used their extraordinary knowledge of mathematics, engineering, and astronomy to build great cities and temples--and sumptuous palaces for themselves--and to awe and control the masses through a religion that included ripping the hearts out of sacrificial victims. Europeans during the colonial era leveraged their advanced guns and ships into global empires at the expense of so-called “ignorant savages.”

 

One of Miller’s findings that may surprise many Americans is that Europeans and Japanese actually rate slightly lower in science literacy. To be sure, these same populations also have a much higher percentage of people who accept evolution and other basic scientific theories. America’s large population of conservative religious believers may be one reason for this discrepancy, although clearly there are hundreds of millions of people in the developed world who need education.

 

Perhaps we should launch a scientific literacy campaign like the mid-20th-century drive that nearly tripled the rate of basic literacy worldwide. The question is, does the public really want to know how gadgets run and how organisms work? And are scientists and those who control scientific knowledge willing to share--that is, to take the time, and perhaps give up some of their influence and access to knowledge?

 

In other words, is this seemingly global dilemma of science illiteracy fixable or not?

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many of which [colleges] in recent years have required that students take at least one science course.

 

What? I only went to state college for undergrad and our core reqs were three 4 credit science classes (the 4th credit was for lab). Core, for those with different systems, means that every student, no matter the major, was required to take these classes to graduate. I took bio, botony, and geology. Botony was what convinced me about evolution btw.

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You can see how Americans view science when you watch shows like "Beauty and the Geek". The geeks have to teach these girls about stuff that they should have already learned in school. The girls have to teach the guys about fashion and other relatively worthless stuff.(don't get me wrong I like to dress nice, but science and knowledge should be more important) It almost seems as though the whole show is based on look how sad these geeks are because they don't know who designed that dress. In reality people should be appalled at how little the women on the show know.

 

GreenXero

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You can see how Americans view science when you watch shows like "Beauty and the Geek". The geeks have to teach these girls about stuff that they should have already learned in school. The girls have to teach the guys about fashion and other relatively worthless stuff.(don't get me wrong I like to dress nice, but science and knowledge should be more important) It almost seems as though the whole show is based on look how sad these geeks are because they don't know who designed that dress. In reality people should be appalled at how little the women on the show know.

 

GreenXero

I've never watched this show, so I'm going on how you described it. The geeks are always male, and the beauties are always female? This tells us something about our culture, too. Why are scientific types overwhelmingly shown as males? Why do guys tilt towards science more than females? If we rated the percentage of scientific illiteracy according to sex, how do you think females would stack up against the males? I wouldn't doubt that if we could get more women and girls interested in science, we could up those illiteracy figures quite a bit.

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Probably yes.

 

I guess it's about those traditional (read: retarded) role models. Men have to be the makers, the tinkerers, and women have to care for the home.

This quite naturally (to me) leads to the guys becoming interested in how to make stuff (read: engineering et al)... more so than the gals for sure.

Well, unless you add "dinner, dresses and makeup" to the list of course. That's usually a field where we Y-chromosome-bearers lag behind ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is a huge tilt in the sciences towards men. Even the few women who do science generally stay towards the biology and occasionally chemistry side of things (i.e. look at the cute panda sort of thing). Physics etc. is very male dominated and as a single physics student I was definitely for more women in the field of physics. The women in the department were just as good as the men, there was just far fewer of them. If you want a female (and just generally entertaining) scientific perspective have a look around the blog below. If you are female, please go do a science degree......seriousely...your gender needs you!

 

http://www.skepchick.org/blog/

 

P.S. I don't mean to belittle biology, just distinguish between it and the dryer subjects like maths and physics.

 

P.P.S. Pandas are cute

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My best friend in Torino Italy earned her PhD in chemistry. When she started the program her advisors all tried to push her in different directions. Everyone told her that she would never be hired to work as a chemist in Italy because she was a woman. She was the only woman in her class of, I think 19?, and graduated with honors at the top of her class. I still have her thesis, which evaluates the chemical content of soil as it pertains to vineyards. But ultimately her advisors were correct, she was never hired as a chemist.

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