Friday, February 12, 2010

Trusting Science

We have been talking, a bit, about the difference between human and computer intelligence and the way humans learn and connect. Today I want to ask you to look at a study that is about what we learn and what we believe, even when it comes from human experts. This study is about the public's perception of science and scientists (how much do we respect and trust science), but also about the difference in beliefs held by scientists (e.g. experts) and by the general public. If you scroll down, you will see tables showing data like 87% of scientists believe in totally natural evolution (that is, evolution that doesn't *need* help from a higher power) while only 32% of the public does. 84% of scientists believe in human caused global warming, while only 49% of people do. 93% believe in stem cell research, only 58% of the public does. What is your reaction to this data? Can you say anything about why the public seems to be vastly distrustful of science and scientific experts (compare this, for example, to how distrustful (or not) people are of other experts who have been trained in their field - what percentage of people disagree with the findings of the car mechanic or the MD or the dentist or the English teacher or the translator)?

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