Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Silvia Ivani in Boston Review:
Would the world be a better, or even a different, place if the public understood more of the scope and the limitations, the findings and the methods of science?” This question was taken up in 1985 by the UK’s Royal Society, one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished scientific bodies. A committee chaired by geneticist Sir Walter Bodmer answered in the affirmative: yes, a scientifically literate public would make the world a better place, facilitating public decision-making and increasing national prosperity.
Nearly four decades later, this view remains very popular—both within expert communities and without. The public, it is assumed, knows little about science: they are ignorant not just of scientific facts but of scientific methodology, the distinctive way scientific research is conducted. Moreover, this ignorance is supposed to be the primary source of widespread anti-science attitudes, generating fear and suspicion of scientists, scientific innovations, and public policy that is said to “follow the science.” The consequences are on wide display, from opposition to genetically modified foods to the anti-vax movement.