This article from Boston.com raises a critical point. Most Americans know the Harry Potter stories. They know many professional athletes, movies stars and musicians. But they know very little about the people who do science or how science is done. For instance, “Only 52 percent of Americans in their survey knew why stem cells differ from other kinds of cells; just 46 percent knew that atoms are larger than electrons.”
What is the cure?
Americans should be far more engaged with scientists and what they’re doing. They should know the names of leading researchers (most Americans do not) and the nation’s top scientific agencies (again, most Americans do not). To the extent possible they should know scientists personally, both so they can get a sense of the nature of scientific reasoning and so they feel they are being heard, not just lectured to. Perhaps this way, when it comes to the toughest and most politicized questions, they will better recognize that scientists will not rally around a firm conclusion unless it really is precisely that.