Opinions Clash in Debate About Science Literacy

Scientists consistently worry that the public just doesn’t know enough about science, and that this general lack of public understanding carries with it dreadful consequences, jeopardizing everything from government financing of research to social progress. Recent controversies in the U.S. and Europe over therapeutic cloning and agricultural biotechnology have brought fresh concerns from the scientific community. Many scientists assume, for example, that if the public knew more about human genetic engineering, then any moral or religious reservations about cloning-for-medical-research might be tempered. Or, if the public better understood the science behind the genetic modification of crops, then few would take seriously the hyperbolized risks associated with the technology.