Why Do So Many People Resist Science?
Resistance to science has important social implications, because
a scientifically ignorant public is unprepared to evaluated polices
about global warming, genetically modified organisms, stem cell
research, and cloning.
An excerpt from Childhood origins of adult resistance to science
in Science Magazine 18 May 2007 issue.
Many are resistant to learn about new technologies, evolution
and natural selection, or complicated health care issues. Why?
Because people have a hard-time accepting information that conflicts
with their personal construct and understanding of the world.
Resistance to science, technology, and math (STM) education begins
early and stays throughout life for most people. Usually because
of a dissatisfying experience with STM during the formative years
' middle and high school grades, many people shy away or outright
reject information about our advancing knowledge in these areas.
Students and citizens are not empty vessels. No, they have a
pretty broad idea of how the world works. These ideas may not
be accurate but these ideas are 'true enough'. And for many
people they learn about new things from their personal expert
-- someone in their social circle, someone they trust to be right
or believe to be most knowledgeable.
Now, consider this: If a person is resistance to science since
childhood, he/she doesn't know any scientists, and she/her has
no real idea of how science works, how should they react to all
of this new information. Why should they believe want the scientific
community says about a matter? Why should they chuck out what
they believe and know to be true?
One of my science education professors warns that we should not
â€œexpect students to replace one fairy-tale for another'. The
students' ideas and comprehension of the world are established,
even if it is inaccurate. Just because you tell them what is correct
and they provide the correct answer on the test, doesn't mean
they will accept it as true. Especially for controversial lessons
about evolution, students will take the test and then declare
they believe none of the information provided by the instructor.
Why? They failed to update their world-view.
So, how do we teach people about the world so that they can update
their brain computers? We let them discover the phenomenon. Active
learning through manipulation and experimentation is essential
if people are to REALLY learn more about the world and about science.
Teaching science as a laundry list of facts doesn't help people
become more scientifically literate or able to evaluate policies.
However, meaningful learning experiences do give students and
citizens the opportunities to figure things out for themselves.
Unlike the personal expert who can be vouched for, the scientific
community has no such social capital with the general public.
That's not how science works ' usually. The results speak
for themselves; the proof is in the pudding. Our voucher system
is the experiment or rather the experience. Science is best learned
by doing it. Let people try things out, test assumptions, research
perceptions. When people can figure things out for themselves
that's when people will resist science less.