Posted by: Dan | August 8, 2006

Promoting Science Literacy with Action Bioscience

Browsing around the web for biology resources, particular those that seek to explain the relevance and importance for the life sciences in today’s world, I came across one site that I’d completely forgotten about: Action Bioscience, run by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. A spectacularly informative site, it opens up with 7 bioscience challenges, asking the reader how do the following issues effect his or her life:

  • Biodiversity: Why preserve life’s variety?
  • Environment: How fragile is our planet?
  • Genomics: What does the genome reveal?
  • Biotechnology: How is biotech changing the world?
  • Evolution: What is life’s history on Earth?
  • New Frontiers: Why is it the age of biology?
  • Education: Why improve bioscience literacy?

The article of perhaps the greatest importance, in my opinion, was “Why should you be scientifically literate?” This article closes with the concept of intellectual coherence:

Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the Copernican concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, Charles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?

And yet, the majority of the American public, and the United States’ own President, appear to fail miserably when it comes to Intellectual Coherence (or Informed Skepticism, as another form of this concept).

And to put it into a framing for public discussion – improving education in these and other areas is a moral imperative, if we are to progress as a society. I just don’t understand why many on the Right choose to fight such progress.


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