Saturday, January 28, 2023

Most Europeans trust science, but know little more than the basics

Most of the European population is interested in science, pursues scientific information through traditional and digital communication channels, and believes it to be the most objective and valid knowledge available today. But in practice there is a difference between this interest and the level of knowledge. While most Europeans understand many basic scientific concepts, such as the role of plants in ensuring oxygen (90%), the origin of the universe (70%), and the origin and evolution of humans (79%), there is a significant lack of health and Regarding the environment, such as antibiotics and signs of climate change: only 50% of citizens are able to find the idea that “antibiotics destroy viruses” to be false and only 37% recognize the lie that “climate change causes There is a “hole in the ozone layer”. In Spain, the figures drop to 43% and 27%, respectively.

These are some of the figures from the study. scientific culture Published today by the BBVA Foundation, which analyzes citizens in Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom about their interest in science, their understanding of it and their perception of its effects on the world. Despite the fact that this gap exists in the context of a lack of knowledge about important scientific concepts, the authors agree that “the data in the four European societies regarding science as an institution are favourable” and indicate that the high There is a level of confidence in the scientific community, especially in Spain. “majority [de las personas] Marianna Zmulewicz, a researcher in the Department of Social Studies and Public Opinion, said it is well known how scientific theories and models are validated: through observations and experiments that can be replicated by independent researchers and published in scientific journals. can be published in organization and one of the authors. The study was conducted between October and November 2022 with a representative sample of 1,500 participants per country.

In Spain, over the past decade, popular interest in science has grown. In 2012, only 15% of the population said that science was very or very often present in conversations with family or friends, a figure expected to rise to 47% in 2022, the report noted. Despite the rise in popularity, Spain lags behind its European peers when it comes to scientific contributions to the world. Spaniards perceive a lack of support from companies, society and public authorities based on the development of science: only half believe that Spain makes a scientific contribution to the world, while 8 out of 10 Germans appreciate your country’s contribution to knowledge to the world. Give importance to the role favorably.

Both attitudes and positive perceptions of science follow a trend: it is the youngest and most educated who present higher levels of scientific knowledge and recognize its results. According to the researcher, this population, which has largely completed secondary and even tertiary studies, has grounds to identify continued progress in science after leaving the classroom. “With this greater knowledge, there are, in general, more favorable attitudes towards science, but also the ability to discriminate between scientific developments, without the need to adopt something or present it as scientific”, Zamulevich insisted on.

To combat this generational gap, the expert assures that it is necessary to “counteract through the educational system” and to disseminate in an understandable way the knowledge generated in scientific institutions, such as universities and other public research organizations. Must fight for: “Particular crisis” contexts, such as pandemics and climate change, create windows of opportunity to capture public attention that may have already left the classroom,” he adds.

Research reflects the belief that science will guide material progress in the world and be responsible for helping to improve people’s lives, particularly in health-related issues, such as contributing to cancer treatment and epidemic management. Most respondents believe that the fruits of science will open the door to a better world with regard to technological advances such as solar energy, biotechnology, nanotechnology and even artificial intelligence.

But there are nuances. When it comes to its contribution to solving social issues such as poverty, there is no consensus: only 42% of all countries believe science does “much” or “much” to reduce social inequality. substantial” contribution. With regard to climate change, the data shows that a vast majority trust scientific evidence and that science and technology will play a fundamental role in tackling it. “But of course they also understand that in addition to knowledge, other changes will need to be made in the social, organizational and economic fields”, assures the researcher of the BBVA Foundation.

science, politics and religion

The study noted that the association with science is also somewhat higher among those who declare themselves to be on the left than among those who declare themselves to be on the right and less religious, although “this is by no means a rejection”. The data show a consensus in all countries (84% on average and 95% in Spain) that religious beliefs should not limit scientific progress. “The majority of the believing population also accepts the current explanation regarding the origin of the universe or the evolution of humans from previous animal species,” emphasizes Zamulewicz.

In Spain, the most intense rejection by these groups is linked to certain areas of the life sciences, such as biomedical research with embryos or others “that collide with the ethical norms of a religious matrix.” To deal with such friction, Zmulewicz suggests that the scientific community be “open to a dialogue about the ethical aspects of their work” in addition to passing on knowledge. Despite this, the European outlook is positive. “Neither in most of Europe nor in Spain is the phenomenon of organized resistance and distrust of science that has been documented in the United States, political leaders and I think [gabinetes de estrategia] Ultra-Orthodox orientation”, concludes the researcher.

In all four countries, the vast majority of respondents associate a scientific career with prestige and it is more in demand than most other occupations. Nearly 90% of the sample said that women are equally qualified to hold scientific positions as men.

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