The Echoes of the Mind (171-1) Public Knowledge

Public Knowledge

Intuition can be overridden but not overwritten. ~ American psychologist Andrew Shtulman

Young children often conflate life with movement: seeing the Sun and wind as alive, but trees and mushrooms as not. Youngsters also see purpose everywhere: birds are “for” flying, rocks are for animals to scratch themselves on, and rain falls so flowers can drink. In physics, children conclude that heat flows from place to place, that the Sun moves across the sky, that the Moon rises and sets, that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, and so on.

Children cling to their naïve theories, and when they encounter new, incongruous concepts, they cling tighter. Folk theories do get knocked back with education, but they never go away. Scientific thinking is hard-won and easily lost, even among scientists.

Naïve theories persist for decades beyond the acquisition of a mutually exclusive scientific theory. The scientific literacy needed to engage with topics of global importance may be constrained by patterns of reasoning that emerge in childhood but persist long thereafter. ~ American psychologists Andrew Shtulman & Kelsey Harrington

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The generation that grew up with the Internet know their way around the Web, but they don’t know to be sensibly skeptical of what they see. Sites with high production values and links to reputable news organizations sway the impressionable young into believing what they should not.

Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media, they are equally perceptive about what they find there. The opposite is true. ~ American educator Sam Wineburg in 2016

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To characterize the public’s grasp of science as sketchy would be generous. Many Americans think that scientific and engineering work is “dangerous,” though science is considered more hazardous.

84% of Britons think that science is important, and we should take an interest in it. Yet 66% of Brits say science is a dying industry. 30% think “we depend too much on science and not enough on faith.” Over 90% of Brits who do not believe in God, but do believe in science, nevertheless believe in supernatural forces.

Generally, over half of the public says science and technology are too specialized for most people to understand. 30% confess they are not clever enough to understand science and technology.