More Than a Body of Knowledge

Earlier this month, researchers at Emory University issued a warning that the U.S. could be at risk of yet another measles outbreak. Although the disease is highly contagious and potentially fatal, measles is also highly preventable – if, an individual is vaccinated.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands this or the basic science behind immunizations. Why? Because there is a significant lack of scientific literacy throughout the country. For far too many people, the word “science” itself can be distancing. It conjures up stereotypical caricatures of turgid textbooks, disheveled and incoherent adults in lab coats writing on blackboards in musty labs, and other equally stodgy images. In reality though, science and its impact on us is inescapable. Science is everywhere: look around you – whether you are reading this on paper or on a screen, you are benefiting from rigorous scientific endeavors that have resulted in refined printing presses as well as digital devices. Similar scientific rigor led to vaccines and antibiotics capable of saving countless lives. And for those who choose to live off the grid today, they too are immersed in science – designing and adapting processes to enable them to live off the grid, including if they decide to abandon prevailing medical recommendations.

Despite this ubiquity of science in our lives, in the U.S. only two percent of us are actively and formally learning about it; the other 98 percent learn about science through general media. Given that just seven percent of articles in the media are related to science, it’s not surprising then that less than 35 percent of readers actually understand science news. Consequently, few people appreciate how developments in science impact their lives: not only is the avoidance of childhood vaccinations an example of this, but also the general disregard —> Read More