Tuesday, 19 February 2008

No excuse for ignorance

One of the major topics of the Country of Blindfolded is my horror of humanity as ignorant mass of people, taking decisions blindly. Not because we can not see, but because we do blindfold ourselves. Especially when it comes to rationality. Especially when it comes to basic scientific literacy.

For this reason I was thrilled when I have read the commentary by Anthony C. Grayling in the Feb 9th issue of New Scientists, titled `There's no excuse for ignorance'. This was as if I read the thoughts that are constantly in my mind (written in better English). Here are some excerpts that point to the major issues (I am sorely tempted to quote in extenso, as the text is fully worth of it and accessible only by subscription, but my legalistic mind prevails):

Keeping abreast of what is happening in science and technology should be a matter of course for thoughtful people, no matter what their educational background or occupation. [...] Of course, active engagement in any branch of science requires expertise, but an intelligent appreciation of reports about the outcomes, significance and possible applications of research does not. [...]

A third and equally important part [of scientific literacy] is being able to take an informed and hence responsible stance on issues that vex society, a stance that might, say, influence how one votes.

[But the] biggest boon that scientific literacy can confer: the development of rational attitudes.

By this I mean the kind of healthy scepticism that asks for good evidence and good argument, that applies critical scrutiny to propositions or claims, that suspends judgement while the evidence is pending, and accepts what the evidence says once it has arrived, independently of prior wishes or partisan beliefs.


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