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World-Changing Ideas

Why everyone must understand science

Many people feel excluded by science, but philosopher AC Grayling says this makes us slaves to technology. The less we know the more likely we are to be manipulated by others.

Science is undoubtedly humanity’s greatest achievement, says AC Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities. People have to wake up to the fact that they have to be part of the story in thinking about science, and thinking about the meaning of science as it applies to our world.

People feel excluded by science and debates about science, they use laptops, they fly in planes, use appliances in the home and they don’t know what’s behind this technology. That is a problem, as it turns people into the slaves of our technology. The less people know the more they are likely to be manipulated or influenced by people who may not have their best interests at heart.

People are aware that there are lots of problems with the environment and the climate. If people knew more about the science behind this, they more likely they would be to press governments that are involved in policy decisions.

We have to start this at school. Our traditional way of teaching science is that the people who are learning it will go on to be scientists. For many people, that’s not the way to go. People could get a good understanding of science, without the need to have technical expertise. Universities tend to be very over-specialised very early on. Educated people should be challenged to have knowledge across the humanities and sciences. And in society there needs to be more interchange between people at the coal-face of science and the people on the street.

We have to have a healthy scepticism, says Grayling, people can’t just shut their eyes to things that are important. We now have the technologies and the opportunities to go out there and capture imaginations and invite people to have a much better understanding of science.

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