Today's Suggested Reading
I've been meaning to post this for awhile: http://www.csicop.org/scienceandmedia/definitions/. It's an article recommended by Darlene the Science Cheerleader on what, specifically, we mean by scientific literacy. I leave its implications as an exercise for the reader.
Another item that's been on my desk for awhile, but which I haven't had time to write about is the idea of a "science court," wherein the great scientific issues of the day would be decided by a tribunal of scientists who are NOT experts in the fields under discussion--i.e., you wouldn't have climatologists with vested interests deciding the validity of global warming claims--but scientists of sufficient experience, education, and merit to be able to make decisions more or less objectively. The court would deal specifically and only with the facts and theories of a particular discipline--i.e., which theory is more "correct"--not with their policy implications.
The more I read this article, the more dubious I became about the science court's prospects. Suppose, for example, the science court was televised. The general public, watching a very slick and impassioned presentation might think that that person had "won," whereas the scientists on the panel might have a completely different reaction based strictly on the data. Mightn't this sort of environment encourage claimants to "play to the gallery?" Or would the science court necessarily be a closed event?
Also, since Arthur Kantrowitz first proposed this idea, science has become even more politicized than it was in the '70s and '80s. Even scientists not directly connected to a particular issue more often than not have opinions on such things. But then I suppose the same thing could be said about courts of law, and yet we continue to have some faith in an unbiased judicial system.