The public's perception of the role of science in culture and medicine has changed amid an increasingly anti-intellectual movement in politics and religion, and unless scientific literacy increases among citizens and lawmakers, environmental and other crises will exacerbate and threaten the United States' role as a global superpower.
Fueled partly by right-wing politicians and lobbyists and partly by a scientific community that has lost its engagement with the general public, scientific facts are suddenly vulnerable to being"subjective" and even "partisan." Important issues like vaccinations (see Paul Offit's Deadly Choices) and global warming have become heated debates in the media and in election cycles, andscience in generalis mistakenlyperceived asjust another "way of knowing" and can be "debunked" by an articulate (if inaccurate) counter-argument.The result is oftenpublic policy that is disastrous for the long term but benefits a few powerful people in the short term.Otto, co-founder and CEO of Science Debate 2008 and writer and producer of the filmHouse of Sand and Fog, argues that an uninformed, or misinformed, country, including members of Congress, may be ill-equipped to make the enormous decisions that will affect future generations. The members of the incoming GOP class almost unanimously agree that climate change is a hoax, despite the fact that the U.S. stands alone among all other developed nations in this opinion. Combined with a loyalty to free-market economic policies that no longer make sense in a rapidly growing population, this could spell ecological and economic disaster. Only by competing with other countries to find renewable energy and by committing to science education and unbiased reporting can the U.S. remain a global leader. Otto writes that "there is no greater moral, economic, or political question" at stake, but that our legacy of freedom and leadership can guide us to make the right decisions.
A gripping analysis of America's anti-science crisis.