Every so often, at least in the Western world, there seems to be a bit of a panic: politicians, media professionals, and ordinary citizens do not know enough science to value, appreciate, and rationally discuss it and the issues it poses. It happened in Britain in the late 1820s, and the upshot was the foundation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. U.S. scientists and politicians were shocked in the 1950s to discover that the Russians had successfully launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik; surveys showed that the average American knew very little science. The result was an intense drive for scientific literacy in the education system. Crises in funding for scientific research in the mid-1980s coupled with concerns that the “Asian tiger” ...

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