American public attitude on science and technology
Throughout history, the public perception on science and technology has not been stable.It has changed constantly and the fluctuation on the attitudes is still evident today.It is important to note that the public perceptions on scientific and technological advancements vary from one society to another.
Since the end of the Second World War, the first war to make use of sophisticated scientific technologies such as atomic bombs, there has been several scientific advancement and consequently changes in the public perception in the United States.
This is as a result of the massive research that was prompted by the events of the Second World War and the subsequent tensions of the cold war era (Mindell, pg 1). The attitudes of the Americans on scientific and technological advancements have always had far reaching impacts (National Academy of Engineering, pg 1). It affects the level to which the federal government funds for scientific research and development, the number of people especially college student willing to pursue careers in research and development the application of the new and better technologies that have been developed and the improvement of existing technologies.
There are varies factors that have been found to influence the perceptions and attitudes of the Americans towards certain technologies. These factors includes that knowledge about the specific technology held by the general public, optimisms of the technological advancement and the general public attitude towards the profession dealing with the technology. These factors have made comparison of attitudes and perceptions of societies from different backgrounds on certain scientific advancement difficult (Liao, pg 1).
In the 1970s, there was a growing concern in the United States due to the increased negative perception of the public on science and technology. The public were slowly losing confidence on research and development when compared to the situation in the Second World War where the Americans had full confidence on the ability of science. These increased concerns were prompted by the increased environmental awareness. The public was increasingly getting aware of the impacts of air pollution and the negative consequences of technological advancement.
There were reports on the mass media on the dangers associated with increased research and development of nuclear weapons and power plants, biotechnology research especially on the DNA, disposal of toxic industrial waste and massive use of pesticides and fertilizers in the plantations. Protests against science and technology were witnessed in the 1970s. This created a need for the National Science Board to embark on strategies of reducing the general cynicism towards science and technology in the United States (Pion and Mark, pg 303).
Despite this, compared to other societies around the world, the American society’s attitude favor science and technology. Most of the Americans believe that technological advancement makes them healthier and comfortable. Majority of the Americans today believes the scientists’ main aim is to make life easier for the ordinary Americans. Moreover, they believe that advancement in technology and its applications in their daily lives are interesting and create more opportunities for the future generations.
However, about half of the Americans believe that the modern society is over-dependent on science and technology. It is interesting to note that the more the public learn about the improvement in technology and become aware of its positive and negative effective, their attitude shifts towards favoring technological development. This explains the increased perception that though technological advancement may have harmful effects on the environment or degrade the sanctity of human life, the benefits outweigh the negative effects (Science and Engineering Indicators, Para 5).
However, this does not mean there are no concerns among the public on the increased dependence of science and technology among the Americans. The increased debates on climate change and global warming has been blamed to be associated with technological advancement in the second half of the twentieth century. But a good number of Americans believe science and technology is the solution to the environmental problems responsible for climate change.
The confidence held by the Americans on science and technology is due to the perception that technology was essential in the establishment of the United States as a world superpower. The supremacy of the United States military in the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and the confidence during the cold war, the gulf war and the current 21st war in Middle East has been attributed to science and technology. Americans therefore consider research and development as their greatest achievement in the 20th century (Miller, pg 274).
Despite the increased debate on the biotechnology especially genetically modified organisms, Americans are still weighing the options with majority being opposed to adoption of biotechnological advancement in food production. Biotechnology is not the only field of technology where the Americans are keenly listening to scientists to weigh their options. They are also closely monitoring research on global warming, space exploration and nuclear energy. In conclusion, the public perceptions on science and technology in America have changed progressively since the end of the Second World War.
It is important to note that the Americans are more confident with science and technology compared to other societies in the world. Moreover, the perception of the public largely depends on the knowledge about the technology. Work Cited Liao, Dan. , Jiang, Lingrui. , Palmer, David. , Liu, Xiaoming and McCutcheon, Allan. Attitude towards Science and Technology in European New Member Countries: A Cross-National Study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Association, Fontainebleau Resort, Miami Beach, FL,
Mindell, David. The science and technology of World War II. Retrieved on 7th June 2010 from: http://www. learnnc. org/lp/editions/nchist-worldwar/5. 3. Miller, J. D. “Public understanding of, and attitudes toward, scientific research: what we know and what we need to know. ” Public Understand. Sci. 13 (2004) 273–294 National Academy of Engineering (2002) Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology. Washington, DC: National Academy Press Pion, Georgine M. and Mark, W.
Lipsey. “Public Attitudes Toward Science and Technology: What Have the Surveys Told Us? ” The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 3 (1981), pp. 303-316 Science and Engineering Indicators. Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding, (2004). http://www. nsf. gov/statistics/seind04/c7/c7s3. htm. Sturgis, P. I. Brunton-Smith, and C. Fife-Schaw. “Public attitudes to genomic science: an experiment in information provision” Public Understanding of Science, 19(2) (2010): pp 166 – 180.