chapter  16
17 Pages

The Cultures of Public Understanding of Science— Defi ning Cultural Distance


Scientifi c ideas, laws, information, data and methods generated by specialists through what is termed scientifi c practice follow a complex trajectory to reach the masses (Raza et al. 2002). Even after revalidation and acceptance within the scientifi c community, a scientifi c idea takes a fairly long time to become part of the cognitive structure of a given cultural set of common citizens. The notions that are today considered commonsense by a majority of citizens all over the world have taken a few centuries to become an integral component of the worldview of a sizeable population segment. The revolution of the earth, absence of celestial spheres to hold heavenly bodies, bacteria and viruses causing disease and lightning caused by charged clouds are but a few examples of the lag between discovery and its percolation among the lay public. In recent times the speed, spread, effi cacy and effi ciency of communication channels has increased the velocity of propagation of scientifi c information, and acceptance of new technologies among the masses has also increased (Stamm, Clark, and Eblacas, 2000).