The Degree of Knowledge
How much time does science get in the media where you live? Or does the appearance of science amount to little more than mad scientists in Hollywood movies and advertisement for skin lotion? Then ask - How many real science journalists do you think work in the media?
If the answer to the first is less than 5 minutes per day and 'few' for the latter, then the chances are that your society does not really appreciate knowledge. Knowledge tends to be derived from scientific research.
Compare media cover of science with the time slot that sports get. Alternatively to soaps or really brainless commercials. What does that say about what the broadcasters think is worthwhile on the ether? Or think about the money behind these ads.
I'd argue that deeds speak louder than words. Leaders can say that science is important, but we shouldn't believe them if we cannot see that mirrored in their actions. It's a bit analogous to the climate debate - Can a person with 13 cars and 7 homes rightly claim to care for the environment?
Or when people try to change the appearance of facts - Do we believe that they appreciate knowledge?
Know how and understanding are importing for staking out the best course leading to a better life for the coming generations. I think this is especially relevant for our energy situation, the environment, dealing with international relations, or the current economy.
Science - which embodies both a set of rules for deriving understanding through research and the knowledge itself - is important for improved knowledge. Hopefully scientific progress may lead to new and improved energy technologies, but it is not sufficient to derive advanced understanding if it's limited to a few scientists. This is especially true if you live in a democracy.
A true democracy demands an enlightened people if the leaders are to follow the public opinion and yet stake out the best course for the future. The failure of enlightenment or democracy can both be quite scary.
Take an example of lynching - one could argue that it's a 'democratic' action when a mob carries vigilante actions. But it's still scary. And I'd say it's in truth not really democratic either.
Lack of knowledge is scary, just as lack of democracy.
So, how is the people enlightened? Schools certainly play a role, but in a rapidly changing society, one cannot rely on the knowledge learned once in the youthful past.
So how is knowledge updated? Books perhaps? Or through the media? So let me ask you - Do you really think the media sees it as its role to propagate knowledge and insight? Next time you meet a journalist, ask them about the Maxwell equations, the DNA, Sulfur, bubble sort algorithms, the function of the milt, or what probability distribution functions are. Or just ask them where Estonia is.
You can also ask a politician the same questions. I reckon presidents ought to pass a national test. After all, you need to pass a test to drive a car.
You should also demand from the scientists that they are better at communicating their know how. And you should demand the news networks to also provide insight into how other nations and cultures think and to show how the rest of the world perceives your own nation.
How do you think the presidential and V.P. candidates regard knowledge, if they either present misleading claims, focus on irrelevant aspects, or downright lies? With contempt? Or that politics has nothing to do with reality - or the knowledge thereof?
The lack of knowledge has lead to unnecessary wars. It leads to paranoia and fear. It's not the fear that is scary, but the fact that it is created in the first place really is. Keep the heads cool and look for the best solutions. Listen to the knowledge and science. But this may be hard in a society that doesn't value knowledge and understanding. And it's easy to see which societies these are.