Neuron Culture

Matthew Nisbet says maybe, but not by much.


n the U.S., there is often the false assumption that Europeans are somehow more engaged and supportive of science than Americans. Yet, as I discuss in several studies and as I have written about in articles, instead of science literacy, the same generalizable interaction between values, social identity, and media portrayals drive European perceptions of science debates. Indeed, cross-national survey studies show that while science remains the most widely admired and respected institution in American society, Europeans are far more ambivalent about the costs, risks, and benefits of science than their American counterparts.


  1. #1 l'Eurohomme
    March 2, 2009

    I wonder what Matthieu de Nisbet, Mat von Nischbecht and Matteo Nisbettini think about this?

    Mais non! We are not blessed with (or by) these giants: our experts on Framing Science study pgis, cwos, sehep, braley, trunips and other corps as part of an Argiculture course. They don’t attend theological college.

    Oh, oh, woe, despair, will enlightenment be forever denied us?

  2. #2 humorix
    March 2, 2009

    If foreign countries open your borders, change your currency, ruins you and invades you … you cannot say any more much to choose.

  3. #3 Cannonball Jones
    March 2, 2009

    OK, I know it’s not indicative of attitudes towards science as a whole in my country (Scotland) but at the end of my street there are a few billboards, usually plastered with ads for cars, or more recently a giant Iggy Pop selling his soul by hawking car insurance. However, one of them is currently a giant ad simply promoting science – not anything specific about science or for a specific company – just the Scottish Government saying “Be Creative – Try Science”. It gave me a warm glow in my heart when I saw it, will have to get a photo before it disappears.

  4. #4 Coturnix
    March 2, 2009

    If you ask questions about some very basic scientific facts, you will probably not see too much of a difference. But I don’t think this reflects the attitudes.

    In my experience, generalized – there are exceptions of course:

    In the USA: trying to engage someone to chat about a scientific topic results in a) eye-roll, b) avoidance of topic. If forced, it has to be done at 3rd grade level, motivates closed-minded opposition to anything you say and results in no further understanding.

    In Europe: you go into a bar and the local drunk is reading The Selfish Gene. You say something about the wrongness of the genes-eye view and you get a discussion, at high-school or college level, showing that the drunk has read his Charles Pierce. And although he may have a lot of facts wrong and a lot of poor understanding, he is interested, engaged, listening with an open mind, and usually goes away with an increased understanding of the topic.

    Is it the better educational background, as even the bad students retain something? Or is it generally more interest and open-mindedness? Or is it national pride in intellectual accomplishments (just ask a Serb on the street about Tesla, and you’ll get a decent biography and explanation what Tesla invented)? Or just the lack of US anti-intellectualism?

  5. #5 MikeB
    March 2, 2009

    I wish the drunks in the pubs I go to had read Dawkins or Pierce. Unfortunately, they can barely read the Sun…anti-intellectualism is alive and well in Europe as well. How else can you explain Melanie Philips?

  6. #6 Paul Murray
    March 2, 2009

    My impression was that the woos just had a different set of superstitions, is all. Most notably: Catholicism instead of evangelical fundamentalism.

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