What makes people feel like science means something to them?

A group of protestors

Understanding personal identification with science using sociological methods

Stephen H. Jones, University of Birmingham.                
ORCID ID icon 0000-0003-2761-8882

There has long been great public and scientific interest in how much people know about, trust or engage with science. But a lot of people’s attitude toward science extends far beyond that, with people feeling that science gives meaning to some aspect of their lives.

This is reflected, too, in much popular coverage of science, with narratives about meaning, morality and purpose permeating science documentary programming.

This article looks at the different ways members of the public identify with science, and the reasons why they do this. It maps out four ways in which people come to identify with science: because they believe themselves to be ‘good at it’; because they see science and a template for living a good life; because they see science as a bulwark against error and religious superstitions; or because science reveals something about the ultimate reasons for human existence.

The article shows how science identification is not caused by people having a thorough knowledge of scientific methods or theories, but rather on cultural, political and religious influences. In doing this, the article highlights the cultural politics that those engaging in science communication have to navigate.

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