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Science communication

Watch humanist scientist Jim al-Khalili describe the need for us all to be aware of how science works
I think in recent years I’ve appreciated that it’s more than just because I enjoy communicating science that I have a duty to engage with wider society about science and why we do science and there are lots of reasons for that. I mean, it’s, there are the obvious reasons like making sure we develop and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, wider society needs to be better informed about science if in a democracy they’re going to make decisions about electing politicians who will deal with say climate change.
But also I think increasingly these days we are battling against forces which don’t value truth, don’t value evidence, don’t value rationalism, and scientists play a role here, it’s not all down to scientists to solve the world’s problems but scientists have a responsibility, we can not afford any longer to hideaway in our ivory towers, lock ourselves in the labs, and get on with what we do just because we need to understand how the world works, we also need to convey the importance of rational thinking, the way we do science, the way we gather evidence, that if I have a belief or an opinion or view or hypothesis, I need to test it, and if I discover that that isn’t the way things are, that that isn’t the truth, I need to be prepared to give it up, I need to be pare prepared to change my mind.
Scientists are not afraid to change their mind, they’re not afraid to say they were wrong or that they didn’t understand something and I think that’s a lesson that increasingly I feel is important to to spread to wider society.

Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is a professor at the University of Surrey. Author of a number of popular science books and presenter of science documentaries on television. Jim currently presents The Life Scientific on Radio 4 on Tuesday mornings, where he interviews prominent scientists about their life and work. He is a Vice President of Humanists UK.

Question: How important is it that everyone understands science and the role of the scientific method in improving human knowledge?

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