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April 14, 1993

Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method

Author Affiliations

Aurora, Colo

JAMA. 1993;269(14):1868-1869. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500140122053

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I would not describe this expository book by Bauer as a page turner, eagerly absorbed in one or two sittings. Nevertheless, it does fulfill its stated purpose, illustrating that a holistic view of science, technology, and society (the author abbreviates it STS) is necessary and useful to evaluate the place of science and technology in modern life.

Regarding scientific literacy, the proverb of American humorist Josh Billings might epitomize Bauer's viewpoint: "It is better to know nothing than to know what ain't so." The author notes that anyone's literacy is only measured by the degree to which it reflects current dogma; that itself is not cast in stone. As for science guiding humankind to the solution of age-old problems, that fond hope has been confounded by the fact that the practice of science is a human endeavor. Rather than change our behavior, we prefer to suppress knowledge that would lead