The public is misinformed about many things. Sadly, this results in informed debate becoming rather difficult. One popular example is that of genetically modified food, where the science behind the issues is only really understood by the scientists, resulting in the public either having to have blind faith that the scientists know what they're talking about or blind faith in the anti-gm lobby knowing what they're talking about.

Obviously, neither of these options are terribly appealing. In an effort to resolve the issue, large numbers of glossy pamphlets have been produced telling us just how bad GM foods are and why we shouldn't listen to the scientists. In an effort to counteract this, Monsanto produced a series of adverts telling the public that it was stupid.

Unsurprisingly, the public mostly sided with the anti-GM groups on this one.

Many scientists will happily tell you that there is no chance of being able to have public debate regarding issues like this because the public is misinformed and so the whole thing is pointless. These scientists tend to either be unimaginative or arrogant (or often both). The idea of actually attempting to inform the public is sufficiently alien that suggesting it often causes confusion.

Popular science books tend to make some sort of effort here, but will usually only be read by people who have some background knowledge already. What's really needed is for scientists to be as adept at using the media as every other pressure group on the planet is. Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, is probably the best example of someone trying to do this. Sadly, he usually manages to come across as being an arrogant git, which is not necessarily productive.

The public is going to be misinformed as long as scientists aren't making decent efforts to inform them. Sitting and whining about it is not likely to help much.

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