“What are you watching, Dad?”
“Hey! Check out this pillow on the TV, isn’t it amazing that it could assuage all your brain diseases? They say that it contains these magic digital chips that radiate to degrade the blood clots in your vessels and prevent them from hardening!”
“No…That’s just the ad…I don’t think it can have that magic power.”
“But see this! There are actually people benefited from it! Look! Look! This old guy got cured even when he fainted due to the clot!”
“We have studied it in the lesson, Dad. It will not work. Those clots are the combination of several factors, how could you possibly treat them with a pillow? Besides, neither the frequency or the power of that chip is enough to break that clot, you will get you brain broken if it does!” “I don’t know and I don’t care about your biological theories…Look, it’s this cheap, so what if it doesn’t work? I am gonna buy it anyway.”
Is this conversation familiar to you? If you were to reflect upon the scenes you have with your parents, your grandparents and even your schoolmates from different departments, often things will turn out that you can’t discuss much of the detailed facts and mechanisms about biological stuff.
The misleading of the media can get beyond imagination. This phenomenon happens all the day and everywhere in China, regardless of the state, age or educational background of the person, especially in the old. They are often misled by the media when it comes to biological problems related to food, drink and health. The paradox thing here is that:
First, most people are often blocked by the paucity of scientific and accessible resources—most of them are just commercials. They buy things simply because they are cheap or that their friends have bought them as well.
Second, Even if some of the public have the resources to know more, they simply refuse to know about the true nature why these “magic products” don’t work.
A recently published study on Nature has debunked a series of incredible data. Covering 193 cities of 31 provinces in China, the study carried out a thorough survey of the public’s attitude toward GM (Genetically modified) food. Two problems were exposed through this process. On the one side, among all the huge amount of people, 41.4% of the participants were against eating or manufacturing the GM food. On the other side, though the reasons why these people reject GM food vary a lot (bioethics, food safety, environment protection, supervision, propagation by the media etc.), most of them didn’t even know what GM food was by saying that: Neither do I understand or care about what GM food was. If the president doesn’t eat that, I will do what he does.
An interesting thing is, most people don’t choose to believe in the government or the scientists. It’s fair to conclude that most people are discouraged by the reports on pervasive fake sciences and the traditions in China that constraints people’s thoughts, but one might want to focus more on how the cognitive gaps form and continue to enlarge?
At least in China (and probably other places as well), most people striving in scientific fields are overwrought by their researches in labs. Working out on scientific and foundational details without caring about the practical problems the society is facing has become a current. One can not blame those who refused to pay more attention on public and general issues, but which one can bring more good to the society? A high IF paper that is impossible for most people to understand or one good discussion that do much better in popularization of the depths of science in a more accessible manner?
Our team has found out this horrifying fact and this year, and we have put huge efforts into this so-called “CCC” project—the Cognitive gap of syn-bio Concepts in China.
Through this project, we’d like to investigate and find ways to tackle the two problems mentioned above: Why the cognitive distance is so large and why most people refuse to believe no scientific explanations but commercials?
By focusing on GM food, embryotic editing and diabetes & insulin, we had face-to-face conversations with people in 4 cities. Besides, we have analyzed the data, carried out important actions hoping to change the situation and have found a method that could
Together with the strenuous work, we want to appeal all efforts from the scientific field, the public and the government work together to diminish this cognitive distance that have existed in China and surely all other countries as well.
Cui, K., & Shoemaker, S. (2018). Public perception of genetically-modified (GM) food: A Nationwide Chinese Consumer Study. Npj Science Of Food, 2(1). doi: 10.1038/s41538-018-0018-4