Now that the question has been proved to exist no matter the locations or the ages of the interviewee, there’re still problems underlying the intricate phenomenon. Why do they refuse to be interviewed at all? (No matter what they are doing)
After several group meetings following all the finished street interviews, we had another discussion with Dr. Yuan, and the things we discovered may turn out to be as simple but also hard for anyone to imagine.
The occasions involved in our interview result can be easily divided into a few categories:
1) The misleading of the media
2) The Panic caused by the ignorance
3) The intrisinc confliction against anything that’s not natural. (The Chinese tradition)
Although our research didn’t cover up to a few hundred objects, we did obtain valuable experiences through all these conversations, which is something one can never get through online questionnaires.
After talking to these people, we have the impression that most of them are befuddled by three problems. The first thing is that most people in mainland China simply feel panic about something they don’t know about and what they usually do is that they refused our interviews without even looking at us—probably because there are too much frauds in the modern society. However, this is likely to be different from cases outside mainland of China. In countries like the US, people may feel the same sort of panic or fear about the unknown. But if we tell them that the biological knowledge is something good to understand and will not do harm to them, they are probably more likely to accept the interview and listen to your description.
Another possible reason is that the Chinese tradition still gets in the way of people’s minds for generations. Most people, no matter they are located in the mainland or Taiwan, simply because things in the tradition makes them believe that everything kept in their natural state is for the best. Although often one cannot tell us why genetically modified foods are sure to be harmful, he or she insisted eating natural foods.
The last reason is probably that other people are somehow misled by the media from two aspects. These days, it’s the sensational news about TV/movie stars that the media are concerned about, and this has decreased the possibility for people to get more information about the true nature of science. Another reason is that even some of the media may cover synthetic biology, they often tend to cause panic to the audiences rather than propagating facts.
Based on the case when we talked with the military gentleman, we have the strong belief that what our CCC project is doing and what we hope the society should be doing is no doubt meaningful and certainly more and more people will have a clearer understanding of the scientific nature of the things related to their daily life—a great way to minimize the cognitive gap between the public and the science workers.
Although it could be frustrating to have all these problems on the table, we were still sanguine since we were actually making progresses toward reducing this gigantic cognitive distance, and the next step will be taking some serious actions.