Assumptions of the Deficit Model Type of Thinking: Ignorance, Attitudes, and Science Communication in the Debate on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
- 958 Downloads
This paper spells out and discusses four assumptions of the deficit model type of thinking. The assumptions are: First, the public is ignorant of science. Second, the public has negative attitudes towards (specific instances of) science and technology. Third, ignorance is at the root of these negative attitudes. Fourth, the public’s knowledge deficit can be remedied by one-way science communication from scientists to citizens. It is argued that there is nothing wrong with ignorance-based explanations per se. Ignorance accounts at least partially for many cases of opposition to specific instances of science and technology. Furthermore, more attention needs to be paid to the issue of relevance. In regard to the evaluation of a scientific experiment, a technology, or a product, the question is not only “who knows best?,” but also “what knowledge is relevant and to what extent?.” Examples are drawn primarily from the debate on genetic engineering in agriculture.
KeywordsDeficit model Ignorance Attitudes Science communication Genetic engineering Nanotechnology
This work has been financially supported by the Academy of Finland. During working on this paper I have greatly benefited from discussions with and specific suggestions made by Helena Siipi. I want to thank Rebecca Whitlock, attendees who commented on my presentation at the WCB2010 in Singapore, and participants of the PCRC and TMSC weekly seminars at the University of Turku, Finland, for useful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Three anonymous reviewers of Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics made helpful points and suggestions. Remaining errors are mine.
- Dickson, D. (2005). The case of ‘deficit model’ of science communication. Science and Development Network. http://www.scidev.net/en/editorials/the-case-for-a-deficit-model-of-science-communic.html. Accessed on November 17, 2010.
- EEA = European Environment Agency. (2001). Late lessons from early warnings: The precautionary principle 1896–2000. http://reports.eea.eu.int/environmental_issue_report_2001_22/en/Issue_Report_No_22.pdf. Accessed on November 17, 2010.
- European Commission. (2005). Special eurobarometer 224: Europeans, science and technology.Google Scholar
- European Commission. (2008a). Special eurobarometer 295: Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment. Google Scholar
- European Commission. (2008b). Qualitative study on the image of science and the research policy of the European Union.Google Scholar
- European Commission. (2010). Special eurobarometer 340: Science and technology.Google Scholar
- Gaskell, G., et al. (2006). Europeans and biotechnology in 2005: Patterns and trends: Eurobarometer 64.3. http://www.ec.europa.eu/research/press/2006/pdf/pr1906_eb_64_3_final_report-may2006_en.pdf. Accessed on November 17, 2010.
- Gaskell, G., Allum, N., & Stares, S. (2003). Europeans and biotechnology in 2002: Eurobarometer 58.0. Google Scholar
- Gaskell, G., et al. (1999). Worlds apart? The reception of genetically modified foods in Europe and the US. Nature, 285, 384–387.Google Scholar
- Hails, R., & Kinderlerer, J. (2003). The GM public debate: Context and communication strategies. Nature Reviews, 4, 819–825.Google Scholar
- Hansson, S. O. (2008). Science and pseudo-science. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/. Accessed on September 27, 2010.
- INRA (Europe)—ECOSA. (2000). Eurobarometer 52.1.: The Europeans and biotechnology.Google Scholar
- Irwin, A., & Wynne, B. (Eds.). (1996). Misunderstood science? The public reconstruction of science and technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Jones, M. (2008). Fearing the fear of nanotechnology. Nature (Dec. 9), 1290.Google Scholar
- Louët, S. (2001). EC study reveals an informed public. Nature, 19, 15–16.Google Scholar
- Marris, C., et al. (2001). Public perceptions of agricultural biotechnologies in Europe. Final report of the PABE research project. Commissioned by the EC.Google Scholar
- Martin, S., & Tait, J. (1992). Attitudes of selected public groups in the UK to biotechnology. In J. Durant (Ed.), Biotechnology in public: A review of recent research (pp. 28–41). London: Science Museum.Google Scholar
- Midden, C., et al. (2002). The structure of public perceptions. In M. W. Bauer & G. Gaskell (Eds.), Biotechnology: The making of a global controversy (pp. 203–223). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- National Science Board. (2004). Science and engineering indicators 2004. Two volumes. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (volume 1, NSB 04-1; volume 2, NSB 04-1A).Google Scholar
- National Science Board. (2010). Science and engineering indicators 2010. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (NSB 10–01).Google Scholar
- Pardo, R., & Calvo, F. (2006). Are Europeans really antagonistic to biotech? Nature, 24(4), 393–395.Google Scholar
- Peters, H. P. (2000). From information to attitudes? Thoughts on the relationship between knowledge about science and technology and attitudes toward technology. In M. Dierkes & C. von Grote (Eds.), Between understanding and trust: The public, science and technology (pp. 265–286). Amsterdam: Harwood.Google Scholar
- Royal Society. (1985). The public understanding of science: Report of the royal society’s ad hoc group. London: The Royal Society.Google Scholar
- Royal Society. (2004). Science in society report. London: The Royal Society.Google Scholar
- Walton, D. (1992). Nonfallacious arguments from ignorance. American Philosophical Quarterly, 29(4), 381–387.Google Scholar
- Whiteside, K. H. (2006). Precautionary politics: Principle and practice in confronting environmental risk. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Wynne, B. (1996). May the sheep safely graze? A reflexive view of the expert-lay knowledge divide. In S. Lash, B. Szerszynski, & B. Wynne (Eds.), Risk, environment and modernity: Towards a new ecology (pp. 44–83). London: Sage.Google Scholar