Scientists and Public Opinion

  • Sergei Kapitza


The basis for the scientists’ responsibility to influence public opinion comes from their professional knowledge. For ages this knowledge has been transferred to society through the educational system, for example, in schools and universities. Education is still the traditional and the main channel, not only for influencing public opinion, but also for forming and, in a very basic way, determining the way people think and act. One may assume that as the arms race is a long-term phenomenon, it will demand a long and systematic effort in educating the public on these matters. Thus, in considering the influence of scientists on these general socio-scientific issues, more attention needs to be given to basic education on these subjects than is usually done, by getting down to the fundamental values that govern the attitude and behaviour of people.


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  1. 1.
    World Health Organization, ‘Effects of Nuclear War on Health and Health Services’, Report of the International Committee of Experts in Medical Sciences and Public Health to implement Resolution WHA34.38 (Geneva, 1984).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Report by the Union of Concerned Scientists ‘Space-based Missile Defense’ (March, 1984).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    P.J. Crutzen and J.W. Birks, ‘The Atmosphere After a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon’, in Jeannie Peterson (ed.) The Aftermath (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983) pp. 73–96.Google Scholar

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© Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs 1985

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  • Sergei Kapitza

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