J Med Ethics 28:56 doi:10.1136/jme.28.1.56

Gene Technology and Social Acceptance

W P Von Wartburg, J Liew. University Press of America Inc, 1999, US$41.50, pp 338. ISBN 076181325X

Over the past 15 years, since the publication of Walter Bodmer's report for the Royal Society, the public understanding of science (PUS) has become a positive industry in the UK. Initially intended by the natural scientists to foster public acceptance of science, it has gradually drawn on a longer and deeper academic tradition in Britain of the social studies of science. Some of that social science research predicted the recent “moral panic” over genetically modified (GM) crops and food, but both natural scientists and governments have held social science in low esteem for many years, so it went unremarked at the time.

The hypothesis of those who launched PUS was that the public was merely deficient in factual knowledge and that public acceptance of science could be improved simply by setting out “the facts”. Social studies of science had demonstrated the vacuity of this “deficit model”, both theoretically and empirically, long before the GM …

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