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Attitudes Towards Science

Posted by: Michael Mandel on March 08

Maybe this is something everybody already knows. I was leafing through the (pdf) pages of the new Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, from the National Science Foundation (Ok, I’m wierd), and I found some things that surprised me. The first one was about beliefs in astrology.


It looks like Europeans are far more likely (53%) to believe that astrology is scientific than Americans (32%). China is the least likely.

This surprising result is corroborated by the results of other questions.


Europeans are low on the percentage who supporting funding of research by the government. They are also low on the percentage who believe that the benefits of science outweigh the harm (52%). (The two surveys which cover the EU-25 were done in 2005, the one which covers the EU-15 was done in 2001).


Does this really accurately reflect the European attitude towards science? If so, it goes a long way towards explaining the weak growth.

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Reader Comments


March 8, 2006 10:19 PM

maybe it explains the dark ages as well.....

Jim Haggerty

March 9, 2006 08:35 AM

Interesting data. I think it would be a good question for Carl Bildt at and may open an interesting dialogue... He blogs about the Europeans falling further behind the USA in scientific research


March 9, 2006 09:50 AM

This will probably leave me tagged as a certifiable nut, but let me suggest that the Europeans aren't entirely wrong that divination is scientific. I've done a good bit of study into both divination and "magic", in terms of affecting the course of events through "spellcasting". I haven't the space here or inclination to get into the mechanics of it all (and only a century ago revealing such information required your death), but let me just say that research into String Theory and M-Theory (11-dimension string theory which turns the "strings" into a "membrane") produces results that suggest magic may very well tap into the strings/membranes and change the "vibrations" that run along them. I.e., magic has a scientific basis afterall.

Yes, I know you all think I'm insane now, but when you don't close your mind to possibilities, some very intriguing correlations start surfacing.

The problem with all this is that you aren't likely to make much profit off it (1-900 fortune-telling scams aside), so its relevance to an economic discussion is pretty minimal. On the other hand, who thought IBM was insane 15 years ago when they were trying to build memory systems out of holographs and crystals? We're likely to see this technology in our computers in the next 5-10 years; so "insanity" may very well turn profitable.


March 10, 2006 02:02 PM

The Chinese/Korean difference on fortune-telling is curious.

It seems those who see a dynamic changing economy, progress if you will, are more likely to believe in science.


March 13, 2006 08:28 PM

Of course Euros believe in crap like fortune telling and astrology. They don't believe in God anymore, but they still have that rather common human need (which drives scientists so nuts) to believe in SOMETHING. So they grab what they can to fill the holes.

Mike Mandel

March 15, 2006 09:17 AM

Jim: I'll take a look at Carl Bildt's stuff.

Brandon: But how are the Europeans doing in string theory? I believe that most of the world's leading string theorists are American (I just did a quick search).

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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