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In this controversial essay, Carlos Elías addresses the worldwide phenomenon that is threatening the scientific and economic progress of Western countries. The rise and influence of magic and irrationality in the media, in social networks and at universities is a disturbing phenomenon: many Western students no longer want to pursue STEM (Science, Technologies, Engineering, and Math) careers. This lucid and well-written book addresses one of the key issues of public debate: the deteriorating state of science in Western countries and their governments, and its rise in Asian countries. The author compares two distinct models: the Spanish or Latin model, which closed the door on science with the Counter-Reformation, and that employed by a second group of countries where science was encouraged. Elías suggests that a similar development could now be taking place between Western countries (where the press, television and social science academics are becoming increasingly critical towards science) and Asia, where most prime ministers (and other politicians) are scientists or engineers.
This book is intended for STEM educators (both at secondary schools and universities), scientists and academics interested in scientific culture in the era of fake news.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Two worrisome themes are currently running through the West: a disturbing rise in fake news and an alarming loss of vocations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM subjects.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 2. Science in the Twenty-First Century

Abstract
The paradox that defines today’s world is that every day we depend more and more on science and technology, every day science knows more and more and explains the world to us better, but also every day people feel less and less appreciation for it.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 3. Is There a Decline in Science in the Western World?

Abstract
What is the state of science in the West? It’s a complex question. It is true that more and more scientific papers are published every day, but it is not clear that there is a large number of relevant discoveries, such as those made in the nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The last really important finding, in the sense of a milestone in the history of science, was the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953. But a year earlier, in 1952, a memorable discovery was made that demonstrates what science is like: the Hershey and Chase experiment showed that a chemical molecule like DNA (a polynucleotide) is everything we are as people and the heritage we have received from our ancestors.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 4. Reason on the Ropes

Abstract
Scientific American is the oldest continuously published monthly in the United States (it became monthly only in 1921), with 171 years of history. It includes among its authors the most important American scientists (including Albert Einstein). The October 2017 issue included a monograph with a provocative title, ‘Reason on the Ropes’. The issue analysed in just 10 pages how Western science was going into decline and, by contrast, how China was becoming stronger and stronger. The periodical highlighted two political tragedies—the election of Donald Trump and Brexit—that threaten science in the two most important research countries of the West: the United States and the United Kingdom.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 5. Science and Economics: A Complex Relationship

Abstract
The relationship between science and bourgeois capitalism is interesting, and there is no consensus on which is the most important for scientific and technological advancement: capitalism or state investment. By 1917, the German sociologist and economist Max Weber stated in his book (from a lecture).
Carlos Elías

Chapter 6. Western Intellectuality Against Science

Abstract
In 2011, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, together with the country’s leading business leaders, launched the STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—initiative, with the aim of graduating 10,000 more scientists and engineers each year in the United States, as well as obtaining 100,000 new STEM teachers.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 7. The Two Cultures and Their Influence on Thought

Abstract
Another most interesting aspect of the decline of science in the West is not so much the criticism from certain disciplines, but something far worse: ignorance. In Spain, for example, people can consider themselves educated without knowing anything of chemistry, physics or genetics, but they would not if they were unaware of authors of fiction or certain historical facts, most of which would be taken out of context.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 8. The Effect of a Humanities Culture on the Mainstream Media Industry

Abstract
There are two keys to understanding the impact on science by cinema or television—the main agents of mainstream culture: a denigration of the figure of the scientist and, on the other hand, an exaltation of myth and magic; that is, of the irrational and unscientific. But this is not new: it has its roots in the culture of literature-based humanities. Cinema or television fiction are descended from literature and theatre. And, since the beginnings of Western culture, those who are ‘artistic’ have not only despised science and knowledge but vilified it. The Greek playwright Aristophanes (444–385 BC) in his comedy The Clouds (first performed in 423 BC) ridiculed none other than Socrates: in the play, he is presented as hanging from a basket and looking up at the sky. He is accused of demagoguery and is laughed at for his thirst for knowledge and interest in astronomy as a science. Aristophanes, like today’s filmmakers, preferred myth to science.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 9. Publish or Perish

Abstract
Science, as well as method, is above all communication, with all the positive and negative aspects that this entails. When I am asked how I was able to study two disciplines as different as chemistry and journalism, I always answer: Why are they so different, if they both aspire to the same objective, to seek the truth and make it public? And, in addition, both professions demand great curiosity.
Carlos Elías

Chapter 10. Science in the Digital Society

Abstract
The building is located in one of the most central and exclusive areas of London, in Carlton House Terrace, close to Piccadilly, St. James’ Park and Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the British Prime Minister’s residence, Downing Street. The exterior is elegant and in the style of its neighbouring buildings, all Victorian mansions. A porch supported by two columns gives access to the interior, which combines ancient elements—pictures, books, instruments—with modern decoration. The whole, in my opinion, offers an image of both simplicity and sophistication.
Carlos Elías
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