We’ve all had to make so many adjustments to Covid, not all of them to our liking. And yet Covid has brought out a few good things, the change in the 8 hours work day for one. Another is our trust in science. The Wellcome Trust, a charitable organization based in London, commissioned an international survey of how people viewed science and scientists. One of their areas of interest is public health, one reason being that public health policy and programs which usually come from governments cannot succeed without the public’s trust in science. What was surprising to many in view of some of the reactions to Covid was that as a whole trust in science has increased. The report that was issued showed that 80% of people from 113 countries trusted science either a lot or some. Roughly the same, about three fourth of the people surveyed (119,000), said they trusted scientists also either a lot or some. The percentage of people who said they trusted science a lot rose about 10% in East Asia, including China, Latin America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. In the United States, as one would expect, the picture is more complex. 54% of people said they trusted scientists a lot, an increase of 9% over the previous Wellcome Trust poll in 2018. While to no one’s surprise, trust in science follows party line, an important factor here is that more people trust science and scientists than trust government and what government say or ask. While that finding has big implications for policy makers, and I hope they will pay attention, the point is that trust in science is making small inroads despite our polarization.
That’s why I wanted to share this with you, because it’s easy to look at our divisions and not see the cracks where the light gets in—if I may borrow a Leonard Cohen’s lyric.