Mobile phone risks clouded in science
People are confused and apathetic about mobile phone radiation, and the situation can be partly traced back to science classrooms, says Clare Christensen, a recent PhD graduate from Queensland University of Technology.
"Science is supposed to be about certainty - at least that's what they tell us in school - but people are seeing media reports with scientists disagreeing over things such as the possible health risks with mobile phones,'' Dr Christensen said.
"There is a cynicism that develops when people see scientists as having different 'opinions', but of course it's not about opinion. Scientists are always disagreeing - always have and probably always will."
Dr Christensen talked with people aged 18 to 26 about their mobile phones and how they saw the possible risks in the light of contradictory news reports.
In focus group discussions, they initially talked about how useful mobile phones were but this changed when they were shown a media report on two Australian studies.
The first found double the rate of cancer in mice exposed to mobile phone radiation and the second found no change in cancer rates among exposed mice.
"Social networking and peer pressure issues outweighed health issues because the scientific evidence is seen as contradictory and uncertain," Dr Christensen said.
"The news media are not giving us very much information on how the research is set up and why the findings from one study differ markedly from another.
"At the same time, it seems people aren't in a hurry to find out for themselves. They could do an internet search to gather information, but they simply don't. The search would not yield a definitive answer but they would at least be more aware of the risks."
Dr Christensen said a greater emphasis on discussion and realistic inquiry work in schools would likely lead to a genuine interest in the science of issues such as mobile phone radiation, global warming, cloning, medical procedures and genetically modified foods.
"Very few people I spoke to had discussed contemporary issues of science in the classroom,'' she said.
"The trouble is, we're not conditioned to discuss science at school.
It's an authoritarian model with this over-riding preoccupation with getting the right answers."
- Sandra Hutchinson, QUT media officer
QUT | News
My kids' senior science book was a disgrace. It stared by looking at scientific method in all its boring detail. They were both put off science from day one.
I started my love of science by blowing up things and my teacher crushing a tin can right in front of me! Wow! How did he do that with a Bunsen burner and a bit of water?!
Star wars exhibit has come to Sydney Power House Museum of technology.
Wow! off to see that next week!-MA