Knowledge, ignorance and the popular culture: Climate change versus the ozone hole.
Ungar, S. (2000a). Knowledge, ignorance and the popular culture: Climate change versus the ozone hole. Public Understanding of Science, 9(3), 297-312. Retrieved from http://pus.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/9/3/297
AbstractThis paper begins with the “knowledge-ignorance paradox”—the process by which the growth of specialized knowledge results
in a simultaneous increase in ignorance. It then outlines the roles of personal and social motivations, institutional decisions,
the public culture, and technology in establishing consensual guidelines for ignorance. The upshot is a sociological model
of how the “knowledge society” militates against the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Given the assumption of widespread
scientific illiteracy, the paper tries to show why the ozone hole was capable of engendering some public understanding and
concern, while climate change failed to do so. The ozone threat encouraged the acquisition of knowledge because it was allied
and resonated with easy-to-understand bridging metaphors derived from the popular culture. It also engendered a “hot crisis.”
That is, it provided a sense of immediate and concrete risk with everyday relevance. Climate change fails at both of these
criteria and remains in a public limbo.