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The Public Likes Science

According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of adults in the US say science has had a positive effect on society. The survey also finds that only 3 percent of adults say science has had a negative effect, and 23 percent say it has yielded an equal mix of positive and negative effects.

White adults are more likely than African American and Hispanic adults to view science positively, and people who have a higher level of factual knowledge about science are especially disposed to think of science as a positive thing for society, Pew also finds. 

When those who have positive views on science are asked to elaborate, 56 percent mention medical advancements such as "disease eradication," "medical devices and new medications," and "cancer research," according to Pew. Another 23 percent mention the benefits of technology and computerization, and 14 percent highlight benefits for the environment.

On the other side of the spectrum, about 11 percent of those who have negative views on science or who see mixed effects of science on society mention concerns about scientists and scientific theories, such as scientific research being "contaminated by big business paying to have findings skewed in their favor to deceive the public."

In the next 20 years, 82 percent of the public expects scientific developments to make people's lives better, while 11 percent think new developments will make no difference and 6 percent expect such developments will make people's lives worse, Pew says. About 84 percent and 83 percent of white and Hispanic adults, respectively, and 74 percent of African American adults are optimistic that new scientific developments will improve lives.

Medical advances are top-most in people's minds here as well, Pew adds, with 60 percent of survey respondents referring to this topic when asked to think about developments in science that will make people's lives better.

When citing possible negative effects from science on society in the future, respondents mention technology and computerization, including automation in the workforce; and genetics, including concerns about cloning and "designer babies," Pew notes.