Spaniards revere science but most only understand elementary concepts

Spaniards revere science but most only understand elementary concepts

A large majority of the population regularly follows scientific information and issues related to science and technology are part of the daily conversations of almost half of Spaniards. Among other reasons, because science is perceived by a vast majority as the most objective, truthful and valid knowledge that can be had, as the engine of progress and well-being and the main way to respond to all the problems of this century.

This is clear from the study on Scientific culture in Europe carried out by the BBVA Foundation, which, although it reveals that Spaniards enshrine the potential of science and scientists, also shows that the majority only understand elementary scientific concepts and issues such as the usefulness of antibiotics or the reason for climate change are beyond understanding of more than half of the population.

Little scientific knowledge

The study, carried out through surveys of a representative sample of the population of legal age in Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom (1,500 people per country), indicates that only 36% of Spaniards have “high” knowledge of scientific concepts. In other words, just over a third of those surveyed knew how to correctly identify at least seven of the ten statements they were asked as true or false, while in Germany six out of ten succeeded.

And, despite the social confidence that they arouse, it does not seem that Spaniards are too familiar with the great scientists of all time, and even less with women scientists. When asked about important scientists, 46% cite Albert Einstein, followed at a great distance by Isaac Newton (26%), Marie Curie (22%), Severo Ochoa (15%) or Charles Darwin (12%), while that Santiago Ramón y Cajal barely receives 7% of mentions despite the fact that 2022 was declared the “Cajal Year” and his contribution in an area as topical as neuroscience.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal in his observatory

Only 7% of Spaniards cite Santiago Ramón y Cajal among the great scientists

Other sources

All in all, Spain emerges as the country with a population that is most favorable to science, with Spaniards being the most convinced that science can provide an answer to the great problems of this century, that thanks to science, health continuously improves of people, fascinating aspects of nature are revealed or superstitions and fears of the past are reduced.

In all countries, and notably in Spain, a vast majority of citizens have high expectations that solar energy, biotechnology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, the Internet, space exploration, robotics and artificial intelligence will to improve their lives. More reservations show regarding the impact that nuclear energy or big data may have.

Spaniards also rely on scientific research to prolong their years of life in good health, face pandemics, obtain clean and abundant sources of energy, or even solve the challenge of climate change. On the other hand, they do not believe that their role will be as relevant when it comes to solving social problems such as poverty, inequality or wars.

More confidence in science than in democracy

According to the report carried out by the BBVA Foundation, Spain also stands out for being the country, of the four analyzed, where the greatest value is given to medicine, science and technology, areas that arouse more trust and support from the population than democracy and the rule of law and far more so than religion, which receives a score of 3.6 on a scale of 10.

And of 11 professions considered, doctors, scientists and engineers are the ones that receive the highest score and confidence (7.5; 7.1 and 6.6, respectively), while religious and political (3.1) rank in the last place.


Politicians are the worst professional group considered by Spaniards, according to a BBVA Foundation study

Alejandro Martinez Velez / EP

In fact, six out of ten Spaniards are in favor of scientific research being controlled by the scientists themselves and not by society, and 95% prefer that no limits be placed on scientific development for ethical or religious reasons. In this sense, while in Germany 85% of those surveyed believe that ethics should set limits to scientific advances, in Spain only 57% support this statement.

The Spanish also show a more critical vision regarding the support that companies, public authorities and society in general grant to scientific development.

More scientific culture among young people

The positive perception of science is greater among those who define themselves as “on the left”

However, the level of closeness, familiarity and knowledge of science varies greatly depending on the age and educational level of the population. The positive perception of science and scientific culture is higher among young people, it increases as people’s level of education does or their level of religiosity decreases. According to the BBVA Foundation report, the positive perception of science and the expectations about its potential is also higher among those who define themselves as “on the left” than among those who declare themselves “on the right”.

However, the idea that science is outside religious beliefs or the ideology of people predominates, and even among those who declare themselves believers, the visions of science on the origin of the universe and of being are largely established. human. 90% of Spaniards believe that “human beings evolved from earlier animal species”, compared to 9% (21% in Germany) who consider that “God created human beings more or less in their current form”.

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