Englert, Y. (ed.): Philosophical Pluralism in European Decision regarding Bioethics., EC DG XII Biotec Programme Project 960656.

The Paradigm of Reason

Olaf Diettrich

1. Introduction

There is an ongoing conflict between those how have different views on the chances and risks of biotechnology, on who should decide on what, who should control whom and on where all this should be discussed best. Partially this conflict is highly political or even ideological, i.e. positions are determined by interests or are even resistant at all to both changing interests and arguments. Partially however it is felt (or at least hoped) that these conflicts are negotiable. It is deeply rooted understanding in our culture, that many conflicts are based on misunderstandings, lack of appropriate information or insufficient intellectual problem management - i.e. on a lack of rationality. We believe that even diverging interests could be rationalised, at least in principle, by means of legitimizing discourses (though, as shown by Michel Foucault, many of these discourses are discourses of power rather than of reason). This culminates in the wide-spread reputation of all efforts towards rationalization. The role of reason, interests and of the public debate on reason and interests are discussed here in the context of biotechnology.

2. How reasonable is reason?

Rational is an attribute of decisions. Decisions are called rational (a) if they are made purely on the basis of achieving certain previously defined aims and (b) if all relevant information is considered. The latter is nearly never possible. So, decisions in most cases reflect only preselected information.

Highest rationality is attributed to decisions which are based on scientifically acquired information. Here as well holds that information cannot be complete. So, also scientifically based decisions depend on what information was selected. Many people however tend to believe that the scientific quality of information may compensate its incompleteness. This is often used when political decisions are defended by reference to brilliant but necessarily incomplete and preselected scientific expertise.

Least rationality is attributed to what we call prejudices, i.e. views and decisions based upon evidently incomplete and inappropriate information. Nevertheless prejudices can be as robust as highly qualified scientific theories. Views and opinions once they are established tend to immunize themselves regardless of what they are based upon. This is part of our phylogenetic heritage. In many, particularly dangerous, situations it is vital to come to quick decisions, even if these are not optimal, but it is often less urgent to correct the decision in cases we have been, for example, over-cautious. If we see the tail of a tiger behind a tree we are well-advised to make off. To check afterwards whether the tail was connected to a real tiger or not may be interesting but not urgent. Therefore we developed the general tendency towards quick 'prejudices', but we show not hurry to correct them. So, to stick at prejudices is not always a sign of lacking intelligence or education - it is just part of our nature.

This is why it is so difficult to convince people of new views and ideas if these views and ideas compete with existing and well established ones. A consequence is the importance of children's education: everything they are told falls into a more or less virgin mind and has not to replace existing knowledge and views.

The mechanism by means of which established views protect themselves against 'suspect novelty' is not always direct rejection (for example by discrediting the sources of information concerned). It rather works through specific interpretation of the information concerned in the light of what is established. I.e., we try to transform information as long as possible into confirmation of what we know. Further to this, information as such has no absolute and predefined effect. The modification of views which information might bring about is the result of how the information concerned is interpreted. This has a biological analogue: The classical biological view is that the genotype of an organism determines its phenotype. The genome, so the general saying goes, comprises all information necessary for the construction of the organism. Actually, however, the genome by itself is unable to effect anything. It rather needs what is called the 'epigenetic system', a kind of physiological device in order to be interpreted and translated into phenotypic structures. Similar applies to information. It needs existing views to be interpreted and transferred into modified views. The notion of information defining its own effect corresponds to the notion of the genom being the 'blueprint' of the genotype.

A consequence is that the effect of information campaigns can hardly be assessed on grounds alone of the information used. It happens often enough (particularly in biotechnology) that what was started hopefully in the beginning turned out to be counterproductive at the end..

A factor often neglected in analysing the rational roots of public opinion is the perception of individual relevance of information. People may afford nearly any view on matters which do not affect their individual interests. Accordingly diverging views will be found in these cases. People, however, will hesitate to bring about and articulate a certain view if they feel that they have to 'pay' for it. Example: whether our view on the risks of genetically modified foodstuff or of the deliberate release of GMOs is wrong or right has no direct influence on our way of living as long as traditional foodstuff is available and as long as we are not a farmer who's commercial interest is involved. These are the cases where people may well run the risk of taking more ideological positions. As to banning genetic cancer research, however, people will apply more sophisticated thinking for anybody will potentially depend on the consequences concerned. This is confirmed by the EUROBAROMETER opinion poll. Similar applies for public interest groups. Their views will depend on whether the matters concerned will affect their own clientele or not.

This picture gets an additional dimension if people refer not only to their own interests but also to the interests of other people. Such a behaviour is called social as far as the consequences are concerned, and ethical as far as the underlying motives are concerned. To identify social behaviour is relatively simple. But there is no general indicator for ethical behaviour. A particular indicator is the engagement in other people's interests if it is accompanied by a neglect of one's own interests. "Someone who pays for other people can hardly be an (unethical) egoist". However, there is a certain pragmatic understanding that social behaviour has to be considered positif independent of whether it is ethical or not. This leads eventually to a social 'camouflage' of unethical behaviour: if you find enough people of the same egoistic interests you can found a party, a trade union or any other kind of public interest group and you can follow your own interest on behalf as well of other people's interests. This leads to the paradox that a behaviour which is individually unethical may well be ethical from the collective point of view.

A third dimension is opened when interests groups, once they have developed a certain power, infrastructure and popular basis, will eventually achieve the status of what one could call a political individual which would like to survive as any other individual. In this case they will design their arguments and strategies according to the requirements of survival rather than according to the principles and views from which they started. UK Labour party, for example, will hardly dissolve if they should find out that Tories have adopted all their aims and arguments. Nor will semi-professional anti-gene campaigners retire if their actual demands have been met. This is confirmed by industrial experiences made in America. Companies which have been confronted with environmental groups hoped to solve the conflict by means of following the demands concerned -- until they found out that the list of demands were elongated endlessly step by step.

The problematique of rational approaches in social affairs was underestimated for a long time also in economics. Most lines of economics are based on the assumption of rational behaviour. What usually is neglected are 'the non-economic roots of economic behaviour' (central topic of a conference the European Commission organised in 1981). At the level of the consumer, it is assumed that within the constraints of actual income and prices, the most preferred pattern of consumption is chosen. By assumption, this choice is rational from the perspective of the consumers preferences. It is rational from society's perspective, if society considers an individual to be the best judge of what is in his own best interest, i.e. if the notion of individualism is accepted. Unfortunately it is difficult to bring the micro- and the macro-aspect in line with each other as shown by Kenneth Arrow's impossibility theorem saying that it is generally impossible to use individual preferences for alternative organizations of society, to produce a social ranking that could be used as a representation of these alternatives.

3. The shift from the rational to the social paradigm in human cultural evolution

It is widespread understanding that rationality has a value per se which can be derived from the success of rationality which in turn is due to the fact that the world itself has a kind of rational structure. From this, then, we conclude retrogressively that cognitive methods can survive only when being ratiomorph. This reflects the allegation that rationality results from evolutionary cognitive adaptation to the real world (Campbell speaks in terms of "natural-selection-epistemology"). This, eventually, leads to the widespread (though now diminishing) belief in the overwhelmingly positive potential of science rooted primarily in our general believe in the power of rational thinking.

This line of thinking, however, is not imperative. The high reputation rationality has enjoyed since the days of the enlightment, particularly in the context of science and technology, is mainly based on man's decision to favour just those values (such as the physical mastering of nature) which can be satisfied only by means of rational methods. The development of these methods, in turn, stimulated technology based cultural achievements such as telecommunication, which, in turn generated incentives for further research in this direction. Cultures where the achievement of a good relationship with God ranks above the acquisition of material goods and technological achievements, may less depend on the extension of rational skills. This holds rather generally: there is an inherent co-evolution between all means and their application in general behaviour, cognition and culture as well as in organic life. It refers to rationality and control of nature (or more particularly: basic research and technological applications). It refers to biological limbs and the rise of manual intelligence, to visual sense organs and the development of space-time perception, and so on. None of these tools would make any sense or could be evaluated except in the context of the applications with which they had evolved together. Particularly it cannot be said that species with rational capabilities would dominate necessarily all other species. With a view to the large number of unsolved human problems based primarily on a lack of social coherence rather than of scientific knowledge, it cannot be excluded that societies specialised in intuitive (and therefore irrational) social problem management would, in the long run, be better off than societies with a high scientific standing but without the necessary feeling for what the social consequences of science could be.

This can be derived also from another line of thinking. For a long time in human history, the world man had to cope with was the physical environment and physical were the problems man had to master in order to survive. The fight against cold, hunger and disease dominated human striving for ages culminating eventually in modern science and technology solving nearly all of our classical problems. As to the scientific possibilities available, mankind is largely saturated. With increasing social communication, however, the relevant environment is shifting more and more from the physical to the social environment opening by this an entirely new set of requirements. Looking at the course of one of our days, it is obvious that we spend most of our efforts to meet social boundary conditions, such as to make money or to find acceptable balances with other peoples' interests, rather than to grapple directly with physical needs. Even if we deal as scientists explicitly with the physical structure of our environment, we mainly do so in order to survive in the academic rather than in the physical world. In the long term this may reduce the general curiosity about scientific-technological issues and the perception of the physical environment in favour of a sharper comprehension for societally relevant matters. Under these aspects, the high strategic importance we attribute to scientific and technological capabilities is a relic from times where the mastery of nature was the prevailing requisite for survival. Nowadays, most of the problems we have and even more of those we will have in future are social in character or can be solved only by social measures. So it may well be possible that the (Occidental) cultural dominance of the science of nature and of rational thinking which followed the religious paradigm is a fading episode in man's history replaced by what one could call the societal paradigm.

I would hesitate to see in the present widespread anti science movement, as manifested particularly in the field of nuclear energy or biotechnology, a first indication for a paradigmatic shift in the sense discussed here. On the one hand, these attitudes refer to fears and concerns about fatal applications or otherwise risky consequences related to mismanagement, lack of control or neglecting the non-renewable character of many resources, rather than to a general re-evaluation of the goals to be achieved by science. On the other hand, however, the fact that science is raised at all as an issue on the public agenda makes it clear that science is going to shift from being a pure survival tool such as agriculture was, towards one of the societal "enzymes" which constitute the mechanisms of social development as described by N. Luhmann (1).

From all this follows that the selection forces we are subject to are social in character, not physical. The world we live in is first of all a social world. This applies even to those problems which are obviously physical in character such as the environment to be protected. What does that mean? In all nature one can find what could be called the phenomenon of risk homeostasis (5). Species, individuals or societies which have developed a new technique to solve a special problem in order to reduce the risks related to it, usually exploit the new possibility in a way that the total risk they are confronted with will rise again, after a certain time, to the previous level; the ruthless exploitation of strategic resources, so to say. A typical example is the car driver who uses the anti-lock brake not in order to reduce the risk of driving but to drive faster and more riskily. Insurance companies have reported that ABS drivers have sometimes an even higher accident rate than ordinary drivers. This, unfortunately, would hold even if an ingenious invention would allow us to cut in half the total environmental output of all production. After a while, I am afraid, we would take that opportunity to double our production.

For the time being one of the most severe difficulties mankind has ever been confronted with is environmental pollution which is no doubt physical in character. Even this, notwithstanding, is first of all a social problem as it requires socially reasonable responses diminishing the causal output rather than scientific efforts. Scientific solutions, however ingenious and effective they may be, cannot eliminate the mechanisms of risk homoeostasis, i.e. they cannot prevent a counter-productive increase in the detrimental production so that, after a while and despite all technical environment protection skills we have, the old pollution values will be reached again - if not even more. Unfortunately there are many similar problems where the often fascinating scientific success in fighting them prevents us from looking at the very, i.e. the societal, solution. This holds particularly for biotechnology. A dreadful and very delicate example is the food and agricultural help for the most starving overpopulated regions in our world, if this aid will be used to produce new starvation in the form of new children. This, again, is a social and not a physical problem. To keep world population and world resources in balance requires to control demographic data by means of social measures rather than to enlarge the world resources by means of scientific efforts. In many cases, I think, science and what we call rational approaches are a kind of fig leaf concealing our inability to solve problems socially. The only real relief would be to break the circle of risk homeostasis, i.e. to redefine the priorities of our life strategies from short- to long-term aspects. This is why I called environmental and biotechnological risks a social problem. A longterm solution can be found only on the basis of social arrangements rather than by means of new technical development. Of course, this does not mean that the scientific environmental research will lose its legitimation. Too many of today's environmental damages can be repaired only by means of special hightech measures. But we should take care that, in the long term, the environment will profit from it and not the satisfaction of other individual or social short-term demands.

4. The scene of conflict

All this underlines that the existing conflicts between the producer and the consumer of risks and benefits of biotechnology can hardly be solved by just teaching the scientifically uninformed. It is not sufficient to tell people that biotechnology is probably the only instrument to fight successfully cancer, or to explain why the fear that biotechnological research may result in dangerous genetic monsters is unfounded, or why the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms is hardly the kind of threat to the environment that many people believe. Independent from whether this were correct or not - all this is not sufficient if the actual comprehensions, after all, are immunized against special scientific or otherwise factual information in the sense that people do not trust the information source concerned, i.e. if people do not believe in what is being told to them, or if the opposition against certain aspects of biotechnology is based upon culturally acquired ethical positions which are widely resistant against all non-ethical arguments. Particularly here it is evident that factual information would hardly dissolve objections, and that efforts to improve trust in the reliability of informational sources or regulatory measures would be of little help.

In the preceding paragraphs we tried to show that most of the problems we are confronted with in the context of biotechnoliogy are social in character rather than scientific or factual. If this is true we have to consider the various positions not so much according to their contents but rather according to how the representatives of the various position interact.

What is missing is a form of interaction between the quarters concerned which will lead to a balanced and uncontested co-existence of the various positions. Most of the groups involved would see each other either as competitors in the market of public favour or as threats to their own goals and ideals. The tendency towards thinking and acting in terms of antagonism will be the higher between groups the more they are professionally organised and claim to represent certain public interests. The conflict between these groups is sometimes even higher than the contrast between those whose interests are represented by the groups concerned. The increasing politicisation of public interest groups (IG) brings an additional element into the debate. IGs are a kind of interface between the public and those who act politically or economically in biotechnology. They contribute considerably to the formation of public opinion in a way similar to that of political parties in other fields, and in many of the political discussions on debatable matters in biotechnology public IGs are the very opponents (or partners) of political decision makers rather than the public itself. Interest groups can be considered as highly specialised political parties; and, like these, they would hardly retire from their business when their goals proclaimed have been achieved. Public interest groups vary considerably in character, ranging from a strong and fundamental opposition against nearly any research into gene-technology or its application, to the rather moderate and flexible position of many consumer groups.

The scene in biotechnology can be considered to be divided in mainly three parts: 1. Those who have a commercial interest in biotechnology and its applications (Industry, agriculture etc. and most of the R&D concerned), 2. those who deal with biotechnology for political and social reasons (comprising public authorities as well as public interest groups) and 3. the general public as consumer of the beneficial biotech goods and services as well as "consumer" of the risks and the more general socio-economic consequences involved.

5. Information and education

The complexity of the biotech scene is based on the complex interplay between these groups. One possible interplay is the exchange of scientific, technological, economic and other relevant factual data, information and arguments with a view to the elimination of misunderstandings and the possible rationalisation of conflicts. It is widespread understanding rooted in old democratic traditions that this is the main, if not the only way to come to stable and reasonable forms of co-existence and compromises. Particularly the English culture thinks and acts in terms of a consensus which has to be found for all controversies and will be found if there is sufficient room for informed discussions. This is the very root of the idea of public information: the more people are informed the more successful will be their decisions - or as Mark Cantley (2) said: "If there is 'ignorant democracy', control without understanding, there is danger not only to science and technology, but ultimately to the society itself". A similar thought was expressed by Sir Walter Bodmer (3) in his famous UK Royal Society report 'The public understanding of science': "in the absence of widespread understanding we will shy at kittens, and cuddle tigers", i.e., we will be unable to manage benefits and risks of science appropriately. A third statement of that kind comes from Jon D. Miller (4), director of the US Public Opinion Laboratory: "Throughout the world, the importance of a scientifically literate workforce is recognised by political and economic leaders, and an increasing number of leaders in democratic societies have recognised the essential role of scientific literacy in the performance of citizenship responsibilities. Most governments of major industrial nations have strong commitments to improving or sustaining the quality of their programmes in science and mathematical education. Many nations are seeking to expand adult informal science education to maintain the levels of scientific literacy attained through the common schooling experiment". The view that people should be informed as much as possible about everything concerning themselves and the society they live in, is implicitly based on two ideas:

1. An improving level of the layman's scientific knowledge will improve the quality of his judgement on the political decisions to be taken in science and related political matters.

2. What we have (or what we therefore should have as many people say) is a participatory democracy rather than a representative one, i.e. a society where the citizen who is expected to be as emancipated as responsible will evaluate matters of public interest on the basis of his own knowledge and experience and then is involved, directly or indirectly in political decision or control processes, instead of leaving publicly important decisions to the legislative and executive bodies he has elected just for doing this. As to science: science itself has brought about the idea of its incorporation in general education, and is by this confronted now with the problem that the public more and more would claim participation in the definition of what research should be permitted and what forbidden.

Both ideas are more or less generally agreed. It is evident that people should take any opportunity to qualify democratic decision procedures by means of their own knowledge and that to improve this knowledge is their first and foremost task. But it has to be seen as well that factual scientific knowledge is just one of the factors determining people's attitude towards science. It might be plausible particularly for those who are used to think in scientific terms and who are proud of their scientifically trained intellectual self-control, that knowledge of science and attitudes towards science are positively correlated, i.e. that people would appreciate science and its applications the better, the more they know about it and the more they understand the mechanisms involved. This is rooted in the traditional idea that science per se is the most distinguished tool to achieve improved living conditions for all men. I do not contest that science indeed is the most powerful (and in many cases the only) instrument to solve certain human problems -particularly those the application of science has brought about itself. But this does not determine the view on the desirability of specific developments in biotechnology - neither with the public in general nor with scientists. Even fully expert academic biotechnologists who hardly suffer from a lack of knowledge can have diametrical views on the social risks and benefits of certain matters in their own field, as demonstrated impressively by the experts hired by the various groups. How, then, can we expect the view of even well-educated laymen to converge towards a reasonable and general consensus?

6. Knowledge and attitudes

If we go into schools and teach children in science and particularly in biotechnology we should tell them at the same time that science is not only the never-ending source of beneficial goods and services provided we succeed in managing the technical risks related to it. Science has to be seen in the greater context of, and in competition with, the other instruments we use to manoeuvre our society. This view must not be confused with critical positions on science based mainly upon the apprehension that there are physical and technical risks and dangers related to it and which we cannot keep under sufficient control, and that the best way to escape these risks is to refrain from the special research in question. We must not discuss here the actual risks concerning genetic monsters and the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and to what extent the arguments used are scientifically or otherwise reasonable. These are technical problems, as technical as the benefits are scientists and industrialists speak about. I believe that control, self-control and the many regulatory measures we have or we can develop are well suitable to a successful risk management. So the balanced account of science is or will be by far positive. The danger I see in science is that it may monopolise our thinking in the sense that we consider science as a more or less omnipotent tool which would relieve us from the need to reflect on other tools. Our social responsibility does not end at providing society with a well-running science. We rather have to define the reference system of values according to which we will respond to the possibilities of science. Or in other words: We have to think in long-term categories in order to escape the circle of risk homeostasis, and this is more than just organising the development of scientific solutions for technical problems.

The need to think in longterm categories, comprising both scientific and social aspects, is also the reason why the CEC calls its efforts towards a better relation between the various quarters involved in biotechnology, the "Socio-economic Integration of Biotechnology" rather than just "Public Information". This reflects the view that the ongoing conflict between research, industry and wider parts of the public on particular biotechnological issues cannot be reduced to a kind of misunderstanding of science which could be healed just by more and better information - as, unfortunately, too many people still believe.

One tool to proceed in this matter is a extended communication between all involved. "Extended" means that not only scientific and technical data are exchanged but also data on the economic implications, the legal and regulatory background and on the social and safety aspects. This requires us to provide platforms for dialogues in their various forms. The Commission has held several workshops with experts concerned and in collaboration with consumer organisations from Europe as well as from the U.S. But it requires also the elaboration and evaluation of the methods to be applied, based on our own research and analyses.

For this the Commission feels the need to have more detailed knowledge on better methods and strategies for improving the relation between the various quarters in the biotech scene. To deal with methodological questions and to try to improve the methods concerned is not only a matter of more or less effectiveness of public information. Methodological considerations can be of high qualitative importance in so far they can inform on whether a special measure is likely to be productive or counterproductive. This, for example, concerns the relation between knowledge and attitudes. Is it true, as many people believe - particularly from the side of the natural sciences - that scientific knowledge will determine more or less the attitude towards the science in question? If this were true, we could, of course, confine ourselves to public information in the usual sense and through the usual channels such as the media. But as we can learn from the social psychologists, in some cases the relation between knowledge and attitude can be just the reverse. Then attitudes are the primary variables, which will select the eventually circulating information.

It is wide-spread understanding that the key notion to describe the relation between science and the public is the knowledge about benefits and risks related to science and its applications. Identifying benefits and risks of biotechnology objectively and informing the public accordingly is expected to minimise public concerns and objections. Controversial opinions which scientists would call "irrational" are assumed to be mostly due to the lack of appropriate factual information on both the scientific and the legal (regulatory) aspects which will eventually and in the long run determine public attitudes. The relation between information and attitudes is assumed to be that of cause and effect. This is the basis of many, if not of most measures and campaigns to improve the relation between biotechnology and the public. The term "Public Information" (PI) which has come to stay as the general label for all these activities would suggest by itself the causal link between information and attitude.

This approach, however, neglects that the effect of messages, data or other kind of information depends on both their content and their interpretation by those perceiving them rather than on the content alone. Even more, the relation between information and attitude can be just opposite: People will select or reinterpret the information available according to their existing attitudes so that eventually only those pieces of information will be publicly discussed (and therefore disseminated) which fit into (or reinforce) current attitudes and prejudices.

This is underlined by what Dorothy Nelkin has written (6): "Many scientists still believe that the media are responsible for negative public attitudes towards science, that the tension between science and society reflects the poor public understanding of science, and that an adequately informed public would share the enthusiasm of scientists themselves. Thus, they try through public relations to convince journalists to project a more favourable public image. But this belief oversimplifies the complexities of public attitudes towards science, and underestimates the importance of pre-existing attitudes in shaping readers' interpretation of media images". This is also confirmed by Brian Wynne, University of Lancaster, when writing(7): ". . . But biotechnological understanding has been conventionally seen as a natural good - like any other form of knowledge. Our research has shown that lay people respond to scientific information not at all in a purely intellectual way. That is, even people capable of assimilating an offered level of technical knowledge may resist it, because they sense in that knowledge, not a morally or socially neutral and detached 'free good', but a Trojan horse of associations, with technological, social or moral visions and future trajectories that cause anxieties. Of course the associations may also be positive. But the frequent lack of articulation of these 'deep structures' underlying 'neutral' packages of knowledge confuses and perhaps exacerbates negative public reactions. Thus even liberal information programmes may backfire if these tacit dimensions are foreclosed".

7. Conclusions

We may summarize as follows:

1. One of the basic problems is the lack of trust in science, scientists and application by industry rather than the lack of scientific or technological knowledge. It is important to tell people that science is not something which presents ready-made solutions but that scientists have similar problems and concerns to those of the man in the street. What confuses people is the claim of absolute competence of science. What is needed, therefore, is communication rather than information. People have to be convinced that the biotech actors not only act and speak but also listen. Information should not only concern science and technology and their applications but also economic, legal and regulatory aspects to increase trust.

2. Communication activities have to consider that the effect of information is strongly source dependent. Dissemination of knowledge, therefore, has to apply appropriate mediators (non- governmental and non-industrial organisations such as universities and museums). Appropriate funding procedures for independent communicators have to be identified which will not lead to a loss of public credibility.

3. Scientists who have sometimes a rather vague idea of what the effect of their communication could be, have to be trained in communication sciences and they have to be aware that public communication is part of their success as much as finding public money is. Scientific communication activities aiming at the public have to be professionalised in the sense of PR, in co- operation with social scientists and psychologists (anecdotal approach, approach via actual problems to be solved by biotechnology). A particular point is targeting and segmenting: different strategies have to be developed according to the various target groups as well as to the various subjects in question.

4. Concerning the high importance of cultural differences, the state of the art in public knowledge and attitudes in the various countries have to be analysed. It was stated that the role of consensus and the awareness of need to find it, is rather different in the various Community countries. This may be one of the reasons why public debates in public groups on biotechnology and its implications generally came to peaceful conclusions in England whereas they did not lead to comparable results in Germany.

So we know that knowledge and attitudes are not necessarily positively correlated. But we do not know in what case there is a negative correlation or no correlation at all. This question is crucial as we mentioned above the assumption that the effect of information mainly depends on the interpreting pre-existing attitudes. If this is correct, we cannot expect any correlation - except the case that the attitudes expressed themselves are the result of previous scientific information. For the politician or the industrial PR manager it does not make a difference whether a negative attitude towards biotechnology is due to a previously perceived information which was scientifically wrong and insufficient or due to experiences concerning trust, credibility and related topics. What is important is only whether existing attitudes can be influenced better by scientific or otherwise factual information or better by contextual measures dealing with trust etc. What is needed, therefore, is more empirical evidence on the quantitative interplay between the elements forming the variety of public attitudes. If pre-existing attitudes are crucial for the interpretation of knowledge as we said, the classical PI approach is applied best to those who have not yet developed their own attitudes, i.e. to school children. This approach is used by the 'European Initiative on Biotechnological Education" (EIBE) (8) aiming particularly at school education and teacher training.


  1. Niklas Luhmann, "Die Wissenschaft der Gesellschaft", Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/M, 1990
  2. Mark F. Cantley, "Democracy and Biotechnology", Swiss Biotech 5 (1987) Nr. 5, p. 5-15
  3. Royal Society Working Group, under the chairmanship of Bodmer, Walter; "The public understanding of science", The Royal Society, London, 1985
  4. Jon D. Miller, "Empirical Comparisons of Public Understanding of Science in Japan and the United States", Public Opinion Laboratory, presented to the 1991 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.
  5. O. Diettrich, "Darwin, Lamarck and evolution of life and culture", Evolution and Cognition (1992) 2: 163-188
  6. Dorothy Nelkin, "Science in the public eye", a review of "Making Science Our Own" by Marcel C. LaFolette, Nature, Volume 348, p. 121, 8 November 1990
  7. Brian Wynne, letter to the CEC, 1989
  9. Version of 5 April 2000