We’re soon going to have to make our own choices about social distancing, wearing masks and travel. When the legal enforcement of rules is lifted, the way in which each of us deals with the risk of Covid-19 will be down to personal judgment. But how well equipped are we to make these decisions?Graphs and data can help explain things, but what’s also needed is a deep understanding of how science works, and, perhaps most important of all, a sense of how to weigh up the odds of coming down with the disease and how it might affect us. Not in an abstract way, but in our day-to-day lives. And what many people don’t realise is that COVID-19 is just the start.
To equip us for all this, we need to reach a new level of public understanding about health, disease, risk and probability. Some of this should be taught in schools, colleges and universities, of course, but there needs to be more. During the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in the number of scientists discussing their work in public. Now, as the UK government formally lifts restrictions, we must not retreat from this exposure. Rather, we must embrace science as a vital part of our culture even more than we do now. At stake is not just our health and wellbeing, but our sense of what it means to be human.
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|Progress in human biology is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, and there’s no sign of it slowing down.’ Photograph: Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images|
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