Protagonists for ‘the public understanding of science’ still sometimes fail to recognize that there is also a need for ‘the scientists’ understanding of the public’ and that for most of science most of the time we are all public. ‘Science’ is communicated to ‘the public’ through popular books, museums, TV, the Internet, but far too often the present state of scientific belief is presented uncritically as the onward march of truth as discovered by Euro-American males. This has contributed to a widespread public concern, if not mistrust, in many areas of science, not least genetics and neuroscience. Although researchers often criticize the media for misrepresenting their work, the hype and simplifications often begin with the press releases put out by the researchers, their institutions and the scientific journals themselves. I conclude by looking more optimistically at the ways in which, by bringing natural science into theatre, novels and other art forms, the fragmentation of our culture may be diminished.
Abbreviations used: BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy; GM, genetically modified; MAOA, monoamine oxidase A; NMDAR, N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor.