Can Science Be Saved?
Many people believe that science is in crisis. In fact, the weight of evidence suggests that the scientific enterprise in America is alive and well and thriving.
However, in recent years, public debates about the validity of scientific findings and the value of science have intensified, as some Americans have actively resisted and even denied the legitimacy of scientific guidance about how to address the disease. What are the social and psychological drivers of public skepticism about science?
How can skeptics be convinced otherwise? How do we evaluate the role of facts, of political affinity, and of personal identity in the rejection of scientific advice? According to Naomi Oreskes, Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, most people who reject science won’t be persuaded with more technical facts. They deny scientific findings because they do not like the implications of their veracity—what Oreskes terms implicatory denial. However, addressing those perceived implications—and answering the concerns or fear involved—can help us to make progress. This holds true in a range of domains, from COVID-19 denial to climate change.
Naomi Oreskes is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. She is an internationally renowned earth scientist, historian, and author of both scholarly and popular books and articles on the history of earth and environmental science, including, most recently, Why Trust Science? (2019) and Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don’t Know about the Ocean (2021).
This talk took place at the CSICon 2022 in Las Vegas on October 21, 2022