Human World

Why Americans don’t trust science

It’s clear that there is a group of Americans who don’t trust science. Let’s learn more about that.

Chris Mooney: The science has been coming in saying that global warming is real, human-caused, and it keeps getting stronger scientifically.

Chris Mooney is a journalist and the author of the 2009 book, Unscientific America. Mooney spoke about the reasons behind what he calls American inaction on climate change.

Chris Mooney: It’s a problem of politics plus media leading to inability to function on this issue. We’re a divided country and we handle science issues according to politicization and divisiveness, rather than according to what the science actually says.

Mooney pointed to the decline of print media, and the rise of political blogs. He believes good communication of science may now rest with scientists, themselves.

Chris Mooney: The scientific community is going to have to find new ways of getting that information out. Or else it may be the case that we can’t get society to act on the best scientific knowledge that we have. And that may be catastrophic.

He said that scientists have learned a powerful lesson about the need to communicate what they know with the public.

Chris Mooney: I think the scientific community is ready to change – in fundamental ways – how it engages with the public. That means one key part of the equation is going to be functioning better. Hopefully that will create a more scientific America, slowly.

In addition to his concern about the declining quality and quantity of vetted science news, Mooney talked about his belief that science media has suffered at the hands of a number of popular conservative blogs that he termed, ‘anti-science.’

Chris Mooney: It’s the kind of tactics being brought against science I haven’t seen before. It’s staggeringly frightening to watch how much of a revolt against science you can have in this country on an issue that’s politicized like that.

He said that at the same time, scientists have not reacted properly to the attacks against them.

Chris Mooney: Scientists are so worried about the fact that climate research and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are coming under brutal attack. There have been some mistakes made but nothing justifying the kinds of attacks that have come. My point is okay, the situation’s bad. What are you going to do about it? Because this is a new media world. You need to adapt to it.

Mooney spoke about “ClimateGate,” in which emails between climate scientists were hacked and made public.

Chris Mooney: Scientists needed to realize that capacity was there to create a semblance of scandal. They needed to respond immediately, loudly, and with one voice, saying, ‘Okay, we’re looking into these things, but these things are not fundamental to what we know. The science rests on many foundations.’

March 15, 2010
Human World

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