Science and the public trust

The most recent episode (the 7th) of the new iteration of the series Cosmos told the story of Claire Patterson’s fight against the lead industry, their attempts to discredit his studies and how he finally triumphed, to the benefit of the health of the public. PZ Myers commented on that too, and in particular how the strategy of demanding an impossible degree of certainty was integral in the industry’s strategy: Patterson and Kehoe, and the great lead debate.

The parallel with other episodes of an industrial sector threatened by scientific findings, like the tobacco industry with regard to the ever-growing list of tobacco-related diseases, or the fossil fuel industry and anthropogenic climate change, is unavoidable, something that Myers also mentions.

It is something to really feel sorry for to realize how well such strategies seem to be working, unfortunately: Americans Lack Confidence In Science On Politicized Topics. Just a quote:

"Unsurprisingly, doubts about the science rose with affiliation to hostile groups. People who described having faith in a supreme being were less likely to accept the evidence on the Big Bang and the Age of the Earth. Republicans were more doubting of Climate Change. There was also some cross-over. Despite the support of some prominent religious figures for climate mitigation those who believe in God are also less likely to think that humans are changing the climate. Equally Democrats, even religious ones, are more pro-science on the Big Bang and the age of the Earth."

This is a sad state of affairs, and one that has to be changed. I’ve just submitted a paper I co-wrote with a colleague on that (centered on the anti-vaxx follies), stay tuned for news (and send vibrations so that is is approved).

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