As a not-scientist who has a science-based understanding of the world, I recommend the editorial by Adam Frank in today’s NY Times, Welcome to the Age of Denial.
The work of my professional life is fundamentally rooted in climate science, physics, chemistry, engineering, etc. The increasing willingness of our politicians and public citizens to reject climate change highlights only one of the many successful arenas in the science-denial movement. Others include the push for creation-science in the classroom, anti-vaccination successes, the GMO debate, nuclear energy, the list goes on.
That climate change is real, and its impacts will be (and are being) felt around the world, should need no defense. Not only is evolution sound science, but the results of evolutionary biology have led humanity out of incalculable hardship, sickness and death. There’s no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism. The only thing that anti-vaxxers accomplish is putting children in danger of death.
And yet, more and more Americans continue to ignore science and accept terrible and unnecessary risk. In the US, we are trending the wrong direction on science. It wasn’t always this way, according to Frank, who studied in an America where “politicians were expected to support science financially but otherwise leave it alone,” and “battles were fought using scientific evidence.” Not so any longer, says Frank: “Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact.”
I find no way possible argument that can be made against that statement. It is socially acceptable to deny scientific fact.
“Americans always expected their children to face a brighter economic future, and we scientists expected our students to inherit a world where science was embraced by an ever-larger fraction of the population. This never implied turning science into a religion or demanding slavish acceptance of this year’s hot research trends. We face many daunting challenges as a society, and they won’t all be solved with more science and math education. But what has been lost is an understanding that science’s open-ended, evidence-based processes — rather than just its results — are essential to meeting those challenges.”