It is not hard to notice that denialism of science is on the rise. Despite the ever increasing contributions to human progress through scientific discovery and application, it now seems more fashionable than ever to reject well documented findings and theories:
CLIMATE CHANGE does not exist
EVOLUTION never happened
THE MOON LANDING was fake
VACCINATIONS can lead to autism
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD is evil
DAMS, NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS and PHARMACEUTICALS are suspect as well.
With a third of Americans believing humans have existed in their present form since time began, and less than half believing the Earth is warming because humans are burning fossil fuels, the challenges for science communication seem immense.
Last March, Joel Achenbach provided a thoughtful perspective on this concern in National Geographic. He reminds us that science is not a collection of facts, but a method of studying and understanding the world around us, leading to truths that are not self-evident and often mind-blowing. Consider the finding of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger which scientists detected just last September – some 1.3 billion years after the event occurred in a galaxy far, far away. This is not routine knowledge that we casually learn from our daily experiences, but a recent example of the spectacular success of science.
Being skeptical is indeed a core strength of science, but denying well established science and its applications can eventually have consequences reflected in ill-informed personal choices and bad public policy decisions. Continuing advances in science will be among the approaches we need to meet the significant global challenges ahead of us.