Science and trust
This Crastina Column by Dr Claire Price initiates the theme ”Science and Trust” at the crastina.org website.
“Science” and “trust” – two words that go together like “pen” and “pencil” or “fish” and “chips” (especially if you are from my native UK). Science and the scientific process place a big part in our daily lives; from the washing up liquid we use to wash our dishes, to the cars we see on our roads, and the smartphones we carry and use daily. Basically, without science, we don’t have the world we have become accustomed to.
Yet, recently, there has been a huge move towards anti-science. There has been a huge rise in the anti-vaxxer movement. To the extent that there have been outbreaks of measles in countries that had almost eradicated the disease. With COVID-19, we have huge swathes of people refusing to comply with governments about wearing masks, despite the scientific evidence. (Yes, there are a lot of people who can’t wear masks for medical reasons, but not for the reasons being used by these individuals.) For every person wanting to stop the very real threat of climate change, there is least one climate change denier.
Why has this sudden surge in anti-science opinion come about? Is it that governments headed by politicians we don’t trust are telling us to “follow the science”? Is it because there are so many avenues that miscommunication can arise? From Twitter and Facebook, to radio and television. Could it be that the way we are communicating science isn’t working? Is it time that we, as science communicators, sit down and listen to these individuals to see what is stopping them from trusting science? What is their fear?
Maybe it’s time for us to re-start the discussion.
“Science & Trust”
– the Crastina theme, fall 2020.
From the Crastina archives
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Dear Crastina team,
I would like to share some of my thoughts when I read your column. You ask the question “Why has this sudden surge in anti-science opinion come about?” and I would like to discuss three possible answers.
1) Science is complex and does not fit into a headline. Conspiracy theorists often do not hesitate to make statements without any proof, while scientist rarely make simple statements without adding limitations of the studies. It is difficult for science to keep up with the pace of conspiracy theories since it takes of course much more time to proof or disproof statements than to just state something without any proof.
2) Science is often uncomfortable. It is much easier to say climate change is not real or not influenced by humans, than to make constraints in your living. And I think the same is true for the restriction through the pandemic.
3) Science is not black or white. In my opinion the scientific method and how scientist work must be communicated much better.
All in all, I think it is a thin line between being short and catchy and scientifically correct. There are probably much more reasons and so it is really good to have people like you doing good science communication.