Science Denial (NPR Science Friday)

I mentioned yesterday the denial of history, specifically Holocaust-denial. While I wrote that post, I happened also to be listening to a podcast about another form of public misinformation: science denial.

On NPR’s Science Friday, Ira Flatow interviews Michael Specter, who is the author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives (Amazon link).

The interview itself is not at all a typical “science v. religion” piece, and while I judge that if anything Specter soft-peddles the role of religionists in science denial, he successfully puts religion-based science denial into the larger context of our national pandemic (my words, not his) of irrational thinking, and of the calculated encouragement of irrational thinking by groups that benefit from the denial of science.

Unfortunately, Specter initially seemed to encourage a “blame the scientists” approach. He was simply (and rightly) trying to say that scientific progress itself moves too slowly for the public to become acutely aware of its astonishing but tortoise-paced successes. However, I think much of the fault there lies with the unrealistic promises of school officials writing press releases and the willful scientific ignorance of media editors, and not with the scientists themselves.

You need not be especially vested in the “science v. religion” public discourse to enjoy the interview. But, anyone in religious studies or religious education might be particularly interested in how Specter places religiously motivated denial of science into a larger cultural context of unreason.

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One Response

  1. Michael was just in Durham for the Science Online 2010 conference (as a keynote speaker). You would probably enjoy reading his book, “Denialism.” The book gives a much more straightforward argument (and uses some very helpful examples from current media topics). The book is an easy read and you can probably even find it at your public library.

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