Denial of the scientific theory of evolution is the granddaddy of organized anti-science movements, cropping up repeatedly under different guises in the United States and in other countries around the world. Despite challenges by scientists, educators, politicians and lawyers, evolution denial hasn’t gone away and won’t go away. Instead it has seeded doubts about science that have spread to other arenas, including denial of global warming science, vaccination, genetically modified foods, and the hazards of second-hand smoke.
Science writers need to be aware of the influence of anti-science efforts on the topics they cover, since science denialism efforts have spread more quickly and widely in recent years, aided by the Internet and social media. Well-organized campaigns linking opposition to evolution to other anti-science efforts, both legal and political, help fuel the digital denialism battles. Denialism has been defined as “choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth”.
Why does science denialism seem to be spreading around the globe? Are there common underlying causes involving religion, political beliefs, economics, education, and human nature itself? What is the history of well-organized attempts to mislead the public about scientific evidence? What challenges does denialism pose to the media in general, and to science journalists in particular, in communicating about controversial scientific issues to the public? More.
What? At a time when even p-value is coming under serious scrutiny, DNA studies are shaking the tree of life, and new human evolution finds are “baffling” and “hard to make sense of” (just to rattle off some stuff that whistled past the desk recently; there was scads of it back last June too), these people imagine that “well-organized campaigns” underlie uncertainty?
But who needs such campaigns? Why bother, when letting people know the facts does the job fine? Heck, you only have to run a blog on a shoestring. Talk about stuff we should know about here at UD.
There is a simple solution to these science writers’ problem: Lose the pom poms and the loud hailer. Read what you are writing. The rest of us have. The only thing you are justified in being so certain of is your own certainty. And your certainty doesn’t seem to be contagious.
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