Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pseudoscience, Scientific Illiteracy and the Greatest Human Journey. What to do?

How many people do you know? How many of them are scientists?

Wait a minute...how did THAT happen??
Many people do not know scientific researchers in their everyday lives, and that is a situation that seriously needs to change. There is a massive amount of misinformation floating about the Internet, and an unfortunate misunderstanding about the way that science works. People are just not being given the tools to critically distinguish between scientific facts and pseudo-scientific garbage. The actions of the new administration suggest that government-sponsored scientific data and research will be improperly manipulated or simply censored in support of political ideology (I salute those heroes of science who labor at places like the Environment Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, and other government science-based departments. They are not the ones who are misrepresenting science. One has to look higher in the bureaucracy for the miscreants).

So what can be done?

As always, education is the key. Callan Bentley at Mountain Beltway got me started on this entire reflection with a short blast I saw on his social media. In his words:
I want to serve society in combating science illiteracy, and I think one way I can do that is to solicit questions or topics from those who want to learn more, and use those as a springboard for discussion. It’s time for me to let my social media network including you, dear reader, drive the content of the blog. I’ve set up a simple Google Form to allow anyone to submit questions anonymously.
This is a GREAT idea, and I am shamelessly going to do somewhat the same thing. Although I've always answered questions through the blog comments, I am adding a sidebar to make queries an official thing (it's not so cool as Callan's Google form, but an email question will work). If there are geological things you've always wanted to know more about, this is one place to look.

What else can be done?

One can get to know the people who do scientific research. Check out #actuallivingscientist on Twitter. Many of the people posting there are offering to answer questions about their work. It's a great way to get some perspective on the richness of the human journey.

Because that is what science is: the greatest human adventure. Sports figures come and go. Actors and celebrities get married and do stupid things in public. Politicians collect their accolades and sometimes their bribes. But that all passes. What doesn't pass is our knowledge of the cosmos and our continuing adventure into realms of the unknown.
The cosmos as seen from Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i

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