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The scientific method is a common procedure used by scientists to prove their theories along with several new discoveries. They create hypotheses, conduct experiments, and gather data to discover new findings. These findings are then peer-reviewed by many other scientists so it can be stated as a fact rather than a theory. Scientists use empirical evidence which is known as scientifically based research from fields such as psychology and sociology from educational settings. They gather this empirical data to prove scientific theories that cannot be disproven.
The general public does not have the knowledge of a scholar and they misconstrue many scientific discoveries/findings based on what they see in the media. Therefore, the public should not be skeptical of science and scientific discoveries because facts have been proven by scientists over time.
In Stephen Jay Gould’s excerpt called “Evolution as Fact and Theory” he defines fact by saying that it might not be “absolute certainty” but it is “confirmed to such a degree that it would preserve to withhold provisional assent” (119).
A fact is proved by scientists and is known as something that is consistent with objective reality or that can be proven true with proper evidence. Therefore, we shouldn’t be skeptical because it is a fact and it has been proven by scientists and has been peer reviewed over time. Scientists collect empirical data while conducting experiments to justify their findings. Perhaps this shows that being skeptical can be redundant due to the fact that skepticism can be in an area that a peer scientist was skeptical of and was previously falsified.
The general public does not have the knowledge of a scholar, so they don’t have the credentials or knowledge to be skeptical. For example, this could be a politician weighing in on climate change. While a politician is highly credited in a political scenario, the small concentration on credentials may not cover the same areas as a scientist working on climate change. Scientists specialize in certain topics because there are so many to choose from. It is fair to rely on scientists for evidence because they conduct experiments and gather data which can support or disprove their claim.
People misuse or misinterpret information present in media outlets. They begin to question facts or theories without significant evidence. Majority of the time, information gained by the general public is found from the internet which can be fake news. In Carr’s essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid”, he explains how it can be difficult to analyze a reading from the internet. Some people read on internet sites using a “ form of skimming” (Carr 151) as found by the survey run by the UK educational system, not being able to fully understand the content of an excerpt. By not fully understanding what we as an audience are reading, how can one be skeptical of science?
Carson also talks about how pesticides are harming the world financially. In her essay, “The Obligation to Endure” she says “When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide implications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half-truth” (Carson 148). This proves that when people are skeptical, they are not skeptical for the right reason because the “evidence” that they have gained could be biased or not presenting the whole truth.
In the article called “Examining Links Between Religion, Evolution Views, and Climate Change Skepticism” illustrated by multiple authors at Rice University, it discusses the link between climate change skepticism and evolutionary skepticism. They also discuss how several types of science issues can interfere with the role of religion which shapes the perceptions of science. Researchers argued that religious people tend to be more skeptical about the scientific theory of evolution. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “stressed that the state of the natural environment is a pressing public concern, although members of the public demonstrate little knowledge of the potential consequences of climate change” (Sundblad, Biel, & Gärling 2009). This demonstrates a connection between how people are skeptical about topics that they are unfamiliar about or whether or not they have the knowledge to believe it is true.
Researchers in Rice University also state that they believe “science skepticism is its own unique phenomenon, and there are people whose views cross religious and political divides and who tend to be skeptical of scientific claims regardless of their nature”(5). Therefore, they predicted that those who are religious may have different opinions toward science skepticism as well as climate change skepticism because it might not make sense to them while interfering with their religion. They decided to conduct an experiment based on what types of people believe in climate change. The question being asked is “Which of the following statements best represents your opinion about climate change?” Their goal was to find out what types of people believe in climate change or completely deny it.
Based on their findings they determined that religion leads to a stronger skepticism of evolution as opposed to climate change skepticism (Sundblad, Biel, & Gärling 14). They realized that if an individual is confident or interested in a specialty in science then they will have a significant role in decreasing skepticism relating to both climate change and evolution. They also realized that “science policy experts would do well to try to convince religious leaders of various types to advance science education and confidence in science among their constituents.”(16). This quote basically summarizes how if someone is confident about a certain topic, then they can be considered reliable because of their knowledge relating to that topic.
So why shouldn’t we be skeptical of science? Scientists have the knowledge and expertise that the public should put their trust into. Their studies have led to many scientific breakthroughs that continued to improve the way we live today. For example, not long ago, people were dying because of the plague, chicken pox, measles, and other types of diseases. As technology advanced, scientists were able to cure these diseases which led to other remarkable discoveries. Scientists continue to benefit our society while making science easier to understand for the public. Therefore as a general public, putting our trust in scientists leads to ongoing discoveries that help humanity.
According to the article “Is the Science Settled”? by John Cook, science never reaches one hundred perfect certainties. Scientists are trying to make science easily comprehensible while improving our understanding by narrowing uncertainty. He states that “Different areas of science are understood with varying degrees of confidence”(Cook 1) and this is due to the fact that we might not know a lot about a certain topic compared to others. For example, we see that researchers have been studying climate change for many years and we can see how it is currently changing the physical features of our world. On the other hand, we do not know about the effect on climate from atmospheric aerosols which is known as liquid or solid particles that are suspended in the atmosphere (2). This concludes how scientists are still discovering new things every day that is going on in our world and it is our duty to trust science along with their experimental findings.
An article called “Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection” written by Sage Pub, investigates science acceptance and rejection based on ideological or moral roots. They believe that the main cause of general science skepticism “might therefore simply be a lack of knowledge among the public”(2). They believe that many scientific findings and the latest advances in technology are hard to conform to religious ideologies, and moral values because many of these discoveries are too complex to understand/comprehend. A primary statistic conducted by Pew research shows that the “safety” of technology and science is perceived differently by scientists than the general public. This survey shows that “88% of the surveyed scientists (vs. 37% of the public) viewed the consumption of GM foods as safe”(2). Scientists are more dependent on science than the general public because they believe that it is more accurate and is statistically proven.
Sage Pub also created multiple surveys based on the types of skepticism which included GM food, climate change, and vaccinations. Based on these studies, they found out that those with political ideologies best predict the occurrences of climate change skepticism. They also discovered that religious conservatives were skeptical about vaccinations due to their lack of faith in science. According to their findings, they said that “unlike climate change and vaccine skepticism, GM food skepticism is not driven by political or religious beliefs”( Sage Pub 16). Different people can be skeptical about various topics. Although, those who do not have the knowledge on a certain topic should not be the ones to be skeptical.
The authors of the article that is mentioned above believe that “Having the background to understand science may help predict overall science acceptance, while ideology differentially predicts acceptance of specific scientific findings.”(Rutjens 6). Their findings suggest that they should increase the acceptance of GM foods in order for the general public to have a better understanding of science while accepting it. They said that their main goal for their studies was to explore the analytical differences in religion and politics and their impact on science acceptance and rejection. Based on their findings they have found out that “Climate skepticism was consistently predicted by political conservatism, vaccine skepticism was consistently predicted by religiosity, and GM food skepticism was consistently predicted by low faith in science and knowledge of science” (Rutjens 13). They also realized that their prediction was correct based on political conservatism being the strongest predictor of climate change skepticism.
According to “What is Healthy Skepticism?” in Science by Robert Sanders, it explains how some people will deny science and have their own views towards science related topics. They may not trust data collected from experiments. Although, it is important to consider that every study conducted “is only an attempt to simulate the real world and replicate things as they are”(Sanders 1). Because these are simulations, we need to keep in mind that there are other factors in the world that may not be included in their study. As a general public, it is important to realize that scientists make mistakes too but that is why it is the job of other peer scientists to correct or comment on their work. Scientists work together to prove claims and help improve the understanding of science for those who are unfamiliar with it.
On the other hand, author Leigh Ann Fischer Baron of “The Influence of “Junk Science”, says that skepticism is absolutely required of all people in order to make sure that readers do not fall victim to junk science(140). The term junk science is explained as untested theories that are presented as scientific facts. In her essay, Baron explains how people do not read food labels and drink “vitamin water” while not really realizing what ingredients they have in them. In her conclusion, she states that “we must be careful to take our bearings from the scientific method….. employing healthy skepticism and asking questions”(141). Scientists use the processes of the scientific method which includes creating hypotheses, conducting experiments, and gathering data to discover new findings. These findings are then peer-reviewed by many other scientists so it can be stated as a fact rather than a theory. Scientists have used the scientific method over time and we are still using it now in our labs. Therefore, it can be considered to be reliable and is a procedure that verifies scientific hypotheses and backs up their discoveries.
Baron also states that “Americans are losing the common-sense skepticism toward scientific claims that animates the scientific method itself. And one of the reasons for this is a slow but steady degradation of our educational system”(140). Due to the corrupting influence of “junk science”, Baron is blaming the American educational system and how it is dumbing down children. A school cannot teach you to be skeptical, everyone can be skeptical in their own way. Therefore, sometimes it can be logical to be skeptical towards certain issues but you cannot be skeptical about facts/discoveries that have already been proven by scientists over long periods of time.
The general public should not be skeptical of science along with scientific discoveries because facts have been justified and proven by scientists over time. Scientists use the scientific method while gathering empirical data in order to discover new findings which are then peer-reviewed by other scholarly individuals. Although the public should have their doubts, research needs to be done before an argument arises. Therefore, without a scientific background or degree, scientific facts should not be argued by the general public as there is a lack of knowledge.
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