September 19, 2019

Why Are People Afraid of Science?

“Random things inspire what I write in Forbes Science – current events, extraordinary weather, or the need to debunk bad science. However, the inspiration for this piece was a conversation with a man while sipping Pinot Grigio and munching on lobster cakes at a fancy reception. The conversation began with a very common question that I receive as an atmospheric scientist, “Do you believe in climate change?” My answer was the usual, “science is not a belief system” followed by a deeper explanation. The conversation circled around to faith. I shared that I saw no inherent conflict between my faith and science. The conversation was interrupted so I really couldn’t tell where it was going. However, one topic prompted me to write about what I perceive to be fear of science. Here are four reasons why I believe people might fear science.

A perception of conflict with faith beliefs. As a climate scientist, I often hear statements like it is blasphemous to think humankind can alter weather or climate. I quickly point out air pollution, destruction of the Ozone Hole by chemical products, urban heat islands, and so on. I grew up in a small African-American Baptist church in Canton, Georgia. As a child, I put up a fight about going to Sunday service. Later in life, I actually ended up teaching a class on discipleship. My faith walk is personal and likely different from yours. I respect whatever faith, belief system, or perspective you hold. Increasingly, the scientific method, verified data, and scholarly publications are at odds with what people believe. In a recent TED Talk, I discussed three things that shape perceptions toward science. Biases associated with our “personal marinades” are strong. What are personal marinades? – How we were raised, where we were raised, our faith-based upbringing, political alignment, and our circle of peers. Each of these is important and life-shaping. However, none of them should fundamentally be used to undermine science.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."

"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."

"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."

"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."

"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."

"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."

"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."

"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."