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PITTSBURGH — I meet science skeptics everywhere.

Buses, planes, supermarkets — all are packed with people eager to share their doubts that GMOs are safe and that climate change is real, even more so when they find out I’m a scientist.


For the most part, I’ve shrugged off their skepticism. I’m in my first year as a graduate student in the biomedical sciences in Pittsburgh. I’ve assumed that people who ignore well-established science wouldn’t be in position to influence public policy and make decisions that could affect us all.

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  • Good points.
    I believe in the end that science is going to win. However, my concern is that in the process of anti science forces attempting to implement ignorance and fear in society that millions will suffer and die before science emergence where it should be.

  • Well said. We need more of these conversations. Climate change will change everything; it already is. I live in the north and see it glaringly first hand. My science background helps with the observations. Ignorance-based decision making seems to be the new mantra and its costs far outweigh its benefits. It creates a war against future human generations and most living species. It is greed and fear based. It must be confronted. Articles like this one help. They need to be front and center. Thanks.

  • No doubt about it, science careers happen in business, including universities. So what. People are expected to have a profession, to pay their way. Should scientists work for free like nuns in the hospitals of old? The problems start when they don’t get called for hiding conflicts of interest. They continue when old guard journals refuse to clean their pages f bad science, then do the rare editorial to defend the same bad science. PACE study see here the results of a tribunal (like a court)……

    We have a crisis of transparency in science. I wish our young student author would admit it. Because the anti=scientists will use that as ammo for their conspiracies. Mad in America makes a living off of it!

    On top of which we now have “Cures 21” which promises to get meds to the needy faster than already, because they deserve the relief. As if study timelines and knowledge of long term effects were not already deficient!

    Wake up Sara. Science needs protection not only from flat earthers but from hucksters. And it needs to control the use of ad agencies to promote upcoming publications, along with the geewhizz bang ignorant crowd that gets to put their nake on the public postings so “impact fctors” can be maxed out.

    I know this isn’t going to win friends among the retrogrades, bt lets not cave in. Theres a war. A bottom line business versus Ivory tower idealismm war. Sara, WAKE UP.

  • Indeed Sara it is a moment of setback but we must remember that the trajectory of human existence shows an overall slow yet definite embrace of proven facts. It is quite amazing to know so many are profoundly ignorant of science. Most that I’ve talked to have very little understanding of the facts they assert to be lies. Considering the scientific concepts that are required to have smartphones, it’s surprising that people don’t deny their existence. Even the dark age came to an end so at least we don’t have to fear imprisonment or death anymore. Unfortunately ideas have a much longer life span than ours. The search for truth is never in vain. So don’t fear a single data point, trust the trajectory of human understanding. We’ve come a very long way since the evolutionary ability to communicate.

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    For someone who asserts fealty to science, you sound more like a congregant in the church of global warming than someone who should be continually skeptical until proof has been conclusively demonstrated and independently replicated. Have you read the Climategate emails? There are no more vicious thugs walking the streets than so-called climatologists who are committed to a leftie policy agenda and who will do anything to continue to suck greedily on the gub’ment funding teat. Just look at how Judith Curry (formerly of Georgia Tech) has been treated. Or Roger Pilke.

    If you are involved in legitimate science rather than promoting a political agenda, you can do well. If, instead, it’s your plan to promote social and economic policies under the guise of science, then you deserve to live out your worst fears.

    Buck up, buttercup. Stop with the delicate snowflake act.

    – Krumhorn

    • Climate science is probably the largest field of science that has ever existed. It uses the largest computers and thousands if people work in the field. It adheres to all normal scientific protocols and basic climate theory has been shown to be correct over and over again. It is also corroborated through research into many different, even unrelated fields. It is backed up by mountains of data that is continuously collected from thousands and thousands of instruments all over the world, from the depths of the oceans to outer space and at all points all over the world between the equator and the poles. At this stage if you seriously believe that global warming is a hoax, or otherwise untrue, you are either deluded, stupid, ignorant or dishonest. There are no other choices.

  • Thank you for your article Sara. I share your fears.
    I have to implore you, and everyone else, not to use the word “skeptic” when you actually mean “denier”. I consider myself a scientific skeptic, which is actually the opposite of a “science skeptic”. Skepticism simply requires good and plausible evidence. (of course extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence). Think Carl Sagan. Every good scientist is a skeptic.
    Denialism rejects good and plausible evidence that doesn’t align (and embraces junk and implausible evidence that does align) with their preconceived beliefs/conclusions. Skepticism is a force for good.
    Thanks again, and all the best in your graduate work! Science rules!

    • Denier? As in Holocaust Denier?

      This choice of linguistics is characteristic of the political leftie foot soldiers rather than a scientist. There is more than ample basis for AGW skepticism, and those that don’t acknowledge that simple fact are not in support of science. They are in support of policies while masquerading as scientists.


    • Krumhorne – conflating climate science denial with holocaust denial is ridiculous. The word denial can be used to describe all sorts of things. There is similarity though: denying the holocaust is clearly odious as well as being irrational. Denying AGW helps delay solutions to AGW; and it is also irrational.

      Is there any other branch off science you deny? I note you are using modern communications technology. Consistency is clearly not important to you.

  • Fear not, Sara. As long as there’s a business demand for your skills and credentials, you’re going to come up roses.

    Which is a side door into the problem you raise: for most of us in the unscienced public, science speaks to us through the media, a business we wholly distrust. Whatever science has to tell us is tainted by that association. We know that most of what the media tells us is untrue. We know they’re using our emotions against us. We live with this noise in our heads everywhere we go. Science hasn’t differentiated itself from the rest of these “hidden” persuaders as far as many of us are concerned. Climate change is being told as a story of fear (you may think of it as “urgency,” but it hits the same notes). So are vaccines. Why shouldn’t we answer their fear with our fear—of them?

    “Science,” as we see it is trying to establish a problem for which the only possible answer is more science. For us, that’s not just more research and findings. It’s more hegemony—institutional and cultural. Another reduction in the importance and autonomy of the individual.

    Science is also a business. Or it works for the biggest ones. Some of them are outright nefarious (tobacco); some are pretty close (pesticides and the seed business as a vector for selling them). We know you by the company you keep. (Even a legendary nutritionist at Harvard School of Public Health was taking money from snack food companies and saying, scientifically, that Coca-Cola was fine by him.)

    No, we can’t dispute you on your facts. But we can ask on whose behalf you’re talking when you’re communicating with the public. We’ve learned that that’s always the most important question you can ask in a society with so many hidden big-interest agendas. Not what they’re saying, but why now, and why to us? What do they really want?

    I believe there is absolutely no connection between vaccines and autism. But if there are other risks or hazards associated with vaccines, I wouldn’t know. It’s not like Vaccine Inc. is going to open with that, is it? I don’t even know where most vaccines are made, or by whom, or under what conditions of testing or oversight. Again, not expecting any transparency here (less in the new administration!). I have to trust the science of the market, ultimately: 20 million consumers of product X must know something I don’t.

    Sara, skepticism is really all we have. We are overmatched by the authority and the aggressiveness of science. It is always pushing into areas of our life where we previously had some small authority. Even if that authority was just folk belief, it let us have confidence in our decisions.

    Now if science tells us we have to vaccinate, to find another way to get around, to surrender our livelihood (in other words, our self-worth) to robots, to AI, we don’t really have much choice in the end, do we? It’s adapt or die, isn’t it? It feels like they really want us to die.

    And we probably will, with our bad habits and poor diet. But not without one last barbaric fight. We’re fighting this thing, this talking, disembodied and intrusive force that for at least 60 years has had a heavy, hidden hand in these sweeping institutional actions that have shrunken the sphere in which an average person can live without submission to untruthful, hegemonic powers.

    That’s what it feels like science wants from us: more submission. Complete obedience. It’s this totalization we’re resisting.

    • Mike from MA, there is no “Vaccine Inc”. This is a straw man.
      Science is not a business. It is a career and a calling. Yes, scientists need to make a living, and corporations fund scientists to promote their agendas. Money is corrupting, and science and scientists are not monolithic. The business-funded science doubt playbook is clear from tobacco to climate change to sugar. Knowing the source of funding is one way to critically dissect the validity of findings. But the true scientific consensus can’t be hijacked, at least not over time.
      IMO, the biggest problem we have as a society today is conspiracy thinking. We have elected a person who embraces conspiracy thinking. If we can’t agree on facts, we have no basis for a rational conversation, which is terrifying.

    • @Mike from MA
      I can not understand why you think about science as some sort of an entity or an institution. Science is an activity and a process. Being at war with “science” (as you seem to be moving towards) makes as much sense to me as being in a battle with mathematics. It’s like being oppressed by these damned numbers that show me being late for work, going into debt, gaining weight.

      I just can’t help but feel that you are picking on the wrong things here. Yes there have been unpleasant or harmful policy decisions made based on scientific consensus that turned out to be incorrect. But saying that because of that, the physics behind what makes your television set works is all BS sounds nonsensical.

      Science isn’t making you submit. That’s due to policy decisions made by people.

  • Maybe the USA has bigger issues than worry about “my career”. I am a scientist and I share the concerns listed. But the reason that worry is not my career, which, no doubt, has been impacted and will be impacted by medieval attitudes in Washington. What worries me is the impact those attitudes will have on my country and my children and their children. When we vote for someone or a policy just because our career may benefit, we are putting on some very dark horse shades and we are bound to hit the precipice. This being said; your career? The rest of us don’t care a bit about it. Get used to that.

    • Why don’t scientists judge themselves before calling the populace or the elected officials medieval. That smugness caused the exact outcome they so despise. If you can’t continually explain science to the public in a compelling way then you deserve what you get. Your smugness gets you further down the hole your digging for yourself and your colleagues. By the way, I’m on your side, but your smug superiority makes it difficult. Help me help you! Wake up.

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