A few weeks ago I wrote about what happens when people respond to well-established science with disbelief or mistrust. As I noted, this is an occupational risk for researchers who work on vaccines (and journalists who write about them), which is why I told a cautionary tale about rejecting science in the face of super-bugs. The piece resonated with readers, but not in the way I’d hoped. Of nearly 220 comments, the vast majority opposed vaccination, for various reasons, rejecting the science.
As I considered how to respond, I wondered how science educators might deal with the chasm between scientific facts and public opinion. Then it struck me: who better to consider rebukes of mainstream science than the Bay Area’s own Eugenie Scott?
This October, Dr. Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education, will speak at the much-anticipated CSICon 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. She’ll be focusing on the anti-science initiatives now rampaging their way into Tennessee schools, and I wanted to get some perspective from her about where all this troubling activity is leading, and what’s behind it all. She was kind enough to take the time to have the following exchange with me.