Why Trust Science? (The University Center for Human Values Series, 1) | Naomi Oreskes

Summary of: Why Trust Science? (The University Center for Human Values Series, 1)
By: Naomi Oreskes

Introduction

In ‘Why Trust Science?’ by Naomi Oreskes, the author delves into the philosophy and history of science, exploring the reasons behind society’s eroding trust in scientific knowledge. Highlighting the importance of consensus in scientific findings, Oreskes emphasizes the necessary procedures and practices that ensure objectivity in scientific outcomes. As people increasingly question the reliability of science, the author examines the influence of politics and non-expert opinions on public perception. This book summary provides an insightful look into the evolving nature of science and the significance of maintaining informed trust in its outcomes.

The Philosophy of Science

Naomi Oreskes’s “Tanner Lectures on Human Values” explore the history and philosophy of science since the mid-19th century, highlighting the need for diverse societies in creating science. Oreskes argues that politics and fact-deniers have attacked science, making knowledge and honesty the best defense. Her precise definition of science and presentation of its history may surprise laypeople, and she offers ways to bridge the gap between science insiders and outsiders. The responses from her peers provide an illuminating account of why society needs science now more than ever.

Trust in Science

Science, the authority on empirical inquiries about the world, has declined in reliability in recent years. Naomi Oreskes highlights how a lack of trust in science can be a worrying social phenomenon. The body of established facts constitute scientific knowledge, and claims that survive scrutiny are considered factual. The author points out examples of individuals without scientific proof, including an actress, expounding on the dangers of vaccinating children and a former vice president touting creationism. Oreskes cautions the public that a lack of faith in science can have serious consequences.

Trusting Science

Science is not a self-correcting mechanism, but a community of scientists committed to correcting each other’s mistakes. Oreskes argues that objectivity is achieved through the exposure and interrogation of old assumptions. Scientists must adhere to strict procedures and practices to ensure objectivity. While society should not blindly believe science, it should trust informed trust in scientists’ consensual conclusions. However, the public must remain cautious of scientists who speak outside their area of expertise.

The Evolving Nature of Science

Oreskes emphasizes the continuous evolution of scientific truths as ideas are constantly questioned and challenged. By admitting mistakes, scientists can progress and thrive through constant inquiry and examination. The author illustrates how theories can arise from observations and provides the example of the first planes, which flew without a working theory of flight.

Peer Reviewing the Mistrust of Science

Using the framework of the scientific peer review process, the author solicits feedback from colleagues on her theories around why people mistrust science.

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