Science denial, anti-intellectualism, and conspiracy theories have long, sordid histories. Today, rampant science denialism threatens personal and public health, economic sustainability, and prosperity. Globally, it poses existential threats to humanity. How has the situation deteriorated so far? How can so many people deny, not only the reality of climate change - a slow-moving and invisible enemy - but also the reality of a global pandemic and the effectiveness of simple protective/preventive strategies? The explanation is straightforward. Widespread scientific illiteracy enables moneyed and/or politically powerful interests to manipulate a credulous public in ways that undermine understanding of science and generate distrust of the scientific community. Campaigns often waged on unregulated social media are disturbingly effective. When disinformation, willful ignorance, and belligerence strike, who's on call? Right now, almost nobody ... and that's a problem for all of us who, as science educators, understand and value the role of science in general, and STEM topics and approaches more specifically. We will then explore a variety of online resources and discuss individualized teaching strategies that educators can deploy to overcome these challenges in our classrooms.
This workshop will briefly review the history, driving forces behind, and current status of science denialism, to clarify what we are up against. We will then explore online resources and individualized teaching strategies that can overcome these challenges in our classrooms. No single "magic bullet" (or magic YouTube video) can rescue us. We need a full-court press by all of us in education, focusing on cultivating in our students a true understanding of the nature of science, appreciation for the value of expertise in STEM fields, and a willingness to engage on a personal level with disturbingly cult-like beliefs.
Joseph Levine (Science Writer and Producer: Concord, MA)