2015 Archives

Lecture series takes aim at growing trend of science denial in America

Scientific Literacy Series

Science Lab

Future Lectures in the Series:

  • Nov. 5, 2015 — SMU faculty panel: “Scientific Research and Public Responses” Read more.
  • Feb. 4, 2016 — Professor Stephen Sekula discusses the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity as part of the Anniversary Series of the Godbey Lectures
  • April 7, 2016 — Stephen Ornes: “Real and Imaginary Hazards in Writing about Science”
  • April 8, 2016 — Panel discussion: “Teaching and Writing about Science”

Related Links:

October 30, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – With American skepticism of science on the rise, the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute has launched a Scientific Literacy Lecture Series that is exploring why the public has lost its faith in scientists and how that trust can be restored.

The lecture series will run through April 2016.

Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes

The first lecture was held Thursday, Oct. 29, and featured Harvard University Professor Naomi Oreskes, who wrote the introduction to Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality. It was presented by the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (DCII) and the Allman Family Lecture Series and explored why corporations are so invested in fueling skepticism of science.

“Polls show that among ordinary Americans, understanding and acceptance of science is very high, 70-80%, but organized corporate denial is still going strong,” Oreskes said, “As the reality of the (climate change) problem gets clearer, the only way to prevent action is to continue to deny that reality, attack the science and distract people with bogus arguments and pseudo-science.”

Oreskes, a professor of the history of science and an affiliated professor of the earth and planetary sciences, is more familiar with science deniers than most. Her 2004 essay, “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” was cited in An Inconvenient Truth, drawing the ire of many who oppose the science of global warming.

“We have to rebuild our faith in science,” said Caroline Brettell, SMU Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Ruth Collins Altshuler Director of the DCII. “If we are increasingly walking down a path where we don’t believe in science – where it’s questioned in political debates and not defended – we’re in trouble.”

Next Lecture in the Series

The next lecture in the series will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, in McCord Auditorium of SMU's Dallas Hall and will feature a panel of faculty members discussing "Scientific Research and Public Responses." 

Panel members will include vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs, professor of earth sciences; David Meltzer, anthropologist and the Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in the Department of Anthropology; Randall Scalise, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics and co-director of the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair; and John Wise, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

The panel will explore why the public's attitude has changed from "I don't fully understand the science, but I trust the scientists" to "I don't understand the science and I don't trust the scientists to be honest about it."

The event is free and open to the public.