in musing / science / public / climate on Fri 04 December 2009

A brand new "-gate" on the climate science front has me thinking about the relationship between science and the public. A big issue in communicating science stems from the fundamental disconnect between science as practiced and science as taught in introductory formats, e.g. in high school.

Most people learn science as fact. The reality is emerging scientific knowledge (in fact all scientific knowledge) is uncertain. Those who disagree idealogically with the state of scientific knowlege highlight this uncertainty. Because the public doesn't understand what science really is, the effect is to sew seeds of doubt.

A more productive focus would be to discuss quantitative measures of uncertainty and degrees of risk tolerance. The notion that certainty is possible, however, short circuits this discussion.