The discussion with Avi Loeb was an enjoyable one, and I appreciated the common thread between his interview and Jill Tarter's regarding the necessity of imagination in order for science to progress. However, the most thought-provoking moment for me occurred when Avi Loeb discussed restructuring, in some way, how science operates. Rather than researchers discussing solely among themselves and bringing that information to the public when there is certainty, science as an institution can gain some credibility (and can fight back against elitism) if its agents are honest about uncertainties and mistakes. First, his argument for engaging the public in scientific discourses made me wonder if it would be interesting for Professor Goodman to interview not only experts, but a few lay people, to bring them into the conversation. Second, I immediately wondered about times that conveying uncertainty, even if quantifiable, even if it doesn't mean we know knowing, may backfire. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, for example, if health scientists expressed that the efficiency of social distancing or mask wearing was in any way unknown, we would likely see even more health-endangering behavior (we see it already, even when scientists express their full confidence in these measures!) that puts others at risk. Discussing uncertainty about the safety or efficacy of vaccines, though both are high, could be even more risky. I think there may be less risk to societal well-being if, say, astrophysicists rather than doctors discussed the unknowns in their work, but this makes me wonder which sciences and which disciplines can afford to be openly uncertain.
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This is great fodder for our discussions in class coming in c. 2 weeks, Grace. Please do bring these questions up when we talk about uncertainty then!