The first half of Professor Goodman’s conversation with Stuart Firestein centers on the idea of how to teach science in a way that honors how little scientists know about how the world works. I found this conversation exciting, especially because acknowledging and talking about scientific ignorance opens up a sense of wonder about the world that I always found lacking in my own scientific education. However, this conversation takes place between two extremely knowledgeable and successful scientists in their respective fields. The majority of people arguing against the legitimacy of science, from my perspective, act in a number of self-interested ways that usually coalesce around some sort of political ideology. Today, these anti-science arguments are surfacing around the debate about vaccines. How do the arguments that Professor Firestein poses about the vast amount of ignorance in the scientific community work with or against some of these “anti-science” agendas? Do these types of outsiders who want to delegitimize science scare him or do they possibly help people rethink what it means for scientists to have authority over any particular field?
Will, this is a fascinating question, and I really think that scientific ignorance in all its forms comes at a cost to society. Some are simply misinformed but are generally acting in good faith, indicating that their education in science -- which so often is cut off after AP classes and which may leave them thinking science has all the answers -- may not have fully explained the nuances and ever-evolving process of scientific discovery. Others who question science do not act in good faith, and they openly seek to undermine arguments that don't seem to support their ideas by questioning the legitimacy of the "Experts" themselves. With these people, I'm not really sure what the scientific communty itself can do to change their minds, as they are willfully ignorant of information which doesn't support their worldview.