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March for science – critical thinking

Earth Day April 22, 2017

The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.

Here’s the page for locations in California. And the page for the Los Angeles event:


Sean Carroll is one of the speakers for the LA event. On his blog he writes:

It would certainly be bad if scientists tarnished their reputations as unbiased researchers by explicitly aligning “science” with any individual political party. And we can’t ignore the fact that various high-profile examples of denying scientific reality — Darwinian evolution comes to mind, or more recently the fact that human activity is dramatically affecting the Earth’s climate — are, in our current climate, largely associated with one political party more than the other one. But people of all political persuasions will occasionally find scientific truths to be a bit inconvenient. And more importantly, we can march in favor of science without having to point out that one party is working much harder than the other one to undermine it. That’s a separate kind of march.

… This particular March was, without question, created in part because people were shocked into fear by the prospect of power being concentrated in the hands of a political party that seems to happily reject scientific findings that it deems inconvenient. But it grew into something bigger and better: a way to rally in support of science, full stop.

That’s something everyone should be able to get behind. It’s a mistake to think that the best way to support science is to stay out of politics. Politics is there, whether we like it or not. (And if we don’t like it, we should at least respect it — as unappetizing as the process of politics may be at times, it’s a necessary part of how we make decisions in a representative democracy, and should be honored as such.) The question isn’t “should scientists play with politics, or rise above it?” The question is “should we exert our political will in favor of science, or just let other people make the decisions and hope for the best?”

Democracy can be difficult, exhausting, and heartbreaking. It’s a messy, chaotic process, a far cry from the beautiful regularities of the natural world that science works to uncover. But participating in democracy as actively as we can is one of the most straightforward ways available to us to make the world a better place. And there aren’t many causes more worth rallying behind than that of science itself.

His essay “Marching for the Right to Be Wrong – What it means to protest in the name of science” in The Atlantic is basically the content of his speech at the LA march.

Poster image
March for science poster 2017
Poster image
March for science LA speakers

15 thoughts on “March for science – critical thinking

  1. Science literacy matters! March for Science posted this video on Facebook:

    March for Science with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
    Neil deGrasse Tyson asked us to share this video with you all today. He describes his piece, “Science in America” as containing what may be the most important words he has ever spoken. Happy marching! #marchforscience
    (Thank you to Redglass Pictures and StarTalk for making this)

    Regarding the political optics toward science these days, as a friend says, “Never saw this era coming when I was young!”

  2. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people. Here’s a recent story published on their site: Holdren Outlines Ways to ‘Restore Science to Its Rightful Place’.

    The scientific community needs to more effectively speak out about the necessity of evidence-based policies, scientific integrity protections and public access to research to defend the role of science, said John Holdren, former White House science adviser, in a speech on the eve of the April 22nd March for Science.

    … Holdren said, scientists are already an interest group, one that happens to be devoted to its interest in scientific inquiry; science is already politicized because federal funding decisions governing research programs take place in a political arena in which Congress, the executive branch and stakeholders from all sides play leading roles; and, finally, scientists are most worried about the results of their work being lost, not their jobs.

    “We should get better at explaining science to laypeople, not just what we know and why it matters, but how we know it … and the imprudence of ignoring science,” said Holdren, who served as an assistant to the president for science and technology, a title that afforded him direct access to the president, during both terms of the Obama administration and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the same period. He now holds a dual professorship at Harvard University and serves as a senior adviser to the director at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass.

    AAAS is among some 240 scientific and academic organizations that partnered with the March for Science, a non-partisan movement that aims to promote the use of science for the common good, including science education and the use of scientific evidence to inform public policy. The event that grew from social media conversations among scientists into a global movement is now scheduled to unfold in Washington and at least 608 satellite locations around the world.

  3. This Washington Post article provides some background on AAAS’ position on the March for Science: Why scientists are marching on Washington and more than 600 other cities.

    Rush Holt, head of AAAS, said there was initial hesitation about whether this was the kind of event a scientist ought to be joining but that members of his association overwhelmingly support the decision to participate.

    This is not simply a reaction to President Trump’s election, Holt said. Scientists have been worried for years that “evidence has been crowded out by ideology and opinion in public debate and policymaking.” Long before Trump’s election, people in the scientific and academic community raised concerns about the erosion of the value of expertise and the rise of pseudoscientific and anti-scientific notions. Science also found itself swept up into cultural and political battles; views on climate science, for example, increasingly reflect political ideology.

  4. Shawn Otto (author of The War on Science & Co-Founder and Producer of US Presidential Science Debates) just spoke on the live national feed.

    Winner of the MN Book Award for Nonfiction. “Wherever the people are well informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.” But what happens when they are not? In every issue of modern society–from climate change to vaccinations, transportation to technology, health care to defense–we are in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of scientific progress and a simultaneous expansion of danger. At the very time we need them most, scientists and the idea of objective knowledge are being bombarded by a vast, well-funded, three-part war on science: the identity politics war on science, the ideological war on science, and the industrial war on science.

    The result is an unprecedented erosion of thought in Western democracies as voters, policymakers, and justices actively ignore the evidence from science, leaving major policy decisions to be based more on the demands of the most strident voices.

    Shawn Lawrence Otto’s provocative new book investigates the historical, social, philosophical, political, and emotional reasons for why and how evidence-based politics are in decline and authoritarian politics are once again on the rise, and offers a vision, an argument, and some compelling solutions to bring us to our collective senses, before it’s too late.

  5. Chapter 2 “The Politics of Science” of Sawn Otto’s book The War on Science discusses the interplay of science and politics. In particular, he addresses Sean Carroll’s point that “A favorite source of fretting and worrying is ‘getting science mixed up with politics.'”

    Otto talks about the disruptive nature of science as a source of knowledge and “the thorny intersection of science with traditional ideas, law, and politics.”

    At its core, science is a reliable method for creating knowledge, and thus power. To the extent that I have knowledge about the world, I can affect it, and that exercise of power is political. Because science pushes the boundaries of knowledge, it pushes us to constantly refine our ethics and morality to incorporate new knowledge, and that, too, is political. In these two realms — the socioeconomic and the moral-ethical-legal — science disrupts hierarchical power structures and vested interests (including those based on previous science) in a long drive to grant knowledge, and thus power, to the individual. That process is always and inherently political. — Otto, Shawn Lawrence (2016-06-07). The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It (Kindle Locations 1005-1009). Milkweed Editions. Kindle Edition.

    I also like his point that “Politics … can be more accurately thought of as a box with four quadrants rather than as a linear continuum from left to right.” A diagram with Top/Bottom wings (vertical axes) ranging from Anti-authoritarian/Tolerant to Authoritarian/Intolerant and Left/Right wings (horizontal axes) ranging from Progressive to Conservative.

  6. While thinking about superstitious behavior, naïve realism, and hyper skepticism, I found this article on teaching critical thinking — Frontiers in Psychology, 29 March 2017.

    Sagan (1995) has promoted the tools necessary to recognize poor arguments, fallacies to avoid, and how to approach claims using the scientific method. The basic tenets of Sagan’s argument apply to most claims, and have the potential to be an effective teaching tool across a range of abilities and ages. Sagan discusses the idea of a baloney detection kit, … At a minimum, when students first learn about science, there should also be an introduction to the basics tenets of scientific thinking. — Redefining Critical Thinking: Teaching Students to Think like Scientists by Rodney M. Schmaltz, Erik Jansen and Nicole Wenckowski, Department of Psychology, MacEwan University, Edmonton, AB, Canada.


    Science to Sagan is not just a body of knowledge but a way of thinking. Sagan claims that the scientific way of thinking is both imaginative and disciplined, bringing humans to an understanding of how the universe is, rather than how they wish to perceive it. He says that science works much better than any other system because it has a “built-in error-correcting machine.”

  7. This Scientific American blog post — “Evolution Is Still True, but …” (November 26, 2018), with subtitle “50 years after the infamous ‘monkey law’ was struck down, anti-evolution fanatics continue to fight it, in ever sneakier ways” — summarizes one of the challenges to the integrity of science education.

    November 12, 2018, was a date worth celebrating. It was the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Epperson v. Arkansas, which struck down a state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in Arkansas’s public schools.

    In the wake of the Epperson decision, anti-evolution campaigners regrouped with efforts to “balance” the teaching of evolution in the public schools with various supposedly scientifically credible alternatives: biblical creation, creation science and intelligent design. None of these efforts survived constitutional scrutiny, with these various forms of creationism defeated in such cases as Daniel v. Waters (1975), McLean v. Arkansas (1982), Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005)—all citing the Epperson decision as a crucial precedent.

    That’s why the preferred strategy is now to belittle evolution, while remaining silent about any supposed alternatives.

    … in 2017, Gallup reported that acceptance of creationism is at its lowest point measured in 35 years, with only 38 percent of Americans believing that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

  8. Want to improve your scientific literacy? Or, better communicate what scientific literacy entails? Or, just learn how to think better about the world and the universe around us? Or, review what it means to think scientifically? Well, there’s a Master Class for that.

    YouTube > MasterClass > Promo > “Neil deGrasse Tyson Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication | Official Trailer | MasterClass” (posted Dec 19, 2019 [Link to class in description below.]

    “One of the great challenges in this world is knowing enough about a subject to think you’re right but not enough about the subject to know you’re wrong.”

    Neil deGrasse Tyson was just nine years old when he became fascinated by the mysteries of the cosmos. Today he’s known worldwide for inspiring others to consider the world—and the universe—around us. The astrophysicist, director at the world-renowned Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and science influencer has been a powerful advocate for science literacy with a popular television series and the NYT–bestselling book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. He’s been awarded the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal for his “extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science.” Now he’s teaching you how he connects with audiences around the world.

    In his MasterClass, Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches you how to discover and communicate objective truths in clear, exciting, and engaging ways. Learn to think, measure, and weigh information like a scientist; detect flaws in your own reasoning and navigate cognitive bias; and gauge the credibility of information and ideas. He also teaches you his personal approach to communicating, whether you’re presenting to an audience, delivering a sound bite, or simply conversing with friends and family around the dinner table.

    In this online class, you’ll learn about:

    • Scientific literacy
    • Cognitive bias
    • Personal and political truths
    • The scientific method
    • Making predictions
    • Scientific measurement
    • Effective communication
    • Connecting with an audience
    • Creating a sound bite
    • Inspiring curiosity

    [Basically, strengthen what Carl Sagan called your “Baloney Detector.”]

  9. The nature of scientific inquiry is profiled in this review of a new book The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook: (Or: How to Beat the Big Bang) by two cosmologists and science communicators.

    Forbes > “Is It Time To Dethrone The Big Bang Theory?” by Jamie Carter, Senior Contributor (May 14, 2020).

    At its core the book tries to explain the messy business of how astronomers came to believe in the Big Bang theory in the first place.

    The authors do their best to stress that science isn’t perfect and that the Big Bang theory’s journey from crackpot idea to accepted science has been long and messy, and isn’t over yet – no idea scientific is ever proved to be true beyond any doubt. That’s largely because some people make a massive mistake about where science comes from. “We find that science is either idealised into a perfect knowledge-generating machine run by robots, or denigrated as a greedy power grab by self-appointed ‘experts’ whose job is to confuse us with big words and mathematics,” says Lewis.

    “The mistake that would-be cosmic revolutionaries make is assuming that, because a scientific idea is popular, it must owe its popularity to psychological or sociological or political reasons.”

  10. For all of us who have been hunkered down for months, biologist Sean B. Carroll reminds us that in the 1950’s our nation experienced another virus, with most people asymptomatic, high anxiety, social lockdowns, travel restrictions, quarantines, search for a vaccine – the poliovirus. Science denialism persisted then as well, even after there was a vaccine.

    Here’s his take on the denialist playbook, a rhetorical fog giving “the appearance of legitimate debate” while promoting baseless narratives and spreading misinformation. Just like Carl Sagan’s baloney detector [1], we need to be prepared to “recognize, understand and anticipate these plays.”

    • Scientific American > “The Denialist Playbook” – On vaccines, evolution, and more, rejection of science has followed a familiar pattern – by Sean B. Carroll [the biologist, not Sean M. Carroll the physicist] (November 8, 2020)

    Then, on April 12, 1955, public health officials at the University of Michigan announced that a “safe, effective, and potent” vaccine had been found. This set off a national celebration that recalled the end of World War II.

    Just a few years after the introduction of the vaccine, as the number of polio cases was declining rapidly, an article in the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association asked, “Has the Test Tube Fight Against Polio Failed?” It recommended that, rather than take the vaccine, once stricken, “Chiropractic adjustments should be given of the entire spine during the first three days of polio.”

    Opposition to the polio vaccine and to vaccination in general continued in the ranks such that even four decades later, long after polio had been eradicated from the United States, as many as one third of chiropractors still believed that there was no scientific proof that vaccination prevents any disease, including polio.

    … I realized that the same general pattern of arguments – a denialist playbook – has been deployed to reject other scientific consensuses from the health effects of tobacco to the existence and causes of climate change. The same playbook is now being used to deny facts concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In brief, the six principal plays in the denialist playbook are:

    Doubt the Science
    Question Scientists’ Motives and Integrity
    Magnify Disagreements among Scientists and Cite Gadflies as Authorities
    Exaggerate Potential Harm
    Appeal to Personal Freedom
    Reject Whatever Would Repudiate A Key Philosophy

    He discusses how this playbook works for “the chiropractor and creationist versions, which have endured for many decades in spite of overwhelming evidence,” with parallels to the coronavirus rhetoric. (An interesting exercise would be to map his playbook to John Cook’s FLICC taxonomy.)

    In particular, the way ideological and religious premises or world-views of deniers are used to reject the implications of scientific findings. Such rejection may be more visceral than reasonable:

    As these positions are reinforced by family or community, they harden into part of one’s identity. “In this way, cultural identity starts to override facts,” Norwegian climate psychologist Per Espen Stoknes has said. “And my identity trumps truth any day.” [2]

    … rejection more to do with loyalty to an authority than mindful consideration of evidence [3].

    Psychologists Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris write in the Atlantic: “[W]hen people feel a strong connection to a political party, leader, ideology, or belief, they are more likely to let that allegiance do their thinking for them and distort or ignore the evidence that challenges those loyalties.”


    [1] Carl Sagan’s “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995)

    [2] As I noted to a friend last July:

    “Culture eats policies for breakfast every morning.” Bigotry and prejudice eat reason for lunch. Dinner is hollowed out values.

    And a major challenge is how clever manipulation of social media (e.g., “inauthentic behavior tactics”) can amplify (boost) the spread of misinformation – which conflates retweets / likes and validity.

    [3] Tom Nichol’s The Death of Expertise (2017)

  11. Science denialisms use an all too familiar bag of rhetorical tactics to promote baseless narratives and spread misinformation.[1]

    Skeptical Science > “A history of FLICC: the 5 techniques of science denial” by John Cook [research assistant at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University] (March 31, 2020) – reposted from (includes media).

    Techniques of Science Denial

    Techniques of Science Denial hierarchy

    Related links

    This 3 part video presentation (links below) by John Cook is an excellent overview and introduction to science denialism. A wonderful resource for educators and journalists! And for us mere mortals – to be better prepared for crank claims, whether from acquaintances or pseudo authorities.

    Personally, this explains what I’ve been seeing more and more with apparently reasonable people jumping to conclusions and oversimplifying (e.g., lacking any nuance in their tone or language). And grappling with ideological weaponization of “alternative facts.” My college experience would have benefited greatly from this knowledge! And so timely in this latest era of conspiracy theories, widespread fallacies and slothful reasoning (wherein ignorance is used to disregard consequences of actions). A huge challenge.

    • YouTube > University of Queensland > Denial101x: Making Sense of Climate Science Denial > FLICC – The Techniques of Science Denial Part 1 (Mar 9, 2020)

    • YouTube > University of Queensland > Denial101x: Making Sense of Climate Science Denial > FLICC – The Techniques of Science Denial Part 2 (Mar 9, 2020)

    • YouTube > University of Queensland > Denial101x: Making Sense of Climate Science Denial > FLICC – The Techniques of Science Denial Part 3 (Mar 9, 2020)

    Climate change is real, so why the controversy and debate? Learn to make sense of the science and to respond to climate change denial in Denial101x, a MOOC [Massive open online course] from UQx and edX. Denial101x isn’t just a climate MOOC; it’s a MOOC about how people think about climate change.

    The appearance of a legitimate debate

    • Cranky Uncle > Cranky Uncle smartphone game – “active inoculation”

    No matter what conspiracy theory your zany (or just misinformed) friends and family subscribe to, it can be hard to shake them of their fallacies. Because they just don’t accept the science of it all.

    Right now, you might be arguing with him until you’re blue in the face, but this game will teach you to throw the arguments of even your crankiest climate-misinformed uncle back at him. Think about it. If you’re going to spot someone cheating at cards, first you have to learn how to cheat at cards. So let’s learn the arguments of denial to defeat them.


    [1] Carl Sagan’s baloney detector, as commented on here and here.

  12. A Lie Can Travel Halfway Around the World While the Truth Is Putting On Its Shoes.” > “5 ways to spot if someone is trying to mislead you when it comes to science” by Hassan Vally, The Conversation (March 9, 2021)

    People who are trying either to make you believe something that isn’t true, or to doubt something that is true, use a variety of strategies that can manipulate you very effectively. Here are five to look out for.

    (Bracketed words are mine.)

    1. The ‘us versus them’ narrative [sources of authority, in/out group trust/distrust, emotional vs. scientific alignment]

    2. “I’m not a scientist, but …” [contrived scepticism, political ploy]

    3. Reference to ‘the science not being settled’ [contrived impossible standard of evidence, misrepresentation/exaggeration of legitimate debate within essential consensus, indictment of the process where there’s limited data, contrived fear-uncertainty-doubt (FUD)]

    4. Overly simplistic explanations [appeal to ready emotional closure, connection to special insider knowlege (conspiracy theory), exclusion of a middle ground or nuanced position]

    5. Cherry-picking [what-about’ing, false equivalences between sources, contrived curation]

  13. This article (below) poses timely questions about the spread of misinformation:

    How does the information ecosystem influence human collective behavior? How can communication stay useful when there is so much to be gained from misusing it (as in deception)? Why does false news spread “farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth?” Does misinformation change people’s behavior and beliefs? How do those engaged in social media discern truth from fiction? – or even “reflect about the accuracy of what they see.”

    Consider the cost of misinformation (“spread inadvertently,” as in thoughtless sharing) and disinformation (“designed to spread falsehoods deliberately”). As in modern monetized social media (which use proprietary algorithms). [1]

    • > “Detecting Bullshit” by Kai Kupferschmidt (Mar 23, 2022) – Studying the spread of misinformation should become a top scientific priority, says biologist Carl Bergstrom.

    “Misinformation has reached crisis proportions,” [evolutionary biologist, University of Washington (UW), Seattle] Bergstrom and his UW colleague Jevin West wrote in a 2021 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “It poses a risk to international peace, interferes with democratic decision-making, endangers the well-being of the planet, and threatens public health.” In another PNAS paper, Bergstrom and others issued a call to arms for researchers to study misinformation and learn how to stop it. [2]

    Bergstrom sees social media, like many other things in life, through an evolutionary lens. The popular platforms exploit humanity’s need for social validation and constant chatter, a product of our evolution, he says. He compares it to our craving for sugar, which was beneficial in an environment where sweetness was rare and signaled nutritious food, but can make us sick in a world where sugar is everywhere. Facebook exploits humans’ thirst for contact, in his view, like a Coca-Cola for the mind, allowing people to connect with others in larger numbers during a single day than they might have over a lifetime in humanity’s past.

    But with a dark side:

    “In the physical world, it would be almost impossible to meet anyone else who thinks the world is flat,” Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol, wrote in an email. “But online, I can connect with the other .000001% of people who hold that belief, and may gather the (false) impression that it is widely shared.”


    [1] Compare Bergstrom’s book with the “baloney detection kit” discussed in Carl Sagan’s book:

    Bergstrom, Carl T.; West, Jevin D. (2020-08-03). Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1996). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

    [2] A Sisyphean challenge due to, among other things, asymmetry of effort:

    Brandolini’s law

    Brandolini’s law, also known as the bullshit asymmetry principle, is an internet adage that emphasizes the difficulty of debunking false, facetious, or otherwise misleading information, especially in comparison to the difficulty of creating the misinformation in the first place. It states that “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than is needed to produce it.”

  14. Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s new book “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization” discusses science literacy and critical thinking.

    Pluralism but … consequences when unchecked.

    Repetition (darkside: foundation of propaganda) and belief …

    Belief systems vs. objective truth (as in science) …

    “We like following leaders, and we let them do our thinking for us.” But the darkside of adopting a “portfolio” of beliefs: “holes” in the arguments [or claims]. Maybe there’re holes in your most cherished feelings.

    • YouTube > MSNBC > “Burn: See MAGA-Era Science Lies Roasted And Debunked By Neil DeGrasse Tyson” (Sep 22, 2022)

    (Description) Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks to Ari Melber about applying a “cosmic perspective” to many current problems on earth, drawing on his new book, “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization.” Tyson also discusses the difference between personal and religious “truths,” and the kind of objective truth that undergirds science and valid policy making. This digital exclusive is a full interview with Tyson. Excerpts aired on “The Beat with Ari Melber” on MSNBC.

    (from transcript)

    [Neil DeGrasse Tyson] one of the greatest of all Cosmic perspectives that exist – and it’s the revelation that emerged mid 20th century – [is] that the atoms of our body are traceable to the crucibles in the centers of stars, that then later exploded scattering that enrichment into pristine gas clouds, that then form star systems with planets, one of which was the sun with Earth. so that we’re not simply in this universe alive – yes, the universe is alive within us.

    that is a gift of modern astrophysics to civilization that borders on the spiritual. so that when you stand out in the night sky and look up, do you say “I’m small and the universe is Big” – you might say that and to be true; but a bigger fact than that is you were made of the same ingredients as those Stars. we are not just poetically, we are literally Stardust that achieve consciousness.

    We are stardust
    Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

  15. Science and democracy
    Credit: John P. Healy,

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, modern science remains a relatively new way of thinking. Knowing facts is not enough. There’s an iterative process, a framework for discovery, a collaborative effort – “to produce reliable knowledge.”

    Sputnik 1 … the space race … modern medicine … household & personal electronics …

    Have advances in technology improved public understanding of how science works? Has the settled rote presentation of content in many textbooks sidestepped the often unsettling process of achieving consensus? Has uncertainty on the frontier of science been weaponized to provoke mistrust in scientific expertise? To cast exploratory noise and nuance as conspiracy?

    • Scientific American > Education > Opinion > “To Fight Misinformation, We Need to Teach That Science Is Dynamic” by Carl T. Bergstrom, Daniel R. Pimentel, Jonathan Osborne [1] (October 26, 2022) – Science is a social process, and every member of our society needs to become a “competent outsider.”

    When we don’t learn the nature of consensus, how science tends to be self-correcting and how community as well as individual incentives bring to light discrepancies in theory and data, we are vulnerable to false beliefs and antiscience propaganda. Indeed, misinformation is now a pervasive threat to national and international security and well-being.

    The article advocates five core topics for educating “competent outsiders” – students who understand “how science produces reliable knowledge,” as “illustrated by courses such as Sense & Sensibility & Science at the University of California, Berkeley.” [2]

    1. Uncertainty – managing uncertainty
    2. Peer review – filtering work
    3. Expertise – fitness (credence) of claims
    4. Consensus – establishing likelihood
    5. Agnatogenesis – (Carl T. Bergstrom) the deliberate creation of doubt


    [1] Co-authors of the report Science Education in the Age of Misinformation, available online at

    • Carl T. Bergstrom is a professor of biology at the University of Washington.
    • Daniel R. Pimentel is a doctoral candidate in science education and learning sciences at Stanford University.
    • Jonathan Osborne is a professor of science education at Stanford University.

    [2] Course Overview: Sense & Sensibility & Science

    Every day we make decisions as individuals, as voters, and as members of our various communities. We make decisions as students and parents and policy makers. The problem is, we don’t do it so well.

    The focus in this course is on the errors humans tend to make, and the approaches science methodology has given us (and we are still developing) to prevent or at least minimize those errors.


    Topic I. Role of Science in a Democracy
    Topic II. A Common Shared Reality and Scientific Advancement
    Topic III. Our Senses and Instrumentation
    Topic IV. Systematic and Statistical Uncertainty
    Topic V. Scientific Optimism: The Gas Pedal of Scientific Progress
    Topic VI. Correlation and Causation
    Topic VII. Causal Claims in the Messy Real World

    Topic XVIII. Singular vs. General Causation
    Topic VIII. Finding Signal in Noise

    Topic IX. Seeing Patterns in Random Noise
    Topic X. Types of Errors and their Costs

    Topic XI. Probabilistic Reasoning
    Topic XII. Calibration of Credence Levels
    Topic XIII. Orders of Understanding and the Parsable World
    Topic XIV. Fermi Problems
    Topic XV. Heuristics & Biases
    Topic XVI. Mismeasure of Man
    Topic XVII. Pathological Science

    Topic XIX. Confirmation Bias
    Topic XX. Blind Analysis

    Topic XXI. Wisdom of Crowds vs. Herd Thinking
    Topic XXII. Emergent Phenomena, Social Media, and Conspiracy Theories
    Topic XXIII. Integrating Facts and Values
    Topic XXIV. Denver Bullet Study
    Topic XXV. Deliberative Polling
    Topic XXVI. Scenario Planning
    Topic XXVII. Can We Do Better Together?

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