Communicating Science in the Disinformation Era
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Within the public sphere, in many ways and from many corners, the truth is under attack. The concept of expertise is reviled and opinions are often presented as being more important than facts. Unfortunately, these attacks come from both the political right and the political left. Regardless of their origin or their intent, they are doing serious damage to our social fabric and our ability to understand the world in which we live.
While science is but one way of accumulating knowledge, and while there are limits to the kinds of questions the scientific method is able to address, it is demonstrably the best way to learn about certain facets of the natural world. When scientific knowledge is ignored because it yields politically uncomfortable lessons and is replaced by “alternative facts,” or when science is attacked by post-modernists who declare that it is merely a social construct without any inherent value, the advances of the Enlightenment are being dismissed.
Within this context, this program has two broad goals. First, the nature and methodology of science will be examined. Second, meaningful ways to present scientific ideas to the public, in both written and oral form will be explored. Case studies dealing with controversial topics, e.g., climate change, the evolution/creation debate; “treatment” of intersex individuals; and the nature of racism, will be discussed throughout the quarter. Students will learn the basics of science journalism and be expected to write regularly for a general audience. Class sessions will include seminar, writing workshops, oral presentations and lectures.
Readings will be drawn from writings of popular science writers such as Stephen Jay Gould, Michael Shermer, Alice Dreger, Richard Feynman and Steven Pinker.
Class Size: 25
100% Reserved for Freshmen
Scheduled for: Day
Located in: Olympia