Society and Science

When you read hundreds of letters from readers every month, as I do, common patterns of argument emerge. I can’t answer every note individually, so in this column I’d like to at least respond to one type of assertion. That is the idea, whenever the letter writer doesn’t agree with an expert-informed point of view expressed in Scientific American , that science should not mention or touch on politically sensitive areas–that science is somehow apart from social concerns. I say: Wrong.

Science findings are not random opinions but the result of a rational, critical process. Science itself advances gradually through a preponderance of evidence toward a fuller understanding about how things work. And what we learn from that process is not just equivalent to statements made by any another political-interest group. It is evidence-based information that is subject to constant questioning and testing from within the scientific community. Thus, the science-informed point of view is a more authoritative and reliable source of guidance than uninformed opinions. We should not discount its value in informing public discourse.

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