Talking about public understanding of science with Victoria Country Hour

Today I spoke with Warwick Long from ABC Rural’s Victoria Country Hour about why people seem to pick and choose different aspects of science to accept or reject. For example, why do some people accept the idea of anthropogenic climate change but reject the idea that genetically-modified foods are safe, or vice versa.

The discussion was prompted by the news that Scotland has decided to ban the production of genetically-modified crops.

The full program can be found here. The preamble to our discussion starts at about 5:06 and then goes on with the piece about Scotland and genetically-modified crops. I come on at about 9.59 and we go for about 10 minutes.

We discussed how science is not a collection of facts that remains constant, but rather it is a human activity and so is influenced by social, economic and political factors. It’s the way that science can be used to support particular ideologies that makes it difficult for scientists and science communicators to engage with the community. I also touch on confirmation bias and how the current media/social media environment exacerbates this, as well as highlight the need to move away from “facts-based” communication strategies to engagement based on shared values.

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