Our guest this week is Donald Prothero, paleontologist, geologist, and author of the new book Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten our Future. He’s an expert on the effect of past climate change on the fossil record, as well as the co-author of Abominable Science, a skeptical look at cryptozoology and cryptozoologists with Daniel Loxton.
Science Denialism is a many-headed hydra that rears up when people don’t want to believe what science tells us. In this day and age, science has enough cachet that educated people don’t openly reject it when it tells them things they don’t want to hear. Instead, they imitate the trappings of science to advance a political agenda.
There was “Big Tobacco” making up fake science and slandering critics to convince the world that smoking is good for you, then there were the apologists for nuclear proliferation, spreading bunk science about the survivability of nuclear war. When the courts decided that teaching Genesis in science class was unconstitutional, fundamentalists got busy manufacturing pseudoscience in the form of Young Earth Creationism and later Intelligent Design. Vaccines have slashed childhood death rates worldwide but some people still aren’t prepared to accept this fact, and prefer to fixate on pseudo-scientific conspiracy theories. Perhaps the most dangerous example of science denialism is the fossil fuel industry funded campaign to convince the public that climate change isn’t real.
Host Lindsay Beyerstein discusses all this and more with Donald Prothero.