Paper No. 253-6
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM
AN AX TO GRIND: HOW SPECIAL-INTEREST ADVOCATES PROMOTE PSEUDOSCIENCE AND DECEIVE THE PUBLIC
The public gets very little science information straight from scientists. Most persons acquire their science news filtered and distorted from an assortment of special interests, each with an ax to grind. This state of play provides a fertile breeding ground for pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded or falsely presented as based on facts and scientific method. Pseudoscientific arguments are unsound and unreliable because they are built on logical fallacies. Fallacies are errors of reasoning, appeal, or language that are inconsistent with or contradict facts or logic; they hide the truth. Fallacies are notably evident in the messages of an influential alliance of special interest groups and news outlets which deceive the public with pseudoscience masquerading as legitimate science. Geoscientists can successfully refute pseudoscience not by challenging its promoters or their ideologies but by exposing the errors in fact and reasoning. Professional societies and academic departments can combat pseudoscience by: 1) endorsing legitimate science in their missions and policy statements; 2) sponsoring courses, workshops, and other educational instruments to examine pseudoscience and its vulnerabilities; 3) encouraging staff members to fact-check media reports for scientific accuracy and communicate corrections of errors to reporters, editors, and news producers; 4) establishing or strengthening working relationships with journalism schools/departments and conducting joint programs that promote accurate science reporting; and 5) expanding the use of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, or blogs) to publicize the abuses of pseudoscience and correct falsehoods.