Making Informed Decisions
Is global warming a reality? Should we regulate chemicals like DDT? When we face questions like these, do we base our understanding on evidence or opinion? I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Bekken: People who study this indicate that about 60% of the American voting population doesn’t use evidence to come to a conclusion. They have an opinion or perspective and they gather the evidence to support their idea.
Geoscientist Barbara Bekken.
Bekken: I had a class project where I asked students to go into the literature and weigh how journalists had interpreted global warming against the way scientists had interpreted evidence for global warming.
Because journalists commonly look at bias and try to balance both sides of an argument, they would often give equal weight to the science side of global warming and the opposition side of the global warming issue. Whereas, within the scientific literature that debate has already been argued and settled.
And how fair and balanced is the scientific information that’s available to us?
Bekken: In recent years there has been an effort to vilify Rachel Carson’s work on exposing DDT and its harms to the environment in general. So when students come in and they’re confused about whether or not DDT is good or bad, we’ll do a quick Internet search and ask them to find websites in support of, or against DDT, and then we’ll look at who sponsors those websites. And they begin to see that the arguments that are presented commonly are biased, based on the political or sociological or business take of the website.
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