Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
Thursday, March 5th
7 p.m., Ostrove
Do doctors know what they are talking about when they tell us vaccines are safe? Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming? Why should we trust science when our own politicians don’t? In this talk, Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, but not for the reasons you might think. Professor Oreskes argues that science is not realiable because of “the scientific method.” Nor is it reliable because scientists are exceptionally smart or ethical people. (They may or may not be.)
Contrary to popular belief, there is no single scientific method. Rather, the trustworthiness of scientific claims derives from the social process by which they are rigorously vetted. This process is not perfect—nothing ever is when humans are involved—but she draws vital lessons from cases where scientists got it wrong. Oreskes shows how consensus is a crucial indicator of when a scientific matter has been settled, and when the knowledge produced is likely to be trustworthy.