Sunday, November 28, 2010

Continuum 32: The (Mostly) Science Show

Visiting the CDC / Climate Denial / Culture and Scientific Consensus / Psychic Kids

Students from HCC’s Honors Program stand next to an iron lung during their recent visit to the CDC in Atlanta. Image courtesy of Caysey Welton.

Interview: Visiting the CDC – Every year, HCC offers a special interdisciplinary course for students enrolled in the college’s Honors Program. The topics covered by the seminar change from year to year.

This semester, Professor of Biology Dr. Kathleen Toedt is covering epidemiology – the study of diseases and how they spread.

In mid-November, the students in the class flew to Atlanta, Ga. to visit the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), where they toured the agency’s on-premises museum.

Climate Denial – Dr. Michael Mann is a professor of meteorology and the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. Mann is also the person responsible for the famous “hockey-stick graph” that has become a major target of climate change critics over the past decade.

At the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing in New Haven earlier this November, Mann discussed the solidity of climate science and some of the genuine scientific uncertainties that remain.

He contrasts this with the misguided public discourse surrounding the hockey-stick graph and, more recently, with the manufacture of the Climategate controversy in 2009.

Climate Science From Climate Scientists:

Culture and Scientific Consensus – Why do people with certain political and social values tend toward a particular set of seemingly unrelated beliefs about what the scientific consensus is on certain issues, while people with a different set of values think the consensus agrees with their perspective?

Dan Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He and his colleagues have looked into something they call “cultural cognition of risk.” What they’ve found is that a person’s cultural values play an important role in determining their assessment of risk, of what scientific consensus is, and even in whether someone is likely to believe an expert’s opinion.

The Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School:

Commentary: Psychic Kids – A&E began airing the second season of a show called Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal this November. On the show, children with emotional and psychological problems are given “help” by psychics and mediums, all while being taped to sell to audiences.

Most of the supposed “experts” on the show have little professional experience working with troubled children, and all of them are invested in entrenching the kids that they really are being visited by ghosts or possess psychic powers.

This show demonstrates the harm of unscientific thinking, and takes advantage of the misery of children for a profit.

Skepchick’s letter-writing campaign to end Psychic Kids:

News – HCC’s Ex-President Dies, World AIDS Day, Metropolitan Museum of Art Trip, Winter Wonderland Ball

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