With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Will The Coronavirus Change How Skeptics Think About Science?

Hari Sreenivasan:

Global threats like coronavirus and climate change brings their share of skeptics and deniers. Harvard University science historian, professor Naomi Oreskes, studies how undermining public trust in science can lead to poor decision making. She's the author of several books including "Why Trust Science?" and I recently spoke with her from her home in Boston, Massachusetts.

Hari Sreenivasan:

Naomi, we're at a time when science seems so crucial in understanding and dealing with this pandemic, but at the same time, we also have an enormous amount of skepticism towards the institution of science, towards the institution of press and government. Has this happened before. And how do we deal with it?

Naomi Oreskes:

For a historian like me who studies science and studies public understanding of science and also trust and distrust in science, the current situation is unique in our lifetimes and tragically so, because as we know, back in January, there were already medical and public health experts saying that this virus would not stay in China, that it would come to the United States, and that an early response would be essential to controlling it. That advice was essentially ignored. The result is a rather late and scrambled response. And now we are seeing a very dire situation in which thousands, possibly tens or even hundreds of thousands of American people will die. Deaths that could have been prevented had we listened back in January to what the scientific and medical experts were telling us.

Read entire article at PBS