14 April 2014

Fighting fear

I'm grumpy most mornings without this
Dr. Raychelle Burks is a chemist. She is a creative science communicator. She is a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

 She works very hard to make science, and more specifically chemistry, relevant and meaningful to everyone.  After all, science plays an important role in many of the decisions people make every day.

But here's the funny thing about science: you can have it 90 percent right and still completely wrong. You can see two things happening at the same time and wrongly assume that one causes the other.  You can find things that are harmful when used one way, and not only harmless but also helpful when used another way. 

What's worse, the deck is sometimes stacked against people who just want to make smart decisions for themselves or their families. Some business people or lawyers may have a financial incentive to show consumers 90 percent of the science but not that other 10. Some journalists may feel obligated to present "both sides of the argument" even if science settled the argument years ago. And everyone knows one of the best ways to getting money, ratings, or even votes is to scare people

So that's why Dr. Burks talked with me about some of the things we've seen in the news lately.  A lot of reports and blog posts about "chemicals" or "toxins" lately either don't have all the facts or present those facts in a misleading or confusing way. They spread irrational fears and make it harder for people to make smart and informed decisions.  Some chemists call this "chemphobia." 

Dr. Burks and I talked for about 20 minutes. A bit longer than a typical radio segment, but I think it's well worth a listen. We are hoping to have more conversations with more scientists and more of life's decision makers. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

she had me at "Fear of clowns …"