Alternative Facts Are The Norm In Public Understanding Of Science

The notion of alternative facts was roundly mocked on social media. 
But there are many alternative facts that are just as absurd from an empirical point of view but widely endorsed nonetheless: that dinosaurs once coexisted with humans; that vaccines cause autism; that genetically modified foods are dangerous to eat; that humans are not responsible for climate change. Such misconceptions have been documented for decades.

Alternative facts about science are commonplace; they are a well-established and long-accepted backdrop for public discourse about scientific issues.

Why are we outraged by alternative facts in politics but complacent about alternative facts in science? 


  1. maryjane says:

    great information.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Scientific Papers Are Getting Less Readable

    “The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time”, according to a new paper just out. Swedish researchers Pontus Plaven-Sigray and colleagues say that scientists today use longer and more complex words than those of the past, making their writing harder to read. But what does it mean?

    What’s driving the change? These readability metrics are based on a combination of the average sentence length and the average word length (Flesch) or word ‘commonness’ (Dale-Chall).

    In particular, Plaven-Sigray et al. point to increases in the use of what they call “general scientific jargon” or “science-ese”

    ‘Science-ese’, they say, includes words like “moreover”, “underlying”, “robust”, and “suggesting”. While not scientific terms per se, these are rarely used outside scholarly discourse today.

    Overall, the authors conclude that:

    We have shown a steady decrease of readability over time in the scientific literature… Lower readability implies less accessibility, particularly for non-specialists, such as journalists, policy-makers and the wider public… decreasing readability cannot be a positive development for efforts to accurately communicate science to non-specialists.


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