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IWU Convocation Speaker: Why You Should Trust Science

Naomi Oreskes
Kayana Szymczak
Author Naomi Oreskes plans to deliver the Founders Day Convocation address at Illinois Wesleyan University on Jan. 16.

A science historian says climate change deniers are trying to sow confusion and mistrust about science in much the same way the tobacco industry did for decades.

Author Naomi Oreskes plans to deliver the Founders Day convocation address at Illinois Wesleyan University on Jan. 16.

She says advocates of free market economics worried that climate change fears would lead to government mandates about energy consumption.

“The people who followed them believed that climate change would be used as an excuse for the government to get involved in the marketplace and so they made common cause,” Oreskes says. “The way they did it was to follow the tobacco strategy and to claim the science was unsettled and we didn’t really know.”

She says their “disinformation campaign” has largely succeeded.

“Scientists reached a consensus that manmade climate change driven by fossil fuels was occurring,” Oreskes says. “They reached that consensus in the late 1980s to early 1990s.

“Yet here we are today, public opinion polls consistently show that a very significant number of American people are still confused or doubtful or skeptical about the issue.”

In her address, Oreskes plans to challenge students why they should trust science.

She says there's plenty of room for debate over scientific theory, but many claims are contested for political and economic reasons.

“The open discussion of disagreement can make it seem as if scientists don’t know what they are talking about, but in fact that is actually the basis for trust in science,” Oreskes says.

Her Founders Day visit to IWU ties in to the university’s annual theme of Changing Climates.

You can also listen to the full interview:

GLT's full interview.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.