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Controversies

How to handle scientific controversies

Vincenzo Galilei, father of Galileo.

Vincenzo Galilei, father of Galileo.

What controversy: Is a controversy misrepresented or blown out of proportion?

Here’s a headline unlikely to run in any paper: Senate getting along: No fights or arguments for days! That’s because good news is generally no news. Clashes, on the other hand, are exciting and often important. So it’s not surprising then that media reports on science often focus on controversy. However, when a scientific idea is portrayed as controversial in the popular media or in a policy, that conflict might be one of a few different types, which stem from different sources:

http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/0_0_0/sciencetoolkit_06

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An evolving controversy: The struggle to teach science in science classes, Berkman and Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/berkman_plutzer.pdf

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Science controversies past and present, Steven Sherwood, Physics Today, October 2011, page 39

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/article/64/10/10.1063/PT.3.1295

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The goal of Skeptical Science is to explain what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming. When you peruse the many arguments of global warming skeptics, a pattern emerges. Skeptic arguments tend to focus on narrow pieces of the puzzle while neglecting the broader picture. For example, focus on Climategate emails neglects the full weight of scientific evidence for man-made global warming. Concentrating on a few growing glaciers ignores the world wide trend of accelerating glacier shrinkage. Claims of global cooling fail to realise the planet as a whole is still accumulating heat. This website presents the broader picture by explaining the peer reviewed scientific literature.

Often, the reason for disbelieving in man-made global warming seem to be political rather than scientific. Eg – “it’s all a liberal plot to spread socialism and destroy capitalism”. As one person put it, “the cheerleaders for doing something about global warming seem to be largely the cheerleaders for many causes of which I disapprove”. However, what is causing global warming is a purely scientific question. Skeptical Science removes the politics from the debate by concentrating solely on the science.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/

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