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A Most Serious Security Threat: Let’s Bring Back Science to Democracy

Sat, September 2, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hilton Union Square, Continental Parlor 1


Thomas Jefferson has warned about the perils of ignorance in a democratic society. This paper argues that progressive change and American leadership in global affairs is challenged by a populist political culture facilitated by a breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is good and that scientific experts are trustworthy and their evidence-based opinion matters more than value-laden opinions of non-experts.

When scholars’ and policy practitioners’ understanding of change and adaptation in world politics is divorced from the average citizen’s understanding of the world, then the quality of democracy suffers. A likely cause is that politicians, policy-makers, and scientists collectively fail to communicate scientific facts and risks associated with critical domestic and foreign policy issues. These are the likely cases when value/opinion-based decisions trump evidence-based solutions. Building on two different science communication models, the scientific literacy model and the interactive science model, this research aims to find answers how to strengthen the science-society connection so that populist, ignorance based politics could be countered. This study uses content analysis as it compares and contrasts mainstream media coverage of scientific expert opinion on renewable energy usage and environmental impacts of renewable energy technologies in the United States and in Scandinavia.