and don’t trust are still making a good argument.” This point relates to Challenge 3.
Challenge 3: Thinking about the role of values in an issue about which passions run high. There are several reasons why conflicting values seem to be fueling passions in the discussion of climate change, in Anderson’s view. First, there is a marked culture gap between scientists and the public. Climate scientists have been polled, he pointed out, about whether they agree that climate change is happening, and consistently more than 95 percent of them agree that it is. Yet only 13 percent of the public believes that more than 80 percent of scientists believe that global climate change is happening, Anderson observed. That 13 percent includes people from across the spectrum, he added: those who are alarmed or concerned about climate change as well as those who are dismissive.
“There’s just this huge difference between what scientists believe and what the public believes that scientists believe,” he commented. At the same time, many science teachers believe they should teach both sides of the climate change issue, although “in the opinion of scientists there are not two sides—there is a set of established scientific findings,” he added.
This gap probably reflects differences in the ways scientists and nonscientists think about uncertainty, he suggested. Scientists have developed particular ways of dealing with uncertainty, he observed. They recognize that it is never entirely absent, and that they can never know that they have found absolute truth, but there are methods they use to reduce the uncertainty about the claims they make. For scientists, authority does not rest with individual people but stems from arguments based on evidence. “You don’t trust somebody because he or she is smart or well positioned,” he explained, “you say, ‘what’s the evidence?’” Scientists rely on rigor and research methods and on collective validation, peer review, and other ways of achieving consensus in the scientific community.
“These are values,” noted Anderson. Scientists believe in and live by them, and face severe sanctions if they fail to do so. “That’s why scientists trust reports like America’s Climate Choices and others,” he added. “They can’t imagine the scientists who contribute to those reports violating those values in a systematic way.”
These scientific values need to be taken into account, he added, in discussions of interdisciplinary climate change education. Many at the workshop advocated interdisciplinary approaches, but, he suggested, the disciplines are where those values reside. Scientists have developed their understanding of what rigor, evidence, and collective validation mean in the context of their fields of study. “We need to break down barriers,” Anderson observed, “but if we abandon the standards and values that make science important, have we given up the baby with the bathwater?”
It is an important function of education, he added, to teach students