Harvard professor to discuss "why we should trust science" on Oct. 26

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University, will speak at the 2015 Colloquium on the Environment, which will take place at 6 p.m on Monday, Oct. 26, in the Freeman Auditorium in the HUB Robeson Center. Her talk titled, "Why we should trust science (most of the time)," will examine how the public can make sense of competing claims on topics such as vaccines and climate change, as well as what conditions undermine scientific integrity.

This event is free and open to the public; seating is on a first-come basis. An informal reception at the Hintz Family Alumni Center will follow. 

"Naomi Oreskes has done groundbreaking scholarship on the scientific communication — and miscommunication — about smoking, toxins and climate change — all critical issues for human and environmental health. She is a captivating speaker that you will not want to miss," said Tom Richard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE). 

In 2010 Oreskes, along with co-author Erik Conway, published "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming," which was made into a documentary film in 2015. The book and film examine how misinformation campaigns have misled the public on topics such as smoking, acid rain and, recently, climate change. 

"Naomi has provided great insight into the origins and workings of the modern day climate change denialism," said Michael E. Mann, professor of meteorology at Penn State and director of the Earth Systems Science Center (ESSC). "She has displayed strength and conviction in her willingness to call out bad actors. It’s an honor to co-host her visit to Penn State."

Her most recent book, also co-authored with Conway, is "The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future," which presents a fictional account of a world in which climate change has altered the Earth. In 2015, Oreskes wrote the introduction to Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and inequality, "On Care of Our Common Home." 

The 2015 Colloquium on the Environment is supported by the Penn State Institutes for Energy and the Environment, The Earth System Science Center, The Center for Pollinator Research, The Sustainability Institute, and the Office of Physical Plant. The Colloquium is in its 12th year, and this year's event is being held in conjunction with Science Communication Month. 

"Naomi has single-handedly elevated the public discourse of human-caused climate change, a topic of central interest within the ESSC and more generally here at Penn State," Mann said. 

"Naomi challenges us to communicate our science effectively and accurately, and to make it widely accessible," said Jenni L. Evans, professor of meteorology and co-organizer of Science Communication Month. "By taking up this challenge, scientists can contribute meaningfully to societal discourse and help to inform policy."

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Last Updated October 22, 2015