Welcome to 'How Do We Know?'

What do I mean by "How do we know?" How do we know the Earth is spherical and orbits the Sun? How do we know that staphylococcus is one cause of infection? How do we know that antibiotics work? Because some teacher told us? Because we read it in a book?

You see, I'm not asking what we will do (or not do) with the knowledge. And I'm also not asking if it's true or not. I am asking, "How do we know it?"

How do we know human activity has changed the atmosphere of the planet and is changing our climate? How do we know what effects it will have before it happens? How do we know that species are disappearing at a rate the world has not seen in 65 million years? How do we know how the remaining life on the planet, such as human beings (hopefully), will be affected?

When we talk about how we know what we know in science, we'll include a discussion of methods, of evidence, of confidence and of doubts. We will discuss intuition and bias, motivation and emotion, creativity and hard, sometimes tedious work, not just results. We'll talk about how we know as the experience of being a scientist:  pressure, risk, cooperation and competition, tremendous rewards and tragic failures.  And we'll consider how all of this is covered in the media:  how we've come to know what we know.

It's not the same as a bunch of "facts." And it's not whether or not organic broccoli is worth it or if paper is better than plastic.  It's vital context that can shape how we feel about science and pseudoscience, for example, healthcare, public health, environmental protection, all kids of science-based public policy, science in the news, and technology too.  It's about rebuilding trust in our own abilities to think critically, trust in our institutions, and even trust in democracy itself.

You see, it matters how you ask the question, "How do we know?"

This site is dedicated to exploring science as a way of knowing about our natural Universe. We will answer the question in many ways using:
  • Biography and personal stories about scientists;
  • The history of science and other ideas about the natural world;
  • The philosophy of science and its use of experimental methods, evidence and reason;
  • Analysis of science in the media.
It is my hope and belief that by avoiding polarizing debates about what we should DO with science and technology, by avoiding whether or not a bit of scientific knowledge is true or not, and by focusing for a moment on the texture of science and how it is different than other ways of knowing, perhaps we’ll rediscover (or discover for the first time) the basis for science in fundamental human traits we all share: an insatiable desire to know, the power to imagine, and the ability to inquire.

1 comment:

  1. BTW, I am in the process of re-hosting my original "How Do We Know" blog to Google's BlogSpot service. It may take some time. But that can be a good thing too. It's a chance to re-read all my old posts and experience again my study of Science and Society in 2006-9.