I study the development of scientific knowledge–particularly in the earth and environmental sciences–as well as the political, social, and cultural obstacles to the development and dissemination of scientific knowledge. I am interested in both how knowledge is produced and how ignorance is sustained. It’s a “core idea” because it we don’t understand how and why people reject scientific knowledge, we be left unable to use that knowledge effectively.
Climate change and Covid-19 pandemic have demonstrated to the world that it is not enough to have robust scientific knowledge; we also have know how to implement that knowledge. This requires us to understand why people doubt, disparage, and reject knowledge. In the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists were able to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to develop effective vaccines to prevent it in less than one year, but across the world vaccine uptake has been uneven, in some cases because of logistical challenges, in other cases because of outright rejection. In climate change, scientists have long known that greenhouse gases and deforestation were driving climate disruption, but the world has been sorely challenged to act on that knowledge. My work addresses why that is and how we can remedy that situation.