We humans are a curious lot. We are always trying to figure out how things work. Eventually, we developed the scientific method to test out our ideas. But, how do we know what we know is true? Can we practice curiosity with a spirit of inquiry? Where is the boundary between healthy skepticism and trust when it comes to facts?

Here at Six Seconds we value objectivity and measurable results. Our SEI assessment is means tested and rigorously designed to yield results. We like evidence-based science. We rely on our research design and the findings of neurologists who are studying the effects of emotions on our brains.

So, how do we know what we know? As part of our theme this quarter focusing on how we learn, we offer you this TED Talk by Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science who uses reason to fight climate change denial.

Here is an audio segment from the Ted Radio Hour:

The climate is warming due to human activities and vaccines are safe. That is what the scientific consensus has concluded, through a long process of peer review. How do we know if they are right? Why should we believe the science? The fact is that many American’s don’t believe the climate is warming due to human activities, or they don’t think there is evolution by natural selection. Is it a matter of belief? Why should we build our lives around what scientists tell us is true?

Most of us were taught in school that the reason we are supposed to believe scientists is that they follow the scientific method, and it’s the method we should trust. However, the method is a just a start. How do scientists decide what’s right and wrong? What really matters, says Oreskes, is scientific consensus. That is when vigorous peer-review occurs and experiments can be replicated many times.

Often, other scientists discredit a study because the evidence doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It’s a kind of “organized skepticism.” Scientists come from a vantage point of distrust, so in that way science is inherently conservative. Major changes in scientific thinking are relatively rare in science. Therefore, when we hear from scientists that there is 97% consensus that humans are causing global warming, that is a relatively rare conclusion and should get our attention and respect.

Here is Ms. Oreske’s Ted Talk:

Remember when Copernicus hypothesized that the earth revolved around the sun? Or Darwin’s work on evolution which shook people’s entire world view? They were accused of heresy. It took a while for these findings to become settled, but once they were, science moved on and built upon those settled findings. After all, we’re not still debating whether or not the earth if flat. Are we? Here’s to science, and inquiry, and skepticism, as well as the ability to understand the process of intellectual pursuit that science represents, so it can help us be better stewards of the earth.

Rachel Goodman

Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and communications professional, editor, producer, and writer for effective outcomes. Ms. Goodman has been a radio producer for much of her career, specializing in short features and documentaries. Some of her work includes Southern Songbirds: the Women of Early Country Music, Pastures of Plenty: A History of California's Farmworkers, and The Boomtown Chronicles: Reflections on a Changing California. Ms. Goodman teaches journalism at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz County. Her goals are to facilitate positive change in the world through effective communication, and to continue conducting her work with the highest level of integrity possible.