Trust but verify


October 4, 2023

The New York Times published a fascinating piece yesterday on Americans’ changing views about science and scientists, especially whether and when we are trustworthy. From time to time, I worry that in teaching my students about challenges to reproducibility in science, I am adding fuel to that fire.

The article’s author, M. Anthony Mills, is also author of a new report from the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life. The data there are encouraging for those of us who worry about belief in evolution, but deeply discouraging about climate change. Here’s what I mean:

The gap between Republicans and other voters, even among the highly educated, is striking.

Still, I wonder if the Russian proverb Ronald Reagan learned in the context of nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviets, “trust but verify”, might play a role here in forging a more constructive consensus on this and other vital issues of public concern.

What does the evidence, on vaccines, masking and COVID, evolution, climate change, the economy, or any other issue actually say? Don’t just trust me, demand my evidence and critique it. And while you’re at it, show me yours.