Michael Specter’s presentation on TED – The Danger of Science Denial – is a fascinating reflection on the many ways in which our society is becoming unscientific. It’s a good introduction to some of the ideas explored in his book Denialism, examining the many ways in which people are rejecting knowledge supported by scientific data to embrace what often seem to be comfortable fictions. As an example, Michael brings forth the debate between organic versus genetically modified food, and how it has become a purely rhetorical debate of ideological outlines having nothing to do with science. And this I find really interesting because I believe has correlation with what’s happening with sustainability regarding many fields of knowledge, architecture included, and how it’s also establishing itself as an ideology, propped up by design trends the likes of green rhetoric, and not as the subject of scientific investigation based on quantifiable data.
Another interesting notion brought up on his presentation is our negative notion of progress which reflects our common disbelief for institutions and dread for the corporate world. This may be justifiable in many ways, but has also triggered our society into becoming one of the most conservative in human history. Why is it that we have such a deep ambivalence towards progress, towards change? Why is it that we often express such a strong disbelief for ourselves? Michael Specter brings forth some powerful questions, remembering us that we’re entitled to our beliefs, to our fears, but we’re not entitled to our own facts. And if we’re not searching for knowledge, based on truthful observation, on causality and correlation, then, as he eloquently puts it, not even the truth will set us free.