Assumptions and Precautions
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Many popular science authors have been tempted by certitude—a confident conclusion glossing over assumptions, evidentiary limits, and balance—helping their argument and satisfying their readers’ discomfort with uncertainty. Indeed, this form of trivialization is ubiquitous in public discourse, yet remains underappreciated despite its ramifications in policymaking and regulation and its impact on the public’s trust of government. The chapter begins with a discussion and illustrations of common practices leading to such certitude. It continues with a case study of certitudes, which, upon a closer look, are far from credible, yet of deep consequence to all. Historical experiences and advancing worldviews are propelling the rise of an important counterweight to scientific certitude with the potential to effect change beyond policymaking.
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