by Julie Beck
“This sort of actual, intentional secrecy is likely rare, but there are plenty of barriers to understanding that to the right (or wrong) mindset could read as suspicious. For one, many academic journals aren’t open access, so the layperson researching on Google likely wouldn’t be able to read the scientific studies for themselves. And even if they could, the statistical methods and jargon scientists use in their writing could be hard to parse.
For example, “in the natural sciences, the way you instruct is basically through mathematics, and forms of mathematics that are absolutely inaccessible to the vast majority of us,” Eghigian says. “That’s, I think, relatively natural. Perhaps it’s downright unavoidable. But for the general public, that impenetrability of being able to know how to look under the hood—that creates problems. That may not to us academics look like secrecy but to others it does seem like we have our own secret language.”
And then there’s the fact that if you were to ask a scientist about UFOs, or whether vaccines are unsafe, or how to explain a case of seeming telepathy, chances are they’d “consider it professionally silly to even engage in this,” he says.”
“People with any sort of scientifically unsupported belief—anti-vaxers, climate-change deniers, believers in ESP—may feel they’re not being heard, that their concerns aren’t being addressed. Scientists may feel that their concerns don’t deserve to be addressed, that giving any attention to these incorrect ideas gives them too much legitimacy. So the trust between science and the public can curdle in places.”
From The Atlantic