What does proof look like?

I’ve been catching up on podcasts again, and that means This American Life. The episode on January 16, 2011–Kid Politics–was great. Act 2, in particular, looks at skepticism by putting a scientist/activist who is part of an organization developing curriculum to teach young people about climate change and a teen who is a climate change skeptic together. At the end of a look at the evidence for climate change the teen remains unconvinced, and Ira Glass asks her a very important question: What would proof look like? (I’m paraphrasing).

Then he asks the scientist: “Do you think it’s hopeless to reach someone once they are already skeptical?”

As a skeptic on many topics (though not climate change), I think these questions are interesting. Can I be reached? Am I too certain of what I know? I suppose I will be revisiting these questions many times in my life as I try to maintain the balance between certainty and skepticism.

Let’s all do what we can to promote science literacy. Start with this video:

Or perhaps read children’s science writer, Steve Jenkins’, musings on how to present science as an authority without undermining the ever-changing/improving nature of the field in this post on The I.N.K. blog.

Author: Mindy R

I'm a librarian, writer, book reviewer, etc.

3 thoughts on “What does proof look like?”

  1. I must confess, I am unsure what “What would proof look like?” means. I realizing you’re paraphrasing, but I’ve heard that question before, and I don’t get it.
    For example, let’s say I don’t believe Noah’s Flood really happened (of course I’m speaking completely hypothetically here). So then someone asks if I’ve ever read anything explaining the arguments/evidence in favor of the Flood. I say, “Yeah, I have, but I’m still unconvinced.” So then they say, “Well what would proof look like to you?” I would say, “Well it would have to look better than the arguments I’ve already heard/read.” Isn’t that adequate?
    I would imagine the kid in the climate change instance feels much the same way.

  2. To me, it’s a rhetorical question to get you thinking about whether you would recognize proof if you saw it or if you are closed off to reason.

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