Your Letters: Denialism

Host Scott Simon shares listener letters, mostly in response to last week's interview with Michael Specter, author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for your letters.

(Soundbite of typing and music)

SIMON: First a note of thanks. Mike White of Kennewick, Washington pointed out that I made an error in my essay last week when I said the National Transportation Safety Board had revoked the licenses of two Northwest Airlines pilots who overflew their destination by 150 miles. The NTSB did investigate the incident but it was the Federal Aviation Administration that revoked the licenses.

Our in-box - filled with comments on NPR.org - was loaded with hundreds of messages about our interview last week with Michael Specter, author of the book "Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives."

Greg Hankins(ph) of Mount Gilead(ph), North Carolina wrote: What I didnt hear in Specter's defense of the many benefits brought us by science is any acknowledgement of the harm that an overconfident science has so often done, typically with no after-the-fact apology or admission of error.

Scientists have confidently proclaimed the safety of everything from DDT to thalidomide and dismissed out of hand those who raise doubts. It is this arrogance that makes so many suspicious that the current claims of science -from the safety of genetically modified foods to the H1N1 flu vaccine - are more of the same.

And this from Christopher Romanchuk(ph) of Andover, New York: I feel that Michael Specter missed a significant motivation for people who dont get their children immunized, or eat organic foods, or engage in any of the other behaviors he had characterized as irrational. Reasonable people can find it extremely difficult to believe any longer the data he feels we should all base our lives on.

In an era when the food we eat and the drugs we take are inspected by an FDA that has been shown time and again to be understaffed and occasionally far too cozy with the corporations that produce those products, for stunning profits, basing a decision on data is more an exercise in sorting through propaganda than a blind statistic or the scientific method.

There were a few letters to support Michael Specter's views.

Thank you for bringing forth Mr. Specter's voice of reason, writes John Forrest(ph) of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I too am flummoxed by the number of intelligent, educated people making what I consider to be ill-considered and even bizarre choices.

We welcome your comments. You can go to NPR.org and click on the Contact the Show link, or post your thoughts in the comment section of each story. You can also reach out to us on Twitter. My Twitter name is nprscottsimon, all one word. Or you can tweet the entire staff at nprweekend, all one word. You can also join in on the discussion on Facebook. Go to Facebook.com/nprweekend.

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