Two Jewish scientists awarded the Nobel prize on Tuesday for opening up a new era of astronomy by detecting gravitational waves said they hoped the attention would make Americans less inclined to dismiss scientific consensus in favor of politics.
That reflects skepticism among the broader American public, where a growing number of people reject scientific findings on issues from whether climate change is man-made to the safety of vaccines.
“We live in an epoch where rational reasoning associated with evidence isn’t universally accepted and is in fact in jeopardy. That worries me a lot, said Rainer Weiss, an emeritus professor of physics at MIT, and part of the team honored on Tuesday.
“If this gives people who are not me but others the credential to be able to stand out and say, ‘Listen to this,’ that is valuable,” Weiss, who won half the $1.1 million prize, said in a phone interview.
Barry Barish of Caltech, also an emeritus professor of physics, sounded similar concerns.
“Anything that makes us take more seriously scientists, or economists, or chemists, or physicists or biologists, I think is helpful in times when things get distorted because of people not paying attention to all the facts,” Barish said by phone.
“It’s crazy that we happen to have a country where it depends on what political party you are in whether you believe in climate change or not,” Barish said. “We have an administration right now that so far seems to be very anti-science.”