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Welcome to Critica!

January 28, 2017 | Comments

Do you know someone who thinks childhood vaccines cause autism? Have you ever had a conversation with someone who believes that climate change is not real? Have you ever searched the web seeking an answer to a health-related question, such as “is coffee good for you?” and been utterly confused as a result? Or have you ever been frustrated or angry at medical science for making a big claim and then taking it back (more sugar in your coffee, anyone?).

And now for the most important question: Are you interested in engaging with a community of individuals seeking a better way to deal with science denial and committed to critical thinking and navigating the complex waters of health science as it unfolds in our fast-paced, internet-driven modern lives?

What is Critica?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you’re in the right place! Welcome to Critica, a community committed to sound decision-making about health and security. Critica’s mission is to develop and test new methods of advancing public acceptance of scientific evidence and promoting informed health decision-making.

Why does Critica exist?

One doesn’t need to search far and wide to recognize that science denial is a major problem in the world today. From doubts about the safety of childhood vaccines to the insistence that owning a gun will make a person safer, science, and especially health science, is facing a number of serious threats.

In the midst of all the fighting, all the partisanship, and all the rancorous debates about these health issues, we are all also living fully in a digital age in which false claims travel fast and authoritative voices are easily drowned out by the opinions of masses of people on social media and other online forums.

At the same time, we are facing a number of serious health threats that we don’t always understand: global increases in rates of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, new and emerging infectious disease outbreaks, climate change-related illnesses, and a rise in resistance to previously effective antibiotics. 

It is, in many ways, the perfect storm: serious and complex health threats that test the limits of scientific knowledge combined with unprecedented levels of skepticism about science and medicine, topped off with new information and communication technologies that make “getting to the bottom of things” much more difficult.

It was this “perfect storm” that prompted us to write our book, published by Oxford University Press in the fall of 2016, Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us. Increasingly concerned about the potential serious consequences of anti-science attitudes, we decided to examine the psychological principles that lead to denial of scientific evidence. Denying to the Grave illuminates 6 psychological forces present in all of us that can ultimately work against our better interests and lead us astray in the search for scientific answers to some of the most challenging health problems we face. We therefore advocate in the book for greater empathy with anyone who questions what science has established and propose a number of practical solutions to the rising tide of science denial in this country.

You can read more about the book here and access press and interviews here.

After our initial success with the publication of Denying to the Grave, many people started asking us how the solutions we proposed in the book could be put into action. We saw the real urgency of some of the issues we discussed in the book when we gave talks about it – we were quite surprised to find that at almost every book-related talk or event, we were approached by at least one person who wanted to know what to say to a relative who refused to vaccinate his or her children or who decided to purchase a gun for “protection.” Some of these people were really quite distraught and desperate for answers. While we discuss basic principles of these kinds of interactions in the book, we had yet to develop anything in the detail necessary for implementation.

We thought instead of developing these on our own, why not create a community that can contribute to, give constant feedback on, and also test out our proposed solutions as we develop them in more depth? Over the next few months, you will be seeing these materials as they develop and be given unique opportunities to help shape them.

Who founded Critica?

Critica was founded by a passionate father-daughter team of experts in public health, psychiatry, and neuroscience (and the co-authors of the recent book Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us). You can learn more about us here.

What can I expect from Critica?

Critica is a place where you can openly discuss major issues in health science today and get a better understanding of why we all sometimes struggle to accept scientific evidence. You will find a few types of content in our commentary section:

  • In-depth pieces on relevant topics: Ever wonder how conflicts of interests really affect scientific studies? Why do people feel safer when they think something is “natural”? How do we know what causes cancer? This is a sampling of some of the in-depth pieces you can find on Critica. In these in-depth pieces, we use our collective expertise in public health, neuroscience, and scientific research to explicate major phenomena contributing to science denial, issues with science and the scientific process, and major debates in health science today. In these pieces, we’ll lay out the issues comprehensively, provide our take on the matter, and steer you toward a wealth of resources, all intended to help you make sense of some of the most intriguing and complex issues in science denial and the health sciences more generally.
  • News roundups and analyses: We scan the news constantly to find articles related to science denial and related topics such as vaccine hesitancy and risk perception. Every day, tons of articles come out related to these topics and new research is constantly being published. We aggregate the most important articles for you and give you our take on some of the most challenging and thought-provoking news items of the month.
  • How-tos, webinars, and videos: It is the mission of Critica to empower everyone both to understand complex scientific topics and also to handle cases of science denial independently and proactively. So we will also be publishing a series of how-to articles, webinars, and videos that demonstrate, for example, best practices in reading and interpreting scientific literature, detecting and dealing with potential conflicts of interest in scientific research, understanding and talking to people who seem to be in denial of established scientific evidence, and reaching your own conclusions and making optimal decisions about health-related issues that are important to you.
  • Practical introductions to and guidelines on the Critica methodology for dealing with science denial: As mentioned above, part of Critica’s mission is to develop and test new methods of dealing with science denial, both within ourselves and with others. Therefore, we will be developing guidelines and manuals to help people deal with science denial in a variety of interactions: healthcare worker to patient, teacher to student, person to person (this could be for acquaintances, family members, etc.), journalist to reader, and government official to the general public. We are also developing guidelines for people to learn how to detect whether they themselves are falling victim to false claims about science and how to reverse that. These pieces will also appear on the commentary page and will be tagged as “Concepts & Methods.”

Critica is an open, democratic community. Ultimately, we are here to serve all of you. If you have ideas about content you’d like to see on Critica, or if you have stories to share, please let us know! You can contact us here.

What are the ground rules for participation in Critica?

This is an open community. People from all circumstances, at all levels of education and understanding of science are completely welcome to join Critica and comment on anything we post here. You do not have to agree with our positions to post here. In fact, we encourage respectful challenges to our points of view – this is how knowledge advances!

We do, however, ask that you remain civil at all times. Please refrain from ad hominem attacks on us or any other members of Critica. Although we understand that some of these topics have become political in recent years, we do not welcome political rants and ask that people please back up claims with evidence. We will not tolerate any comments that can be construed as bigoted, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, etc. We will be moderating comments and will filter out any comment that has any of the properties listed above. We reserve the right to block a member who repeatedly violates these rules. We expect our comments forum to remain civil, open-minded, and, of course, scientific.

Other than that, all we ask is that you think deeply and think well!

How can I get involved?

We’re thrilled to have you as part of the Critica community and look forward to your collaboration. Please subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on our activities and to find new opportunities to get involved. In addition, if you like what you see here, please tell your friends about Critica by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media channels you frequent. And please follow us on Twitter (@critica_life) and like us on Facebook! 

Thank you for visiting Critica! We’re excited for the journey ahead.

Think deeply, think well!

Sara & Jack

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