Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 2007–2017 | Cite as

Learning and Teaching Climate Science: The Perils of Consensus Knowledge Using Agnotology

  • David R. LegatesEmail author
  • Willie Soon
  • William M. Briggs


Agnotology has been defined in a variety of ways including “the study of ignorance and its cultural production” and “the study of how and why ignorance or misunderstanding exists.” More recently, however, it has been posited that agnotology should be used in the teaching of climate change science. But rather than use agnotology to enhance an understanding of the complicated nature of the complex Earth’s climate, the particular aim is to dispel alternative viewpoints to the so-called consensus science. One-sided presentations of controversial topics have little place in the classroom as they serve only to stifle debate and do not further knowledge and enhance critical thinking. Students must understand not just what is known and why it is known to be true but also what remains unknown and where the limitations on scientific understanding lie. Fact recitation coupled with demonizing any position or person who disagrees with a singularly-derived conclusion has no place in education. Instead, all sides must be covered in highly debatable and important topics such as climate change, because authoritarian science never will have all the answers to such complex problems.


Global Warming Critical Thinking Scientific Method Controversial Topic Climate Science 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their careful and useful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Legates
    • 1
    Email author
  • Willie Soon
    • 2
  • William M. Briggs
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Harvard-Smithsonian Center for AstrophysicsCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.New YorkUSA

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