Biology faculty to explore science denial at Brown Bag talk

Roger Coda
Courtney Wigdahl-Perry and Scott Ferguson

Drs. Courtney Wigdahl-Perry and Scott Ferguson.

Science denial will be examined from different perspectives by Department of Biology faculty at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ first Brown Bag Lunch Zoom meeting of the spring semester on Wednesday, March 3, beginning at noon.

Clinical trials of the new mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna will be the focus of comments by Associate Professor Scott Ferguson. The year’s Brown Bag theme, “The Health of the Nation,” is timely, as widespread vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 is essential for bringing a timely end to the pandemic that paralyzed the world in 2020, Dr. Ferguson said.

“Vaccine hesitancy is a barrier to achieving this goal. It is important to correct misinformation about the vaccines which are some of the most effective ever developed,” Ferguson explained. “Science denial will only slow the resolution of the pandemic.”

As a geneticist, Ferguson indicated the mRNA technology behind the vaccines is “right in my wheelhouse.” The mRNA contained in the vaccines is the blueprint to produce a small portion of the virus, he explained. “Your body learns what this part looks like and is then able to mount a successful immune response to it if you are exposed to the coronavirus. Because the vaccine only uses a part of the virus it is impossible for the vaccine to give you COVID.”

The current outstanding question is whether vaccinated people can still spread SARS-CoV-2 infections that they acquire elsewhere to unvaccinated people, though these studies are underway, Ferguson noted.

Associate Professor Todd Backes, who heads the department’s Exercise Science program, will address science denialism and the public’s perception of nutrition, touching briefly on topics that range from obesity to public health and to how science denialism in nutrition opens the door for nutrition quackery.

Environmental issues, climate science and the importance of effective science communication to the general public will serve as the focus of remarks by Associate Professor Courtney Wigdahl-Perry. Her research focuses on current water quality issues and using lakes to understand past environmental changes.

“Lake research often involves interacting with community members and stakeholders, so I do a lot of active science communication as part of my work,” Dr. Wigdahl-Perry said.

Opening remarks and introductions will be given by Department of Physics Assistant Professor Michael Dunham, who will also moderate the panel discussion and questions from the audience.

The Brown Bag series is sponsored by Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Andy Karafa and the Carnahan Jackson Humanities Fund of the Fredonia College Foundation. The talk can be seen online at: https://fredonia-edu.zoom.us/j/96863464665?pwd=bTNiSktoU0lUaHNldER1RytR…

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