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Untangling Truth, Facts, and Opinions: Why Simple Tenets of Science Have Become Uneasy

Paul E Terry
American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP 2019 February 19, : 890117119831864
TIME magazine selected "The Guardians and the War on Truth" as their 2018 "Person of the Year." Journalists everywhere urge us to remember writer Jamal Khashoggi's murder as a harsh testament to the risks of speaking truth to power. But Khashoggi was a perceived threat to a totalitarian government, surely truth is more respected in America, right? Suggest that to the Columbia University School of Law who built a "silencing science tracker" to document "government attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion." In this editorial, I argue that researchers who publish their scientific findings in peer-reviewed journals must also embrace the role of "guardians" against the growing assaults on science. In an era where the majority of Americans get their health information via social media, our challenge as scientists is to transcend our basic calling as truth seekers and truth tellers. Closely aligned with this truth guardian's work in health promotion is the True Health Initiative, a cohort of renowned scientists dedicated to offering "clarity over confusion"; they "work to spread the fundamental evidence and consensus-based truths about lifestyle as medicine." When purveyors of falsehoods have such unfettered channels as they do today, my hope for scientists and for this journal is that we grow our ambitions relating to curating facts, authoritative dissemination, and persuasive communications alongside our usual work of learning and teaching.


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