The Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse Initiative will be hosting its second event in the Free Speech Discussion series of the semester this Friday, October 29, at 12.10 p.m. The event is being held in Hays 104 and in partnership with the Global Health Initiative and the Chemistry Club. Dr. Anne Bost, Professor of Biology, will give a presentation titled “COVID-19, Misinformation, and Hope: How can we build a culture of evidence-based free speech?”
Following the presentation, the WDPD Fellows from the Free Speech group will lead a discussion about how society defines misinformation, what factors have fueled COVID-19 misinformation, and what can be done to increase the role of analytical thinking in informing free speech and the larger public discourse.
“In its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations lists the ‘right to freedom of opinion and expression’ as a key means of achieving ‘peace, dignity, and equality on a healthy planet’,” Bost said. “I think each of us therefore has a responsibility to ensure that our own comments are as well informed as possible, especially on topics that impact others’ well-being.”
The idea for the event started with the Chemistry Club seeking to create a forum for a productive conversation about combatting vaccine misinformation.
“We chose to partner with WDPD based on their experience in deliberative democracy and their long-standing partnership with the Chemistry Department,” Alex Rotaru ‘22, President of the Chemistry Club, said. “I know the General Chemistry and Biochemistry deliberations have helped plenty of Chemistry and Pre- Health students in the past tackle notions of Ethics in Science. Given this past success, I hope this will turn out to be a fruitful conversation.”
Through this event, Dr. Bost hopes to equip participants further to help solve problems like the COVID- 19 pandemic. “I hope discussants will leave the session committed to facilitating a culture of evidencebased thinking and expression,” Bost said. “This analytical work requires humility, as we must be open to new conclusions as new evidence emerges and must also allow others to help us see our blind spots.” She continued, “I hope we contextualize our analyses with grace, kindness, and hope. If we work together in trusting relationships, we can solve a complex public health problem like the COVID-19 pandemic. One way to enhance such trust is to ground our common dialogue in the best data and the richest empathy.”
Such an approach will promote the critical thinking needed to overcome the common misconceptions and shortcomings that have been exhibited throughout the pandemic.