Cultural Cognition of Risk

This is no surprise:

The people behind the new study start by asking a pretty obvious question: "Why do members of the public disagree—­sharply and persistently—­about facts on which expert scientists largely agree?" (Elsewhere, they refer to the "intense political contestation over empirical issues on which technical experts largely agree.") In this regard, the numbers from the Pew survey are pretty informative. Ninety-seven percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science accept the evidence for evolution, but at least 40 percent of the public thinks that major differences remain in scientific opinion on this topic. Clearly, the scientific community isn't succeeding in making the public aware of its opinion.

According to the new study, this isn't necessarily the fault of the scientists, though. The authors favor a model, called the cultural cognition of risk, which "refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values." This wouldn't apply directly to evolution, but would to climate change: if your cultural values make you less likely to accept the policy implications of our current scientific understanding, then you'll be less likely to accept the science.

But, as the authors note, opponents of a scientific consensus often try to claim to be opposing it on scientific, rather than cultural grounds. "Public debates rarely feature open resistance to science," they note, "the parties to such disputes are much more likely to advance diametrically opposed claims about what the scientific evidence really shows." To get there, those doing the arguing must ultimately be selective about what evidence and experts they accept—­they listen to, and remember, those who tell them what they want to hear. "The cultural cognition thesis predicts that individuals will more readily recall instances of experts taking the position that is consistent with their cultural predisposition than ones taking positions inconsistent with it," the paper suggests.

[...]

So, it's not just a matter of the public not understanding the expert opinions of places like the National Academies of science; they simply discount the expertise associated with any opinion they'd rather not hear.

Here's the paper.

Posted on September 28, 2010 at 6:33 AM • 102 Comments

Comments

MeritocracyNowSeptember 28, 2010 6:37 AM

Willful ignorance should be rewarded by exclusion from public affairs, like voting.

IndianagregSeptember 28, 2010 6:48 AM

"97% of scientists agree: the world is flat"

"97% of scientists agree: the sun revolves around the earth"

Lucky for us (and science), scientific truths are not found by consensus.

SnallaBolagetSeptember 28, 2010 6:49 AM

Without minority opinion and dissidents that oppose the "obvious" facts, we would still have been in the stone ages. Be they right or wrong, the individuals that oppose "expert" facts either encourage strengthening of the facts that exist, or induce a healthy doubt where there may be other possibilities than the accepted truths.

There's even nothing wrong in a high percentage refuting what the "experts" say - it just leads to the same everlasting hunt for either stronger proof or other theories.

John F. FaySeptember 28, 2010 6:50 AM

Interesting how they slide smoothly from evolution, which is pretty well settled in its basics (although there is much disagreement over its particulars) to global warming, which has no real connection to evolution. And the issue of global warming is two or three issues in one. There is no question that the globe has warmed in the last half-century; the question of whether it is presently warming is nowhere near as well settled. By conflating the two questions, they are sowing confusion. Add to this the fact that the people who are crying "global warming" the loudest are the ones who are trying to micromanage our lives for us and you have a recipe for real trouble.

IanSeptember 28, 2010 7:18 AM

@Indianagreg: I'm not sure which (if any) major culture ever believed that the world was flat. The ancient Greeks even had pretty good estimate of the Earth's radius. There was certainly a time where the general concensus was that the run revolved around the earth, but this was imposed on religious grounds, and predates true "science" (or even 'natural philosophy') as a study by 100 years or so.

TFBWSeptember 28, 2010 7:21 AM

"...they simply discount the expertise associated with any opinion they'd rather not hear."

Scientists do this too, I've noticed.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 28, 2010 7:35 AM

Hmm 60% do not believe in Evoloution...

Part of the problem is the human mind, there is safety in numbers and a herd needs a leader to give direction for the herd to run etc.

The requirment for an effective leader is that the herd has "faith" in them and their judgments. As long as there is faith the leader will be belived over rational counter argument.

If we want people to be more rational we need to "breed out" the brain structure that give us faith as a herd safety mechanism.

I don't think ordinary evolution is going to do it for us.

Andrew RoseSeptember 28, 2010 7:35 AM

"Ninety-seven percent of the members of the AAAS accept X, but at least 40 percent of the public thinks that major differences remain in scientific opinion on this topic."

And the conclusion appears to be that this is because people are just hearing what they want to hear. Whilst I accept that's a likely reason, there are a number of other possible reasons.

- The AAAS is seen to be a small portion of the American scientific community.

- Science from outside of America is seen to be more credible.

- The AAAS is seen as having an agenda other than scientific advancement on this issue.

- Even if 97% of all scientists everywhere accept X and are seen as having no other agenda in doing so, it's quite possible that the public hear X' more than 3% of the time (perhaps through "balanced" reporting, where the media deliberately seek a proponent of X' to appear alongside each proponent of X).

And probably many more reasons besides.

bobhSeptember 28, 2010 7:38 AM

Community response is polarized over an what is essentially merely an observation that cultural cognition of risk exists. What a very odd mirror of the insight.

From the world of marketing, Seth Godin posits a similar conclusion in that people usually purchase products and services which are congruent with their world view.

Mike BSeptember 28, 2010 7:46 AM

From personal experience I have learned that people are more rational in certain cases than they are given credit for, but any apparent irrationality exists due to the presence of hidden agendas or motivations. People discount climate change because they simply do not want to pay the costs associated with it. However they know that if they try to make that argument they stand a higher chance of "losing". Same with evolution, people realize that acceptance of that would undermine many other personal preferences so they are forced to deny it in order to preserve what actually motivates them.

I am not exactly sure how much this plays into many security debates because I think those often hit on other cognitive biases unless it has to do with policy makers covering their CYA motive.

Daniel JoubertSeptember 28, 2010 7:58 AM

From what I have researched I have found very little evidence for evolution or a god that exists. These are based on what are called philosophical (or deductive) science or in laymens terms guess work.

What we can see is that on both sides there are people that support and oppose these views for various reasons like money, hate etc.

BenSeptember 28, 2010 8:05 AM

This is nothing new. Simply put:
"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will
scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will
refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something
which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he
will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is
explained in this way."
Bertrand Russell

DinahSeptember 28, 2010 8:22 AM

People are indeed guilty of this. Scientists are also people. Scientists are less likely to support a world view which is unpopular with their culture and peers.

I think we should trust objective findings about the world. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that being a scientists excludes one from the inherent subjectivity of the human condition. There is strong bias among the scientists on heated issues. I do believe that global warming is real and is the fault of humans. But if I'm wrong and a scientist finds evidence that I'm wrong, the findings will not be taken as seriously as those which support the status quo.

HJohnSeptember 28, 2010 8:51 AM

@"Ninety-seven percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science accept the evidence for evolution, but at least 40 percent of the public thinks that major differences remain in scientific opinion on this topic. "
________

That's the sentence most people are talking about it seems.

Let's try to look at this objectively. Fact is, this is similar to what I call a self-selecting sample. Most people who join science professions are already pre-inclined to believe evolution. I'm not saying they are wrong, I'm just saying they are not unbiased. People who believe in, say, creation for example, are more likely to enter other fields.

kangarooSeptember 28, 2010 8:59 AM

HJohn: What would be "unbiased" regarding well supported scientific work?

How could anyone be "unbiased" regarding evolution, general relativity and so on without being completely ignorant of them and therefore being of no value in discussing them.

This concept of "bias" is either completely ill-defined or just plain silly.

I guess proving the point -- people will believe ANYTHING to stay with their in-group. Hell, they'll believe that castrating themselves will cause a comet to pick them up and place them in interplanetary paradise, if it means their friends will keep them in the group.

One shouldn't bother trying to use reason on an issue with a member of a group that is irrational about that issue. The group does the "reasoning" -- except for the rare freak, reasoning is not done by individuals.

Richard Steven HackSeptember 28, 2010 9:05 AM

It isn't a fact unless you can do something with it (good prediction counts).

Technology trumps scientific "theory" every time.

If you can make it work, you're right enough for horseshoes, otherwise you're just guessing.

OTOH, if I remember correctly, for decades they thought electrons went one way, then they decided the reverse and had to change all the textbooks.

That doesn't breed a lot of confidence.

OTOH, the history of religion and the state doesn't breed ANY confidence.

Anti-EugenisistSeptember 28, 2010 9:10 AM

@ Clive Robinson

"I don't think ordinary evolution is going to do it for us."

I hope you are not re-proposing Eugenics are you?

BobWSeptember 28, 2010 9:14 AM

First, I agree with John F. Fay's observation of how they equate disagreement with evolution, which is on firm scientific ground, with disagreement with AGW, which is less so.

Evolution, at least at the micro level, is observable all around us. Evolution at the macro level can be deduced from that.

Furthermore, people who believe in evolution have no obvious economic axes to grind.

AGW, on the other hand, is a bonanza of grant money and speaking fees if it is a crisis. If it is not even occuring, let alone a crisis, it is not so much so. If you follow the money, there is much *more* to be made if AGW is real, especially if policies are enacted. *cough* cap-and-trade *cough*.

BobWSeptember 28, 2010 9:16 AM

Furthermore, I dislike the elitist attitude that people don't know what's good for them, and have to be managed by their betters. That attitude was all through the excerpt you posted.

AlanSSeptember 28, 2010 9:31 AM

And there's a science of risk that doesn't involve "cultural cognition"?

I had a relative who was a physicist and he used to go on and on about how safe nuclear power was because the science said that that the risk of a melt down was a ridiculously small. This was before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The way he understood risk was based on 'scientific' calculations that focused on physical aspects of the system that could apparently be more easily quantified (i.e. risk of a pipe breaking, backup cooling system failing, etc.). This approach didn't take into account the sociological factors because the science of nuclear risk was blind to them. Science itself is subject to cultural cognition.

There's a large sociological literature on public perception/understanding of science and scientific expertise. I'd be very cautious about treating science as if it wasn't itself a sociocultural practice and only using sociocultural factors to explain 'public error' and 'misunderstanding'. That's social science that's at least thirty years behind the times.

For a nice collection of essays on this topic (although not a recent one) see "Misunderstanding Science?: The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology"--see especially the introduction and conclusion and the essay by Brain Wynne on Cumbrian sheep farmers and the response to Chernobyl.


bob (the original bob)September 28, 2010 9:43 AM

97% of Scientists don't believe in going along with what the majority think...

In my life experience so far, in the 100s of times when I have hired a professional (anything - plumber, electrician, attorney, doctor, mechanic) to do something and even though I may be -completely- unfamiliar with their area of expertise; when we come to a disagreement, 90% of the time I am proven to have been correct OR at least they have been incorrect (I may have been unable to form an opinion from lack of knowledge) - and these are people who are theoretically experts in their field that I only hired after researching their background and interviewing previous customers.

Why would I then trust people who I dont know, havent met and have done no research into for some life-changing decision? (one might say my experience also proves I am not very good at picking experts - that would be unkind of one; but I would have to agree - I have begun to pick contractors by lowest bid or pseudorandom number generator rather than 'rational thought process' - at least that should be right 50% of the time?)

I would also point out that even though the quoted paper states that experts do not have a majority opinion on gun control, they use slanted language to describe it in their example, indicating that on at least some subjects they are biased as well; possibly impeaching their main premise. I have often felt you should fight one battle at a time to avoid fragmenting your supporters.

Finally a lot of survey data is biased, intentionally or otherwise. For example a question may be worded "do you believe the earth's temperature is rising" and an answer of "yes" might be recorded as a belief in Global Warming. My answer would have to be yes to the question because when I look out my window the glaciers are no longer here (I live in Ohio) which are pretty much agreed to have formed the terrain in this area, in fact the glaciers have been gone from this region since before recorded history, possibly even before homosapiens settlement in this region. But it would NOT be a vote for GW - because while it is undeniably much warmer (after all the glaciers ARE gone, no one can deny it); however its been trending that way for 20,000 years or so which makes me also believe cars did not cause it, especially since cars pretty much arrived AFTER humans did.

So I guess I believe that, If you have a scientific position, you should be able to explain it to me and show proof; I will -not- take your opinion just because of who you might be.

And if you REALLY want to make me disbelieve your position, become a well-known public figure making millions on speaking and writing to support Global Warming (tm) and telling me how ->I

AlanSSeptember 28, 2010 9:50 AM

Another old chestnut worth raising here is the whole is-ought issue.

People jump from questions of fact to questions of value all the time. A lot of the debate about "what to do?" which is really a question of values and priorities gets reduced to "questions of fact". Scientists get leveraged for this type of political purpose all the time as a way of short-circuiting messy debate involving values. It's a nice rhetorical strategy. But is it any surprise that people who feel expertise is being used to discount their values respond by discounting the facts being used for the purpose?

Anon CowardSeptember 28, 2010 9:55 AM

Interesting, only 97% of scientists believe in evolution yet 100% of Christians believe in God.
I'm not sure what, if anything, that proves.

xSeptember 28, 2010 10:10 AM

I hypothesize:

Society has forgotten what scientists are for and why we have them.

Scientists are the people we employ to find out the truth for us, carefully and rigorously.

So why do we not listen to them? There seems to be an "us and them" attitude towards scientists, a certain level of distrust and a fear that they have an agenda to manipulate society.

dobSeptember 28, 2010 10:23 AM

John Jay and BobW, your analysis is foolish. You assert the global warming advocates are perpetrating a hoax and are cashing in on the vast amounts of money available from liberal interest groups and... something. You ignore the possibility that the anti-global warming advocates are cashing in on the vast amounts of money available from Big Oil.

Your attitudes are a perfect example of the original post; global warming doesn't agree with your preconceived attitudes, while conspiratorial, control-minded liberals do, therefore it's a conspiracy by liberal scientists to control us. Or something. It's as beautiful as it is frightening.

BruceASeptember 28, 2010 10:25 AM

I'm surprised at how many commenters here seem to go against the findings of the Pew survey. They don't dispute that there is a near-consensus among scientists; instead they express skepticism about the motives or expertise of the scientists.

I'm not sure exactly what to make of that, but it seems to be worth noting that the premise of the study ("Most people trust scientists, but not their conclusions") may not be accurate. Or readers of this blog may be a very atypical community.

JSeptember 28, 2010 10:41 AM

Just want to point out: this goes both ways, not just against conservative non-scientists. These same forces work against liberal-scientists (and conservative scientists and liberal non-scientists)

Bruce, bias does not equal reality. I'm more interested in the science, that is seeing how the stuff actually works for myself, than just grouping people and then claiming that they're stupid.

HJohnSeptember 28, 2010 10:43 AM

@kangaroo at September 28, 2010 8:59 AM


That's not really how I intended it, but your points seem fair.

I'm not saying those who are pro-evolution are wrong. All I said was, and I believe it is true, that most of them probably believed it going in.

Insofar as unbias goes, that's difficult. The removal of all other factors is all but impossible.

So, if I sounded like I was arguing their validity, I was not. I was merely saying the 97% came from people who may have been inclined to that belief before they were ever scientists. It was just a simple observation not meant to discredit, just observed.

JSeptember 28, 2010 10:46 AM

@BruceA

The issue is that the Pew survey doesn't actually tell us anything about the real world. You take for granted that the scientists are correct.

I like science and am a scientist myself, but I would not argue that a theory or law was true until I saw it in action myself (such as the Darwin's Finches experiment), or read and audited the experiment--this is being a responsible and good scientist.

Liberals tend to like using studies that show that conservative views are outside the expert opinion consensus. But this doesn't matter! It's actually a logical fallacy: the appeal to authority.

Facts about the world are true innately, and can be discovered via proper experimentation (scientific method!), but NOT because all other scientists agree.

RookieSeptember 28, 2010 10:47 AM

@x - Scientists might indeed by careful and rigorous while collecting their data, but drawing conclusions from that data can be a different matter entirely.

I believe that Dinah is absolutely correct in saying that scientist bring their own pre-conceived ideas and biases into play when they are interpreting the data.

JSeptember 28, 2010 10:51 AM

@X

You argument is logically foolish. You can't just listen and accept what every scientist says point blank, even if they all agree!

Scientists are human and humans aren't just logical, reason machines. Their experiments have flaws, etc.

This is why we have peer review, and need iconoclastic scientists. It's a slow, slow moving process, and it's also why scientific things that are easily demonstrated, like a cell-phone, are not contested by people. They can see the experimental results in their hands!

Things like global warming and evolution take time to learn about. People will and SHOULD contest these things. Scientists can't just be trusted because they are scientists! Many, but not most, are unethical, just like EVERY OTHER PROFESSION!

What we really need is more science education--then people will grow up to be better scientists and also non-scientists will be better able to understand scientific experiments and questions.

mcbSeptember 28, 2010 10:54 AM

@ AlanS

"People jump from questions of fact to questions of value all the time. "

What's more, the debate surrounding those risks chosen to mark the boundaries of the Culture War - abortion, tobacco, free trade, gun control, global warming, war on drugs, fundamentalist religion, global war on terror, NASCAR - are subject to deliberate and sometimes very sophisticated disinformation campaigns. Ideally, the facts should be determined using the scientific method, then the culture can decide what to do about them using political methods. Regretfully, the disinformers who find the likely solutions unacceptable know that it's much more effective to attack the facts and those attempting to discern them. If you can't even decide whether there's a problem then there's no sense proceeding to talk of remedies...

ElitestJerkSeptember 28, 2010 11:05 AM

People are opposed to the tyranny of expert consensus. They want to be able to have free, divergent opinions and are skeptical when they are told "experts agree, so get in the game"... because believe it or not... so often experts have agreed and been thoroughly wrong.

Personally, I like to see all opinions, even those of what experts like to call "The Stupid People". Granted, imo, no one is stupid, they are just called stupid. They pretend to be stupid or a societal consensus not seeing the reason for their divergence of opinions or styles... agree to label them as stupid.

All too often such criticism best reveals something on the critic, as opposed to the non-critic.

When I am right or more in the know on something... I don't stress it that it seems others do not know it.

mcbSeptember 28, 2010 11:06 AM

@ anon coward

"Interesting, only 97% of scientists believe in evolution yet 100% of Christians believe in God.
I'm not sure what, if anything, that proves."

It proves little but may demonstrate an important difference between science and faith. There is also some issue with the definitions of the terms "scientist" and "Christian." Not all PhDs are the molecular biologists whose opinions matter when discussing evolution. Whether any Christian can demonstrate qualifications sufficient to justify a belief in God is another matter altogether.

JoeSeptember 28, 2010 12:19 PM

There is a big difference between scientific findings and policy making - and the article glosses over that difference. One only has to point to failed policies based on scientific data. Prohibition is a very obvious example: very few will dispute that alcohol poses a significant health risk but very few will proffer prohibition as sound policy. That's my problem with a lot of environmentalist positions. They tend to equate scientific facts (AGW) with a prohibitive policy (say, cap and trade).

The blurring of this distinction creates the effect "explained" by the article: if you're against cap and trade, then you must be against climate science. How else can you "explain" why some otherwise rational people are against cap and trade? It must be "cultural".

To further further compound this effect, the blurring of the distinction between scientific fact and policymaking is accepted by oponents of bad policy: they're forced to defend their position by attacking the science itself.

dobSeptember 28, 2010 12:20 PM

As an addendum to my prior comment, I'm old enough to remember when the pro-tobacco lobby quietly funded a cottage industry of researchers to produce studies indicating that cigarettes were not a substantive health risk, just as the fossil fuel industries are doing with global warming. Furthermore, among their right-wing allies' talking points were the familiar pearl-clutching warnings that liberal scientists were fostering a hoax, and that the government was just trying to find an excuse to extend its control. Again, just as with global warming.

Imperfect CitizenSeptember 28, 2010 12:46 PM

@ the scientists are human arguments...yep

This article makes sense to me. I'm married to a physicist from North Carolina. I'm a Yankee (liberal arts). This disconnect plays out in my daily life not over evolution but many other issues.

Apparently there's a cultural barrier to him putting dishes in the dishwasher, he'll put them on the counter above it or in the sink but not in the dishwasher itself. I asked him, is this cultural? Is this patriarchal backlash? He says the same thing each time, "I wasn't sure if the dishes were dirty or not." I say, "how can a nuclear physicist not know if dishes in a dishwasher are clean or not?"

Clearly there is a frame of reference thing going on here. I don't think Yankee women are better at discerning whether dishes are clean in a dishwasher than a guy with a PhD in physics.

Clement gameSeptember 28, 2010 1:02 PM

this study is useless because its result was obvious. speaking about évolution and ( it comes packaged with it ) atheism, when you start telling peuple that when they'll die, the only thing that Will happen for sure is a /dev/null redirection, you will ont make them want to listen to you. that's one of thé reasons why i disagree with dawkin's militant atheism. it's too brutal for people, the world doesn't work like that.

mcbSeptember 28, 2010 1:17 PM

@ dob

"...the pro-tobacco lobby quietly funded a cottage industry of researchers to produce studies indicating that cigarettes were not a substantive health risk, just as the fossil fuel industries are doing with global warming. "

It's worse than that. In _Merchants of Doubt_ http://www.bloomsburypress.com/books/catalog/... Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway argue that Big Tobacco and Big Oil hired the very same people to orchestrate these disinformation campaigns.

BradSeptember 28, 2010 1:49 PM

I think this really boils down to the fact that scientists, seen as trusted, are used as political tools. "You trust science, right?" goes the line of reasoning. "Well, check out what these scientists say!" And naturally they'll agree with the speaker, leaving those who disagree with him to argue, not just against his political point, but against that scientific point, and therefore by implication with science itself.

The specific points are completely arbitrary, and they don't even have to involve science. If religion played a major political role in the US (in the sense that it does in Iran or Saudi Arabia, I mean), then priests/ministers/rabbis/imams would be consulted the same way scientists are, and the public would be just as divergent in their opinions of what those authority figures had to say..

In short, it's all about appeals to authority. The science doesn't matter to politics, and politics matters a heck of a lot to people in this country. Until it doesn't, this debate will continue forever.

jgrecoSeptember 28, 2010 1:55 PM

This paper and resulting discussion fit in nicely with my theory that "the best way to ensure that people won't discuss the actual content and intent of your paper is to mention AGW".

kog999September 28, 2010 1:59 PM

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" - Upton Sinclair

I just like that quote, seriously though I’m surprised at all the anti scientists comments. Sure it’s possible for 97% of scientists to be wrong or lying but what makes you so sure that you are right. Have you performed detailed analysis of fossil records, DNA comparison, compare different species to each other and their ancestors? It’s not enough to say I don’t believe in evolution because scientists have this huge conspiracy to diss god (which I don’t even think believing in evolution does) you need some proof of your own. When Copenricus first said the earth revolves around the sun I’m sure he was laughed at by 97% of scientists. But then he proved it and they changed their minds. If you believe that evolution is not real then prove it and today’s scientists will change their minds as well. On a side note the anti global warming argument really confuses me. If you accept that argument that global warming is not caused by the man so what. That does not make its effect any less bad for man nor does it do anything to solve the problem. Seems like the next logical step in that argument would be to say OK fine its not caused by man but what do you propose we do about it? Or should be just sit back and keep pumping C02 into the air until though no fault of our own we all die of from this natural disasters.

JoeSeptember 28, 2010 2:29 PM

One theme that I have seen in several comments is that scientists discover "truth" or prove things.

Science has nothing to do with truth and it cannot prove a hypothesis.

I think this is what causes science to be misused. People want truth and want proven answers, and they insist that science and scientists provide them. Scientists yield to that pressure, or their statements gets taken out of context, which leads to nonsense.

All science can do is say that the results of a given experiment or set of experiments are consistent with a hypothesis or not. If not then the hypothesis is invalid. If so, then the hypothesis is NOT proven valid. It just hasn't been disproved yet.

This leads to far more uncertainty than most anxiety-prone humans are willing to tolerate, so the science gets jettisoned and replaced with faith.

David BlackburnSeptember 28, 2010 2:34 PM

The slight logical fallacy behind the consensus argument aside, ISO-27002 Section 0.7 "Critical success factors" explains what is not understood, I think. While this concerns things critical to the implementation of information security within an organization, it just might apply to other things as well:

b) an approach and framework to implementing, maintaining, monitoring, and improving information security that is consistent with the organizational culture;

BobWSeptember 28, 2010 4:01 PM

@dob:

There's no vast liberal conspiracy to put over an AGW hoax on the rest of us.

It's just that, you can get research grants and trips to Copenhagen if what you study is an emergency.

If you're a utility like Dominion Resources, that managed to make a great deal of money on cap-and-trade in sulfur dioxide emissions, then carbon dioxide cap-and-trade looks like a chance to do it again.

The arguments somehow become more convincing.

cSeptember 28, 2010 5:08 PM

@mcb
"It's worse than that .... (snip).... Big Tobacco and Big Oil hired the very same people to orchestrate these disinformation campaigns. "

1. who would YOU have hired? proven performer, or an unknown? these people are evil, not stupid.

2. who did the anti-evolutionists hire? i'm not willing to accept most of this second group as evil, and not stupid either (uneducated, yes...)

3. unfortunately, too many people now know how to do the "opposition" thing effectively, effective at swaying crowds that is. constructive suggestions, working to improve things, etc are a different kettle of fish altogether

donnchaSeptember 28, 2010 5:14 PM

I think we're all missing the point here: *only* 97% of the AAAS accept the evidence for evolution?

How do you become a member of the AAAS without accepting the evidence for the scientific theory with probably the most supporting evidence?

JonSeptember 28, 2010 7:42 PM

@ bob (the original bob)
"So I guess I believe that, If you have a scientific position, you should be able to explain it to me and show proof; I will -not- take your opinion just because of who you might be."

Ah, yeah. So, have you heard of peer-reviewed scientific journals? That's pretty much all they do.

Douglas2September 28, 2010 9:29 PM

Well, as a scientist, I followed the linked article to ars technica, followed their link to their own article on the "recent study", and followed the link in that to the Pew Research foundation.

What they represent as "Ninety-seven percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science accept the evidence for evolution, but at least 40 percent of the public thinks that major differences remain in scientific opinion on this topic."
is, in the survey:
"87% of scientists say that humans and other living things have evolved over time and that evolution is the result of natural processes such as natural selection. Just 32% of the public accepts this as true."

From the report we see, I don't think that the 40% figure is response of the general public to a question or questions meant to elicit if they think that there is a scientific consensus. And it is quite evident that 13% or so of the AAAS members think that "natural selection" was at least inadequate to explain the evolution they see. It might be that that they are all in non-biology fields and couldn't be expected to know all the details, or it could be that some of the 8% who answered negatively are actually in the thick of research involving evolution and know the controversies that are left. We just don't know from the data presented.

Any good sociologist will also know that "natural selection" will have precise meanings to experts in the field but possibly completely different meaning to laymen. Members of organizations that have a long institutional history of support of individual human rights and hence opposition to the excesses of the eugenics movement perhaps throw away the "baby" of selection by natural processes with the "bathwater" of coercive cleaning-up of the human gene pool or environmental-ethics-based refusal of government aid to developing nations. They reject natural selection as a philosophy, not as an observation, and this is difficult to unpack in one-sentence survey questions.

kog999September 28, 2010 10:45 PM

"All science can do is say that the results of a given experiment or set of experiments are consistent with a hypothesis or not. If not then the hypothesis is invalid. If so, then the hypothesis is NOT proven valid. It just hasn't been disproved yet."

While I suppose that is there is always some uncertainty, but how many experiments need to support a hypothesis before something is accepted as true. By this logic I could say the Sun is made exclusively from jello brand gelatin and all the science to the country has not disprove this idea. If you can’t rely on observations of the results of an experiment how can anything be proven true.

JerrySeptember 28, 2010 11:26 PM

@kog999:
"While I suppose that is there is always some uncertainty, but how many experiments need to support a hypothesis before something is accepted as true. By this logic I could say the Sun is made exclusively from jello brand gelatin and all the science to the country has not disprove this idea. If you can’t rely on observations of the results of an experiment how can anything be proven true."

It sounds as if you want science to prove "truth". The Sun-gelatin example is going the wrong way. Scientific experimental results disprove the hypothesis that the Sun is composed of gelatin (of any brand ;)).

The idea is to take hypotheses and subject them to test after test; the ones left standing are further refined. You approach an asymptote which may be called truth, but you don't ever get there. And you don't have to for science to be worthwhile and important.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 28, 2010 11:27 PM

@ Clement game,

"... that's one of thé reasons why i disagree with dawkin's militant atheism. it's too brutal for people, the world doesn't work like that."

Err no it's not the world that "doesn't work like that" it appeares to be only humans, the rest of the living creatures just get on with life brutal or not.

Why is "our world" like this well it appears that humans have developed part of the brain that is significantly involved with or possibly responsable for "faith".

FMRI scanning has shown that devout people when praying activate a part of the brain that is not normaly activated for other activities.

The question is why, one hypotheses is that it is to ensure cohesion in a herd so that the crowd will follow a leader in times of stress etc. Further that enables large groups that would otherwise be effectivly at war to co-exist in lose federations.

Thus it could be argued that unreasoned faith is a necessary part of our makeup to ensure peacefull co-existance or "society" for the majority good.

However as always you have the bell curve tails. At one side the sociopaths that become leaders on the other those with ASD who represent the engineers and scientists and other creative types.

The latter group of people do not have "religion" in the way of the majority for them religious faith is a very abstract concept that is "placed outside of time" that man is enslaved by. This is a viewpoint that has been endorsed by the Roman Catholic Faith since atleast 400BC.

Richard Dawkins view appears to be that belief in deities etc is a "built in" part of our makeup not an actuality of the universe, that is "we are deluding ourselves". As the point about "deities outside of time" is not currently scientificaly testable it is an open argument.

Like many people he is also excedingly concerned that faith is being abused for "political purposes" one of which is the "Creationist" view point that the Bible is of a mater of faith the absolute truth about our existance. Not as would appear to be the case a series of stories retold over and over again that evolve slightly with each telling or as more recently seen with printed books each publication.

@ Anti-Eugenisis,

"I hope you are not re-proposing Eugenics are you?"

Absolutly not my views on that subject are a mater of record (some humans as dog breaders operate a "closed stud book" and the level of casual abuse and crulty including euthanasia etc is frankly unbelievable and abhorrent).

The point I was eluding to is the part of ordinary evolution that leads to "over specialisation" that gives rise to "evolutionary dead ends" such as the much touted "saber tooth tiger".

In many ways our intelligence has reached a point where it could be seen as breaking the evolutionary process in that humans can chose to have children or not.

It has been pointed out in the past there appears to be an inverse relationship with IQ and the number of children people have. Part of that argument is the hidden agender within IQ testing favouring developed nations over undeveloped nations and hidden racism. What is however an easily seen trend is that as a nation moves from a mainly agrerian existance to one of industrialisation the average number of children per family drops.

Russell CokerSeptember 29, 2010 12:29 AM

The allegations here of biased liberal scientists are interesting, they match the allegations of biased liberal journalists. It seems that everyone who disagrees with neo-cons is claimed to be biased. The fact that people can disagree because of having access to different evidence (or access to any evidence) doesn't seem to occur to the neo-cons.

Some attempts are being made to muddy the waters by implying that "cap and trade" is the only way to deal with AGW. Most people in the Green movement seem to agree that cap and trade (paying huge amounts of money to the biggest polluters) is the wrong way to go. The right thing to do is to tax people for their pollution.

So while the conservative approach to global warming would be to give money to the companies that cause it, the liberal approach would be to merely make everyone pay for what they use.

Even if there was no global warming issue, it is still well proven that car exhaust and other emissions harm the health of the population and cost a significant amount of money in health-care and in lost productivity. It makes sense to have higher fuel taxes to cover some of the health-care costs and to encourage companies and people to pollute less.

It has been proven that public transport is an effective way of saving the government money. A study of New York city showed that having government owned buses charge fares would be more expensive than running them for free, when a bus is parked and causing traffic to bank up while accepting fares the cost to the city is greater than if the passengers traveled for free.

Measures to reduce pollution are good for everyone. More, better, and cheaper public transport are good for everyone - it helps the economy, helps people who can't or don't want to drive, and the people who want to drive will have less congestion on the roads. More fuel efficient cars cost less to run, they make less noise, and are generally better to drive. Renewable power sources are going to be needed anyway, oil is running out rapidly and coal only has a few hundred years left.

If companies were forced to pay for all externalities then the end result would be much the same as if fair and reasonable government measures were taken to mitigate AGW.

Capitalism is a good thing, but when the government is captured by rent-seeking monopolists then it's not capitalism. It's also not capitalism when monopolists start campaigns to lobby for their rent.

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 29, 2010 1:52 AM

This applies to scientists who come from a different culture than those they are trying to convince...or, in other words, the practice of science itself may be the different culture.

RobSeptember 29, 2010 5:16 AM

@kog999,

Your're saying "Have you performed detailed analysis of fossil records, DNA comparison, compare different species to each other and their ancestors? It’s not enough to say I don’t believe in evolution because scientists have this huge conspiracy to diss god (which I don’t even think believing in evolution does) you need some proof of your own."

You seem to imply that 97% of the AAAS members have done that and have come to the conclusion that Evolution has been scientifically proven.

This is a misunderstanding.

The fossil records do not at all prove an evolution from fish to amphibia, to reptiles and then to birds and mammals. This is because the intermediairy fossils just don't exist. Fossils only prove that a certain animal or plant died in a flood, mudslide or volcanic eruption or that the dead specimen was covered soon after it died.

A lot of these fossils belong to species that are now extinct. That doesn't prove exolution.

Some of the so-called proofs of evolution are wrong: 1, 2, 3 and 4 toed horse species are an example. Textbooks pretend that horses evolved from 4 to 1 toed feet, but fossils of 3 and 1 toed horses have been found together in 1 location. Lived together, died together, no evolutionairy parent-child relation between them. The same holds for a finding of homo erectus and homo sapiens dying together under 1 volcanic eruption. If the died together, they lived together, so, no evolution from homo erectus to homo sapiens can have happened.

Some evolutionits say that evolution must be true, because the alternative, creation, is unacceptable. That means it's belief system, just like religion.

/Rob

John HarveySeptember 29, 2010 8:11 AM

In 1877, early in his career, the American philosopher, Charles Saunders Peirce, wrote The Fixation of Belief. His four methods by which we acquire certainty are tenacity, authority, a priori, and scientific method. Even though he argued more than 100 years ago that scientific method is superior to the other methods, they still seem to be alive and well today.

John, Wizened Web Wizard Wannabe

MarConSeptember 29, 2010 8:13 AM

re: "Rob"

Is there some organization that mobilizes people to track down and "refute" any and all posts on the intra-tubes that in any way speak positively about evolution? Or is this just the hobby of a small group of nutters?

I mean, seriously, someone like "Rob" couldn't possibly have a clue what the original discussion here was about and I suspect never even heard of Bruce S. (and still hasn't).

Or mayber, this the price we pay for high unemployment. Too many crackpots with time on their hands.

If so, I vote we have a 100% employment jobs bill before the next session of Congress starts.

jeffSeptember 29, 2010 8:52 AM

I think that Indianagreg has the right idea. His comments:

"97% of scientists agree: the world is flat"
NOTE: This was true for thousands of years -- probably though the 14th century.

"97% of scientists agree: the sun revolves around the earth"
NOTE: Similarly, this "fact" was true for thousands of years.

Lucky for us (and science), scientific truths are not found by consensus.

NOTE: Is there such a thing as "scientific truth"? Scientific views evolve over time just as our view of where the center of the universe is. It has migrated from the earth to the sun to who-knows-where. But there is no proof that the earth is not the center of the universe. We have determined that the sun is at the center of the solar system because the math is more simple to explain the motion of the items in our solar system under this belief. But where is the "proof" of Occam's Razor? Perhaps the more complicated math required to place the earth at the center of the solar system is the "real" truth.

dobSeptember 29, 2010 9:12 AM

"Some attempts are being made to muddy the waters by implying that "cap and trade" is the only way to deal with AGW. Most people in the Green movement seem to agree that cap and trade (paying huge amounts of money to the biggest polluters) is the wrong way to go. The right thing to do is to tax people for their pollution."

This is completely backwards. Cap and trade involves the biggest polluters paying, not receiving, the largest amounts of money.

WinterSeptember 29, 2010 10:18 AM

This discussion is really really interesting. We see the effects claimed in the article appear right under our noses.

Read again what it said:

"Ninety-seven percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science accept the evidence for evolution, but at least 40 percent of the public thinks that *major differences remain* in scientific opinion on this topic."

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with what this said. Even if evolution would prove to be wrong (for which there is not a single shred of evidence), the 40% of the public remains WRONG.

Because it did not say 40% of the public "does not believe in evolution", but it said that 40% of the public believes there are still scientific controversies over evolution. And that is wrong, there are NO scientific controversies over evolution. That is a fact and can be empirically verified.

But none of you read what it said and started a baseless, and factless, discussion about evolution.

Btw, I have met many biologists, really many, and have never ever met a biologists, religious or not, that uttered doubt about evolution (not even in private). Just as there are no climatologists or meteorologists that do not believe human CO2 causes global warming.

So any public controversies about either evolution or climate change have absolutely NO basis in science. But if you prefer to get your scientific facts from journalists and preachers, that is ok with me. But do not accuse scientists from supporting your opinion. Because that is a blatant lie.

mcbSeptember 29, 2010 10:34 AM

@ c

"'Big Tobacco and Big Oil hired the very same people to orchestrate these disinformation campaigns.'

1. who would YOU have hired? proven performer, or an unknown? these people are evil, not stupid.

2. who did the anti-evolutionists hire? i'm not willing to accept most of this second group as evil, and not stupid either (uneducated, yes...)"

Re Item 1: Good point. If I wanted to preserve the status quo by attacking the evidence and those who do the science (so I didn't have to solve the problem in this generation) I'd hire conservative disinformationists (but I'd ask them to cover their tracks more effectively).

Re Item 2: Biblicists are committed to a presupposition that their edition of the Good Book is literally true and inerrant. Therefore anything that conflicts with their preacher's understanding of it cannot possible be true. Opposition to evolution is grassrooted, nonscientific, and dogmatic. There are some very smart (even highly educated) people who make a faith commitment to Bible-believing Christianity and then apply all their talents to selectively interpret, twist, and reinvent the science to fit their Iron Age Mediterranean worldview. The non-religious perceive their efforts as so much delusional flapdoodle (see Rob, September 29, 2010 5:16 AM). They need not be seen as evil, but perhaps they should be kept away from the nuclear weapons, policy decisions involving Israel and Palestine, and science text books.

Douglas2September 29, 2010 10:39 AM

Winter -
There is something wrong with the statement "Ninety-seven percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science accept the evidence for evolution, but at least 40 percent of the public thinks that *major differences remain* in scientific opinion on this topic."
What is wrong with it is that this portion:
"at least 40 percent of the public thinks that major differences remain in scientific opinion on this topic."
Is completely unsupported by the research they are trying to report. The questions weren't "do you think there is a consensus". The questions were "do you agree with this statement about how the world works".

Clive RobinsonSeptember 29, 2010 12:17 PM

@ mcb,

"They need not be seen as evil, but perhap they should be kept away from the nuclear weapons..."

My god man think of the children for christs sake think of the children...

There is a story about Alfred Hitchcock traveling in a car and on seeing a small child go up to a priest, he slamed on the breaks and stuck his head out of the window and shouted "run boy run for your very soul is in peril".

If it was up to me I would put all deity worship books etc up on the top shelf with all the other 18+ material.

As history shows more "mortal sin" has been commited against an society by people invoking a deities name than in just about any other way.

Teach morals and justice and let the child find their own way with a shure foundation.

kiwiSeptember 29, 2010 12:30 PM

@Clive

"If it was up to me I would put all deity worship books etc up on the top shelf with all the other 18+ material."

History is replete with people who wanted to control what others learned, believed, or read because they where smarter than the ignorant masses. You can join those controllers, but be aware you're not in savory company.

mcbSeptember 29, 2010 12:59 PM

@ kiwi

"'If it was up to me I would put all deity worship books etc up on the top shelf with all the other 18+ material.'

History is replete with people who wanted to control what others learned, believed, or read because they where smarter than the ignorant masses."

I'm with you. Kiwi. I suspect the very best curative to the detrimental effects of religion would a "World Religions - Past and Present" course taught in the public schools no later than the 10th grade. In 9th grade we should teach "Critical Thinking, Scientific Method, and the Psychology of Belief."

LKMSeptember 29, 2010 1:36 PM

I nominate this comment thread for the "comments most obviously proving the post below which they appear" award.

Really, people? Global warming isn't real, and evolution can't be observed? If you don't trust the scientific consensus because you happen to disagree with reality, at least do yourself a favor and look at the actual data.

Petréa MitchellSeptember 29, 2010 2:00 PM

How else would you expect people to evaluate expertise?

Suppose you hear someone with purported scientific credentials assert that things fall up 90% of the time. Do you say, "Aha, a scientist says this, so it must be true"? Do you stop to consider whether their field of purported expertise is related in any way to physics? Or do you immediately think, "What a moron! That's not a real scientist!"?

If the third option is the most likely, then you are doing precisely what the maligned subjects in the study are doing: evaluating the scientist in terms of whether or not they say something that agrees with your model of how the world works. Is this always the wrong thing to do?

Dave FunkSeptember 29, 2010 2:25 PM

@Clieve
"As history shows more "mortal sin" has been commited against an society by people invoking a deities name than in just about any other way."
Actually in the last 100 years or so, Communists (athiests) murdered close to 100 milion of persons. Pretty well out did the crusaids, the 30 years war, and all the other religious killings. I'm willing, only for the sake of argument, to give religion 2nd place to communism/socialism. And that argument would include questions about how Stalin (#2 behind Mao in killing people) would have approved of the initial thesis of this article.

Russell CokerSeptember 29, 2010 5:53 PM

Dave Funk: That's the same Godwin violation that the Pope perpetuated in blaming atheism for the Nazis.

If you read about the persecution of the Russian Orthodox church it becomes clear that the aim was not preventing religion but establishing absolute autocratic control. The Orthodox church was supported by the Soviet authorities when it was useful to them. The Soviets didn't murder people because they were atheists, they promoted atheism to stop competing belief systems - except when it suited them.

As for comparing with the crusades, it's more accurate to consider these things as a portion of the population. The dramatic improvements in agriculture and medicine in the 20th century permitted significant population growth so therefore the death toll from most causes was greater than in previous centuries.


PS Is there any church that is currently of a reasonable size and hasn't had a history of protecting clergy who molest children?

WinterSeptember 29, 2010 7:24 PM

Douglas2,

You do it again. My comment was targetted at the commenters. They never read the statements, but only inserted their pet controversies.

As you are doing.

To go on. There are no scientific controversies over the existence of neither evolution nor global warming. That you can easily verify. A sizeable fraction of US citizens believes there is such a controversie. That too can easily be verified.

Complaining about the details of the statistics and the references can only be interpreted as a diversion to avoid having to acknowledge these dissinant, empirical facts.

Which was exactly the point of the original article.

JessSeptember 29, 2010 8:17 PM

@dob: "Cap and trade involves the biggest polluters paying, not receiving, the largest amounts of money."

I can accept your AGW enthusiasm, since after all you share it with many sensible people, but this is just naïve. Cap'n Trade is designed to benefit the incumbent large players in polluting industries, to be yet another captured-regulator cudgel with which to club new competitors. If it were only about reducing emissions, a simple carbon tax would entirely suffice.

edSeptember 29, 2010 8:50 PM

@Imperfect Citizen
He says the same thing each time, "I wasn't sure if the dishes were dirty or not." I say, "how can a nuclear physicist not know if dishes in a dishwasher are clean or not?"

Schrödinger's dishwasher. He doesn't want to collapse the superposition by making an observation.

Douglas2September 30, 2010 12:18 AM

Well, I now can see that I misinterpreted the excerpt from ArsTechnica above, and that the study they are reporting is this one:
http://ts-si.org/files/SSRN-id1549444.pdf
The AT excerpt above reported the Pew survey as if it asked about consensus even though it did not. The actual Kahan/Bramin/Jenkins-Smith study did in fact ask about whether there was a scientific consensus on various issues where risk is involved. They also looked at how we evaluate the credibility of scientific advice. Basically, they found that we are more likely to find an expert credible if the expert supports our own opinion.
On issues such as the long-term safety of nuclear power and the danger of climate-change, most of us do not have the expertise to evaluate the risk ourselves, so we basically work out who we trust and agree with them.
On whether a news report accurately reported a survey, most of us do have the facility to click through to the news article and click through to the report, and evaluate if the reporting was accurate.
In this case, the ArsTechnica article excerpt above claimed support from the Pew survey for a position that could not be supported from the Pew data, (regardless of how right or wrong that position was.)
Yet here we are, in a discussion of how a-priori opinions on a subject influence our evaluation of someone's credibility on the subject, and mentioning the credibility of the news article we are discussing is somehow a distraction?
BTW the article at the SSRN link is a great one: well explained, easy to read, and methodologically sound.

WinterSeptember 30, 2010 12:39 AM

@douglas2

Theee things
1 The reported difference between scientific consensus and the public perception is basically correct. We know that from other reports. And we do not care whether it is 99%/40% or 95%/30% or whatever.

2 Point 1is independend of whether the science is sound. However, a majority of the commentors here do trust journalist and anonymous commentors on science when they agree, but not the professionals who actually work on it.

3 The report has mixed up the references.

What made you all think point 3 is evidence that scientist are all lying mass murderers bend on the destruction of the world?

Is it the distrust that anyone smarter than you would behave like you would do if you could?

RobSeptember 30, 2010 1:59 AM

MarCon said:

"re: Rob

Is there some organization that mobilizes people to track down and "refute" any and all posts on the intra-tubes that in any way speak positively about evolution? Or is this just the hobby of a small group of nutters?

I mean, seriously, someone like "Rob" couldn't possibly have a clue what the original discussion here was about and I suspect never even heard of Bruce S. (and still hasn't).

Or mayber, this the price we pay for high unemployment. Too many crackpots with time on their hands.

If so, I vote we have a 100% employment jobs bill before the next session of Congress starts."
-------
Maybe there is a brigade of people who search the Internet for things to refute, but I'm not part of it: I am a regular here, but this was my first comment. And I do have a job, and your congress isn't mine.

Obviously you don't want to know that there are no half fish/half amphibia fossils that would prove such a step in evolution, and so on.
-------
Russell Coker said "Rob: If I died at the same time as my grandparents they wouldn't suddenly become my cousins or siblings."
-------
You're right at that, but you are a contemporary of your grandparents and your siblings. In evolution theory, homo erectus and homo sapiens are supposed to have lived in very different times.

/Rob

averrosSeptember 30, 2010 3:20 AM

This has nothing to do with the fact that the so-called "scientists" and "experts" were caught redhanded lying to the mere laypeople times and times again. I'm quite sure of that.

Remember global cooling (which somehow morphed into global warming, and, now "global climate change")? Remember swine flu? Remember idiotic dietary advice from the establishment scientists which turned out to be plain wrong? Remember the sunscreen mania? Remember the Keynesian economics and New Math? Remember The Great Computer Crash of 2000?

WinterSeptember 30, 2010 4:51 AM

@averros
"Remember global cooling (which somehow morphed into global warming, and, now "global climate change")? Remember swine flu? Remember idiotic dietary advice from the establishment scientists which turned out to be plain wrong? Remember the sunscreen mania? Remember the Keynesian economics and New Math? Remember The Great Computer Crash of 2000?"

So you are against informed decision making?

I did not really get your alternative? Taking no decisions? Throwing dice?

Russell CokerSeptember 30, 2010 5:20 AM

averros: The people who worked on the computers in question were mostly convinced that there was no serious problem. I did some "Y2K" testing back in 1999, it was easy money and the software all just worked (some industries had it harder). The only thing I was worried about was mass panic inspired by the media, but fortunately nothing bad happened in that regard.

"Global cooling" was a theory based on a lot less evidence than is available now. It didn't "morph", it was replaced by better theories. That's how science works, we don't have a popularity contest with unqualified people voting, we have peer reviewed articles based on evidence.

Economics has never been a science, they have only recently discovered ways of running experiments to apply the scientific method to economics via virtual worlds. The economists were not involved in climate science.

There have been a number of attempts to improve the failing education system in various countries. None of them have worked because none of them have addressed the fact that the education system was designed to educate 19th century bureaucrats. Again that wasn't done by climate scientists.

There has been a lot of bad dietary advice given out, but I'm not aware of any examples of it being based on peer reviewed scientific research. Again it wasn't done by climate scientists.

In science as in any other profession there are a few individuals who commit fraud. Unlike in most professions scientific fraud has a very high chance of getting caught, others repeat the experiments and get different results.

There have been people who claim to be scientists who commit fraud on a large scale, there have been many who were employed by the tobacco and oil industries. Again they were not climate scientists, and their work was debunked quite thoroughly.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 30, 2010 8:07 AM

@ kiwi, mcb,

Please not I said 18+ that is for adult consumption only.

The problem with those younger is that they are way to trusting of what they are told.

Even when comparing various belife systems it is very very easy to manipulate a childs mind.

For instance belief system A, and belief system B from even a 10ft let alone 20,00ft view they are the same using the same documents etc to base their faith on. BUT they interpret the same documents in slightly different ways (Nearly all main stream belief systems suffer from this factioning and the can be realy realy vicious towards each other).

Now let us say the teacher is of one of the two belief systems, and you have to guess which...

On describing system A she uses long words in a monotonic voice and discurages any questioning.

On describing system B she uses short words and smiles is animated and her voice is almost melodic, she encorages questions and rewards those that ask the sympathetic to this system questions.

As a 12year old or less which system are you going to remember and favour when questioned.

We have seen this sort of behaviour in UK state funded but religious orientated schools, who generaly due to relaxed criterier can reward the better teachers with more money, Thus on the exam league table they appear to be better schools. However when you dig a little deeper you find in many creationisum is alive and well even in the science classes where the teacher discussess the difference between Evolution and Creationisum.... Your guess which the 11/12 year old children end up giving credence to when asked afterwards....

GregWSeptember 30, 2010 9:32 AM

@MarCon
"Is there some organization that mobilizes people to track down and "refute" any and all posts on the intra-tubes that in any way speak positively about evolution? "

Um, no, but assuming, as per this thread, 40%(or 100-32%=68%?) of population doesn't buy evolution, the odds that one of them is responding to a given thread, here or elsewhere, are reasonably high.

Plus, at least in my anecdotal experience of many years on internet discussion groups, people are more likely to post if they disagree than if they agree, so posting %ages for a given position are probably higher than the readership of a given position.

ShockedSeptember 30, 2010 11:56 AM

The figures quoted on the PEW site http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1276/science-survey are even more shocking than reported here. Apparently 32% of the public, and 87% of scientists (i.e. AAAS members) believe in evolution.

So THIRTEEN percent of US scientists don't believe in evolution. That is terrifying.

By the way, Rob, please don't repeat the old lie about there being no "intermediary" fossils. What do you think Archaeopteryx was? It is far from being a typical bird, but neither is it a typical dinosaur. It shows an evolutionary step. And of course, there are innumerable less famous examples of the same thing.

mcbSeptember 30, 2010 12:26 PM

@ averros

"Remember global cooling......Remember The Great Computer Crash of 2000?"

I was there for them all and recall that most of these teapot tempests were brewed up by representatives of the 24 hour news cycle who appeared to have only skimmed the abstracts.

SkepticSeptember 30, 2010 12:33 PM

Shocked -
Check again. 97% agree that evolution has taken place, 87% agree that it is because of Natural Selection.

Shouldn't we be shocked that that 87% will answer affirmatively to a question that implies the only mechanism of evolution is adaptation, and they don't agree that there can be genetic drift that is not inherently adaptive or non-adaptive?

ShockedSeptember 30, 2010 1:15 PM

Skeptic -

I was looking at the table headed "Differences between public and scientists go beyond evolution".

This says that 87% of scientists "Think that humans, other living things have evolved due to natural processes".

I haven't read all the PEW material - it may be that their table misrepresents their findings. But if we take it at face value, it does appear to mean that 13% of scientists do not accept that evolution has occurred as a result of natural processes. The figure of 97% that you quote suggests 3% of scientists are creationists; presumably the remaining 10% subscribe to the idea that evolution occurred over time, but was guided by a supernatural being rather than being the result of a process susceptible to scientific analysis.

I would have assumed that 100% of scientists - or at least of people worthy of being called scientists - would subscribe to a model of evolution in which natural selection plays a major role. That is not the same as denying the importance of genetic drift.

BruceASeptember 30, 2010 3:53 PM

@J
"The issue is that the Pew survey doesn't actually tell us anything about the real world. You take for granted that the scientists are correct."

Maybe I do, but that's not the point of my comment. The Pew survey says that, although 97% of scientists agree with one particular interpretation of facts, nearly half of laypeople believe the scientists are not in agreement.

However, in this blog, many commenters acknowledge that scientists are mostly in agreement, but question whether they are correct.

Those are two distinct approaches to disagreeing with a scientific consensus. What I'm wondering is, why the discrepancy between this blog and the Pew survey? Did the survey undercount people who take the second approach? Or are the readers of this blog that much different from the general population?

Hum HoOctober 4, 2010 6:57 AM

I would have assumed that 100% of scientists - or at least of people worthy of being called scientists - would subscribe to a model of evolution in which natural selection plays a major role.

Well, evolution is not some sort of a 'proven fact' anyway, and not even a 'proven theory'. It is a theory that requires faith to believe in, as all unproven theories do. In that aspect it does not differ from "religion".

And since it requires faith, it is a choice to believe in it or not. Many people choose to believe in it for many different reasons, many of which have nothing to do with "data", some of which have something to do with "interpretation of data". Others choose not to believe in it. It is a personal choice.

ShockedOctober 4, 2010 12:46 PM

Hum Ho

I don't disagree with what you say (though I don't think you understand the scientific meaning, as opposed to the everyday meaning, of the word "Theory".)

But what you say about evolution can be said about pretty much the whole of science.

The whole of science is a belief system. Science is a belief that the best way of comprehending the world is by observation, reasoning and experiment. In contrast, religion is a belief that the best way of comprehending the world is by faith in ancient books.

I accept that some people might prefer faith to science. What I cannot understand is that anyone who prefers faith should nevertheless call himself a scientist. But that is the only possible conclusion we can draw from the statistic that 13% of scientists do not believe in evolution. Evolution, whether you like it or not, is immensely well grounded in scientific observation, reasoning and experiment, and denying it is tantamount to denying the validity of scientific method.

BCSOctober 4, 2010 9:14 PM

Just to be contrary, What would happen if a large number of people were to find the implications of the non-evolutionary world view to be extremely contrary to what they want? They would begin ignoring any evidence that contradicts their theory of evolution. Not just the layman is subject to this effect, the experts can fall prey to it as well.

Clive RobinsonOctober 5, 2010 5:39 AM

@ BCS,

"They would begin ignoring any evidence that contradicts their theory of evolution. Not just the layman is subject to this effect, the experts can fall prey to it as well."

Only for a period of time related to the error function.

The father of an early method of enquiry (Aristotle) and his followers did exactly this (a kind of "beauty is truth" argument). The problem was that the view had to hold against contrary evidence (error term) that built up until such point the view became unacceptable.

The father of modern enquiry into our phisical world (Newton) closed the loop on such flights of fancy by the requirment to test any hypothesis befor it could be considered as a theory.

That being said there are two jokers in the pack the first being Axioms the second being the laws that arise from them, as any hypothesis is usually first tested against them.

However in the (non science) field of mathmatics both laws and axioms have been torn down as the contrary evidence built. One such being the problems with "sets" and another being issues to do with "decidability", interestingly though neither caused that many problems and infact opened up other more profitable avenues of enquiry.

Oh and as for "natural philosophy" or "physics" most who practice within it's fields of endevor are aware of the notion of a "succession of lies, each closer to the truth".

zorg2000October 15, 2010 7:30 AM

@Clive Robinson

"I don't think ordinary evolution is going to do it for us."

Isn't that exactly what evolution is currently doing for us by rewarding those who can display creative and independent thinking?

One characteristic of autistic spectrum "disorders" is the ability to base judgment purely on facts and not be influenced by group think.

The issue is that even if they are rewarded in some specific environments (e.g. science, Silicon Valley), they do not necessarily choose to - or succeed in -reproduce, and therefore their genes are not passed on...

jamesOctober 16, 2010 5:50 AM

@ bob (the original bob): "Interesting, only 97% of scientists believe in evolution yet 100% of Christians believe in God.
I'm not sure what, if anything, that proves."

Big logical fallacy. What you said is: "Only 97% of scientists believe in evolution yet 100% of the people who believe in God, belive in God." I could also say this: "Only 89% of Americans belive in God(s) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States], but 100% of Evolutionists believe in Evolution!"

SeegrasOctober 18, 2010 4:54 PM

Global Warming? It's not just "the last 20'000 years" it's getting warmer, it's the last 30 years that make a difference.

I can venture out some 200km and take a look at this one: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/...

So "global warming" is bloody real, and ignoring the fact of some industrialization in the last 150 years seems to be very ... selective.

Andrew Rose mentioned: "Science from outside of America is seen to be more credible." Indeed I probably see it as more credible. However, "outside of America" there is even a stronger consensus regarding Evolution and Global Warming. Actually, the dispute of those is mostly seen as originating in the US.

And now, something completely different:
'"jeff wrote: "97% of scientists agree: the world is flat" NOTE: This was true for thousands of years -- probably though the 14th century.'
This is PRECISELY illustrating the public (jeff in that case ;)) ignoring science. Historians bloody well know _nobody_ in 14th century Europa (or Arabia, or China) tought the earth was flat. Not since something like 300 B.C. Yet the believe that they believed in a flat earth still pops up.

MaxNovember 15, 2010 6:00 PM

The various flat earth comments, which have been debunked quite ably already, are painfully ironic. Because the flat earth/revolving sun beliefs were never based in science, but were based instead in religious dogma, or perhaps simple willful ignorance sometimes clothed in religion. Those beliefs, to the extent they were held at all broadly, were retained precisely by ignoring -- even persecuting -- the scientific knowledge that did exist. That's why we call it the Dark Ages. Let's not go back there, shall we?

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