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    Trust In Science Has Declined Among Conservatives - Why?
    By Hank Campbell | March 29th 2012 11:58 AM | 55 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    There was a time when people on the right trusted science far more than moderates and liberals. Distrust of scientists, including levels that verged on raging paranoia, was limited to the left side of the political spectrum.

    Now that is not so. Recent sociological surveys show that the right has become increasingly distrustful of science. Given yet another sociological study with delightful confirmation bias, you're going to read a whole lot of 'conservatives are anti-science' articles because science and science media is dominated by one side, the left. When I say 'left', I do not mean it in the insulting 'leftist' vein that political pundits use the term - clearly if there are two sides, 50% of people are on each. In science specifically, there is a good left, actual liberals in the classic sense, but the more ridiculous claims we get will be from the bad left - kooky progressives. 

    If you frame the data the right way, it certainly does look like the right is anti-science instead of not trusting their political opposition. And there is a lot of framing that goes into this topic - if you read more than one article (this one) on this survey that is not harping on how stupid conservatives are, it will be a shock. A critical look at the data and its underlying concept won't happen because science journalists have become advocates for progressive good works so they won't ask any awkward questions of this like they would if the conclusion were the opposite - and the conclusion has an element of truthiness because only 6% of academia is Republican.  The 'why' of the result is what should concern us all.

    Sociologists recognize it is easy to demonize minorities when there are so few that there are no repercussions in the hallways and office buildings, i.e. not having to look people in the face after you insult them. That doesn't mean they mind when it happens. And it happens a lot in academia about right wing people now, especially in the humanities and the social sciences. In fairness to other scientists, the more you go toward hard science, the more balanced political views are. We can address that later. First, let's get to the newest survey results collated by Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and published in the American Sociological Review. He says trust in science has dropped 25% among conservatives over the last nearly 40 years while it remained flat among the left.

    I'll tell you up front; I am buying it. I do not think this is a spin result concocted because sociology is 99.5% left wing people. The 'why' is what will be important and Gauchat makes up a nice little confirmation bias answer that, unfortunately, is easily dispelled if anyone even glances at the real cultural landscape. We'll get to that in a bit. First, let's see if there is an answer that can be more objective.

    In 1974, when I was a wee lad. trust in science among conservatives was quite high - the highest of any political group. Now their confidence in science is lowest. Did they get stupid?  Did their political skew overwhelm their reason?  Some will frame it that way.  It needs to be considered that the same cultural skew that critics contend makes science academia hostile to women and minorities also drove out political diversity - and once the echo chamber was installed, confidence in the field waned because scientists became a political bloc rather than a force for public good.  You don't see anyone complaining doctors are left wing, for example.  


    One side or the other has always trusted science more.  Why are current times so special? Credit: shutterstock.com

    It wasn't a gradual shift

    The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Learning surveyed the political persuasion of professors ten years later, in 1984, and found that liberals outnumbered conservatives on university faculties 39 to 34 percent. Insignificant. But by 1999, liberals were suddenly a 5-1 majority on college faculties.  In a 15 year period of time, things changed a lot.

    Political activists in science and certainly science media will use that to trumpet how out-of-touch conservatives were even before Bush was elected in 2000, but it was actually the other way around.  In that same period, only 18 percent of the public identified as liberals, while 37 percent claimed to be conservatives and 55 percent claimed to be moderates. Academia had gone out of touch with the public even by then and in numerous fields, the skew is even greater now.

    True believers in the 'conservatives are stupid' fringe will claim conservative drops in academia during the last few decades are self-selection bias - basically conservatives do other jobs because academia does not pay enough - or they are really dumb.  The self-selection argument is silly.  Professors actually get paid quite well and have a great deal of freedom compared to corporate America so people with a right wing mentality are not just getting better-paying jobs anywhere else.  Compared to previous decades, professors are paid much, much better now - academia used to be a truly low-paying job. Claiming conservatives did not care about money then, since there was near parity until the late 1980s, but do not choose academia now because they are greedy does not pass even the simplest logic test.

    The 'conservatives are stupid' mentality is more common but that doesn't account for the skew either - it turns out more scientifically literate conservatives trust some fields of science even less. It seems to be just politics - and liberal persuasion is so assumed that anyone who seems to deviate from that gets a subtle knock on their careers - stereotype threat is what social scientists call that.  People who routinely believe that conservatives would discriminate against liberals, and that women and minorities are unfairly impacted because of existing demographics blocking their path, don't seem to think politics will matter in academia.  Yet somehow it does.  The reality is that while conservatives are not openly discriminated against, overwhelming numbers mean "liberals have a statistically greater chance of reaching the top tiers of the profession."(1)

    Women in hard sciences can probably understand exactly what they mean.  

    The problem with the drastic shift that has occurred is not an erosion of confidence in science by a lot of people who need to support the endeavor for it to get funded, it is also a warning that science is losing diversity and therefore creativity.  We just may not have noticed it yet but if the top levels of science don't get women or minorities (including political ones, like conservatives) we may not be getting the best minds doing transformative research. We keep hearing that the 21st century is an information one so we can't contend people who vote Republican are automatically dumb while the party that believes the most in astrology and ghosts is the intellectual elite.

    Instead of self awareness about the pitfalls of exclusion, overt or subtle, we are going to see a lot of blaming the victim.

    The culture war hurts science acceptance

    The new results also showed something else we all know; the more people go to church the less likely they trust scientists today. Socioeconomic status, race and gender were controlled for and not an issue, just church attendance. It can't be a positive thing that a large chunk of Americans feel like scientists are putting a secular left worldview ahead of scientific rigor but they don't do it to all science. Loud atheists claiming to represent all biology and climate science are the two that wreck the perception of science and both became hyper-politicized during the shift in academia and the decline in conservative confidence of science overall. Despite the fact that physicists are looking for a 'God particle' not many religious people deny physics.

    John McCumber, a philosophy professor at UCLA, once made the patronizing claim that "a successful career in academia, after all, requires willingness to be critical of yourself and to learn from experience" and conservatives were not capable of that, he said.(2)  African-Americans and female minorities in academia remain understandably worried that progressives are not really on the side of diversity when they think like that.  Substituting virtually any demographic in that sentiment shows how dangerous it is.

    Yet the most frequent claim of progressives who are the front line in the culture war is that being smarter leads to shifting left and that was also not found to be true. Education mattered little in the distrust by conservatives.  On the contrary, distrust rose as education did, the opposite of what happens in liberals. Basically, conservatives get more skeptical as they learn more while liberals get less. Don't like that spin?  Well, you now see the problem when the left does it.

    Conservatives are not anti-science, they are anti-scientist. And only toward some scientists who seem to put politics ahead of reason.

    Gauchat does not exonerate the left entirely, he just couches a mild qualifier in language designed to exonerate them. "In the past, the scientific community was viewed as concerned primarily with macro structural matters such as winning the space race," Gauchat said. "Today, conservatives perceive the scientific community as more focused on regulatory matters such as stopping industry from producing too much carbon dioxide."

    See?  It's not true, it is just the way they are perceived.  Again, this applies specifically to climate change, which is hyper-politicized.

    What explains it?  

    Sociology asks questions and gathers results, it does not provide answers, so finding one reason why conservatives distrust scientists more than they once did is not a reasonable task.  Gauchat makes the attempt, but it is unconvincing - namely that as the identification of conservatism changed, politicians changed to match that. It's the tired 'elites matter most' argument but it doesn't work because 'elites' among progressives are always invoking Frankenfood and anti-GMO rhetoric.  The current President of the United States correlated vaccines to autism during his 2008 campaign. If elite anti-science sentiment was all that counted the left would distrust science as much as the right.

    Well, it turns out they do - but only the science they disagree with.  So Union of Concerned Scientists will say to trust scientists when it comes to global warming but that scientists are out to kill us when it comes to food.  What is the glaring difference?  Climate scientists are primarily left-wing.

    Science sentiment changes over time, of course.  From World War II until the 1980s, the left wing and certainly loud progressives distrusted science because it was gradually becoming controlled by government funding and therefore was no longer independent - the same reason they like it more now.  Everyone likes people that are on their side. It could easily shift again, though Bush and a Republican Congress doubled funding for the NIH and that didn't endear them to biologists when they took a moral/ethical stand regarding limitations on human embryonic stem cell research.

    History aside, the risk today is obvious; there is not going to be a long-term bulletproof majority in Congress or in society. Not now, not ever. If a large group of people cannot trust in the political neutrality of scientists,  they won't trust in the political neutrality of the evidence scientists produce. And that isn't good for any of us.

    NOTES:

    Citation: Gordon Gauchat, 'Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010', American Sociological Review 77(2) 167–187
    DOI: 10.1177/000312241243822


    (1) Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter, and Neil Nevitte (2005) "Fundamentals and Fundamentalists: A Reply to Ames et al.," The Forum: Vol. 3: No. 2, Article 8. 

    (2) KC Johnson, 'Proving the Critics' Case', Inside Higher Ed August 26, 2005

    Comments

    Hank
    CosmicLog has the graphical chart but I don't have the pull with the publisher to just do that. 



    Looked at visually, the results tell a slightly different tale.  Moderates also have the same fall off in trust.  As a commenter at 3QuarksDaily put it, this shows "an increasing lack of faith in the instutions, not things like gravity."  That is to say, in a much shorter way than I did, less faith in the neutrality of the contributors and not the data.
    "Given yet another sociological study with delightful confirmation bias, you're going to read a whole lot of 'conservatives are anti-science' articles because science and science media is dominated by one side, the left. When I say 'left', I do not mean it in the insulting 'leftist' vein that political pundits use the term - clearly if there are two sides, 50% of people are on each."

    Oh boy, how can I start explaining to you how wrong you are... without you going all conservative-who-doesn't-want-to-accept-the-truth on me?

    Hank
    Apparently you can't but you will talk about how you can - you must be a sociologist.
    Rick Ryals
    Conservatives are not anti-science, they are anti-scientist. And only toward some scientists who seem to put politics ahead of reason.

    Great point, but I think that they underestimate the extent of the problem by about 10^79, because scientists aren't just practicing politics, they are practicing their own religion, and this is common to every last lib who is also a scientist, as well as the "flock" of fanatics that they preach to.
    Perfect! You have it all figured out!
    Scientists aren't educated and dedicated to finding out more data to bring them closer to the truth - they're just practicing yet another religion! It all makes so much sense now. All the technology, medical discoveries and data? All because of a flock of religious fanatics. No real scientists there.

    It makes sense, because science hasn't really ever figured out anything that religious groups couldn't find on their own. Oh wait... shit.

    Gerhard Adam
    I have a fundamental problem with the phrase "trust in science".  This is a decidedly unscientific phrase, since science is based on evidence, not faith nor trust.

    There are certainly many unsettled scientific issues, so when they are assumed to be settled for the sake of public policy decisions, then we obviously have a problem.  In addition, I'm not prepared to assign "scientists" the arbitrary attribute of being infallible, so it doesn't matter much what they say individually.  The point is peer-review and ultimate acceptance by the community at large, and not just on what individuals may say or propose.

    We also have to be cognizant of the fact that "scientists" are just as career-oriented as any other profession and that there will be "good" scientists as well as "bad" ones.  Again, the point isn't individual scientists, since the scientific method and the process of science is to gain peer support for ideas and not simply defend individual perspectives. 

    The fact that science doesn't progress fast enough for some people is also irrelevant.  It is equally irrelevant if there are entrenched interests that need to be overcome, etc.  Those are all parts of the scientific process that are intended specifically to counter-act human bias and prejudice.  In short, science moves slowly because it does require the ability overcome such entrenched interests, and while it can be frustrating for those that are on that career path, it is the one thing that has ensured that much of the science we "trust" has survived the long-term review and attacks of those that would suggest alternatives.

    Even the most well-intentioned individual can be wrong, but again, that's what the "protections" of the scientific process are meant to address by making it a slow arduous process of gaining acceptance.

    In my view, the problem facing science today and consequently the issue of "trust" is not science itself.  The acquisition of knowledge and insight isn't the problem.  Instead, it's the gradual perversion of science into technology where we must "have a use for it" that is creating the problem.  Once everything is framed within the context of "use", then everything changes and becomes political, economic, and ideological.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    In my view, the problem facing science today and consequently the issue of "trust" is not science itself. The acquisition of knowledge and insight isn't the problem. Instead, it's the gradual perversion of science into technology where we must "have a use for it" that is creating the problem. Once everything is framed within the context of "use", then everything changes and becomes political, economic, and ideological.
    When was this pure research science culture in evidence?  Government has taken over more funding since World War II because, the argument went, R&D was too D.  Now you are saying that it just happened? The entire 19th century and the first half of the 20th were all applied science - Bell Labs stopped doing cutting edge private sector basic research because they no longer had to - they had hundreds of millions of investors funding it.
    Gerhard Adam
    Depends what you mean by applied science then.  It's unlikely that the search for the Higgs will raise many political hackles and that is what most of what we consider "trusted" science to be.  However, if you want to extend that into the social sciences, etc. then we begin to have a problem.  In addition, as another example, there's a difference between understanding genetics versus modifying genes.  There's no question that more than ever, science is becoming motivated by investors and profitability [especially when someone views bio-tech companies] that is raising the issue of "trust" in these situations.

    It would be hard to imagine Darwin in a similar situation [or even Mendel].
    Mundus vult decipi
    When our colleges and universities begin to require more than just a stats course/arithmetic to fulfill their mathematics (Queen of the sciences) requirements, I just might begin to have a little more faith in the scientific researchers, especially in physics/chemistry/climate.
    I personally, would be happy with just a minimum requirement of college algebra (which is really nothing more than a high school Alg 2 course).

    Additionally a basic course in logic and computer programming would also be nice. Climate science is only as solid as the computer algorithms that are written to handle the data. Even the UN's panel on climate the IPCC states in its own reports that these computer algorithms are "improving" ...what ever that means???

    I really do not consider being well educated, in this day and age, allows for a total disregard for the key to scientific thinking which is mathematics. I'm just a dumb old jock (conservative) that has taken chemistry, physiology, biology, calculus (teach it), number theory, real analysis, group theory, differential equations (y +y" = 0 ===> so y = ?
    So what do I know. The fact of the matter is that in many of our colleges and universities today the department that has been downsized the most is mathematics. Why do we hire engineers from China/India etc....because we no longer produce them here and of the same quality as other counties.

    Hank
    While outside the scope of this article, it's a good point. Statistics is hard work and numerical modeling even harder. 10 years ago a lot of numerical models looked more like a student's homework than anything worth changing economies over, a lot of Monte Carlo analyses and assumptions and no controls at all regarding which data points got used, but in recent years the modeling quality has gotten a lot more rigorous and the results remain the same.

    I don't think people doubt the fundamentals of climate change - surveys show they do not, the majorities in each party still recognize that pollution is bad - but they doubt the political motivations.
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. t\The thrust of my comment was the continual decline in academic standards, especially in the math/science areas. In this day and age those requirements should increase and the fluff courses need to take the hit. Read a book.

    Also when it comes to global warming outcomes universe there is: S and S' , S' gets no attention or is it the empty set? I kinda doubt that.

    Every year our govt. pours millions into higher education research on goofy projects that i will not bother to provide examples of but many are laughable. Since there is big money in producing ridiculous studies , such studies are produced and ignored and a new grant application is prepared.

    Rick Ryals
    I don't think people doubt the fundamentals of climate change - surveys show they do not, the majorities in each party still recognize that pollution is bad - but they doubt the political motivations.

    That's because there are two competing worldviews as to what it means.  One places us at the center of the universe, where humans are king, and the other places us in a purely arbitrary position that shows no cosmological preference toward life whatsoever.

    One worldview entails that we are supposed to use our natural resources with few restrictions, and the other says that the use of our resources will kill us if we don't place impossible restrictions on our use*.

    Both worldviews are equally religious.

    *I say impossible restrictions on our use because I'm willing to put money down that says that this never happens to the satisfaction of the left, yet we will still be here long after we cross the suspiciously undefined line that represents the point of no return for the runaway greenhouse effect.
    MikeCrow
    but in recent years the modeling quality has gotten a lot more rigorous and the results remain the same.

    I presume this is referring to GCM's, the issue is that climate sensitivity to CO2 is hard coded in, they do allow for a range of values, and as it's dialed down there's  less of an effect caused by rising co2. It also still doesn't deal with clouds properly.

    If you look at things like this NASA report the accuracy is still questionable.

    And don't forget how the observation data is "adjusted", such as the warmest year crap, because if you use surface station data back to the 40's (and it's a shame it doesn't go back further), you get a completely different picture than what get's published.

    It's funny, all the times I've been insulted for being an anti-science idiot, getting my talking points from the radio and not looking at the science, yet when I go one better and process the actual data, it's ignored.
    Never is a long time.
    MikeCrow
    Additionally a basic course in logic and computer programming would also be nice. Climate science is only as solid as the computer algorithms that are written to handle the data. Even the UN's panel on climate the IPCC states in its own reports that these computer algorithms are "improving" ...what ever that means???

    It isn't a matter of programming or math, it's deciding what you think is the cause, and then writing your code to do that. So if you think we burn too much fossil fuels and all that exhaust just has to be bad, if one of them is a greenhouse gas, well it doesn't take much coding to make your model warm as co2 increases.
    Then throw some proxy data in with your measured data, and while your at it extrapolate surface temperature for all the areas that we don't measure, and you can pretty much make anything you want happen.

    It make a good argument, and it must be true because you model proves it, then you easily get the other people who also think all that exhaust gas just has to be doing something, and your logic does make sense, you get yourself a consensus.
    Never is a long time.
    I didn't read the earlier comments, so this may have been covered, but do you think maybe, just perhaps, conservatives don't trust science all that much because so many people have lately been trying to "prove" how stupid we are using methodology they're claiming is scientific?

    Hank
    Of course, but why then have moderates showed the same lack of trust?   Only the left, which distrusted science when the political demographic was balanced, now trusts it implicitly, while the middle and the right do not.

    Using science-y techniques is standard operating procedure for Greenpeace and PETA and vegan groups and everyone else too; every advocacy group tries to cloak itself in science.
    Rick Ryals
    Take note that the moderate position is what you end up with when neither side ever gets things all their own way.

    hmmmmm... that *should* be a clue... but it never is...
    The fundamental problem with Gauchat's data is that both his dependent and independent variables have serious measurement error. His political ideology self-identification variable is only valid if what people meant by the terms "liberal" and "conservative" has stayed constant over the measurement period, which no one can argue seriously. As the percentage of folks self-identifying as liberals has declined over the 1974-2010 period those who remain in the category are further left of center, on average. And as you point out, what people mean by "science" has changed over the period as well. So I suggest we don't "explain" Gauchat's results: we simply reject this research as too flawed to be taken seriously.

    Hank
    A good point and I am a little guilty of that too.  In my article I noted a survey from 1984 that suffered the same limitation.  That's the nature of sociology anyway, and why it is not science.  The only people accepting these results as valid without hesitation are delighted by the confirmation bias. I can accept them as valid but wanted to see why the shift has occurred.
    Hank
    Judith Curry, Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has compiled a large number of posts on this topic, some dealing with Chris Mooney's contention that there can be a Republican brain and some dealing with this other social science claim.
    John Hasenkam
     The fact of the matter is that in many of our colleges and universities today the department that has been downsized the most is mathematics 

    That appears to be something of a global trend. An English Prof of Maths even lamented the fact that many of his incoming students can't even perform high school maths very well yet he has to teach them harder maths. Some maths is difficult, you have to attack in the spirit of the mathematician Paul Erdos Problems that fight back are problems worthy of attack. Contrary to what some in education may believe, learning does involve pain, is not instinctive, and will not happen because the students feel warm and fuzzy about themselves.  

    Maths is fundamental because it allows us to quantify and so reduce ambiguity. Politicians and pundits hate maths because ambiguity is a major weapon in political debate. Here am I thinking we need a much more mathematically attuned political debate and you lot are arguing that isn't even possible in ivory towers. Yah! 

    Conservatives losing faith in science? Measure that by their actions not their words. Do they still seek solutions to their problems where those solutions were developed by scientists or have they started looking at chicken entrails? Do they seek some alternative medical mumbo jumbo to cure their cancer or do they see a doctor? What people say does not necessarily reflect their beliefs. Actions speak louder than words. So surveys based on self reports, in the very least, should be supplemented with behavior analyses so as to unveil contradictions, cognitive dissonance, and whether or not people are expressing a disbelief in science not because they no longer trust Science but because in their sub-culture it is groovy to ridicule Science. 
    Hank
    Roger Peilke, Jr. has weighed in on this social survey also.
    What also seems clear is that continued efforts to use science as a "wedge issue" (by scientists, advocates and politicians alike) will not further the restoration of trust in scientific institutions among conservatives, and likely will have the opposite effect. And without trust from across the political spectrum, science will continue to be politicized as politics by other means, diminishing its ability to serve as an important input to policy debates.





    If you want to say to me I am anti-Science if I am skeptical of Lysenko genetics. So be it.
    If you want to say to me I am anti-Science if I am skeptical of CAGW, this generations version of Lysenkosim. Have at it.
    If you want to call me anti-Science because I am skeptical of the scientfiic scam created by Dr. Woo Suk in behalf of his faked embryonic stem cell papers. So be it...

    I just rather think I am just being a proper skeptical Scientist; bending the Truth to fi the politically correct Party line..

    I can't believe it, someone that actually has heard of and knows who T. D. Lysenko is! The poster boy for political correctness. Yesterday I posted a little blurb on FB about Lysenko. My mathematics advisor in college was Dr. Vinograd, a Jewish mathematician from Russia. He is the one who pointed him out and said "that was a very bad man." No genetics! That's how far wrong political correctness can take you. It isn't genetics that determine one's traits/characteristics but environment (communist I suppose). Anyway it is nice to find a site where one doesn't have to put up with being called a vulgar name as a response to an argument! Good job.

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Models are statistics on steroids. With so many citizens untrained in statistics, no wonder the progressive Left relies on statistics and models so much. Statistics are only as valid as the underlying data. No wonder the progressive Left is so protective of the climate "scientists" who have been caught red-handed fudging the numbers.

    That the climate change issue is political, not scientific, is proven by the fact that it is led by Al Gore, a non-scientist, who is unwilling to debate, preferring to demogogue, instead. "Settled science," he says, as if there is such a thing.

    "Silent Spring" still forms the basis of the perception of science in the minds of many on the progressive Left. As thoroughly debunked as many of Rachel Carson's claims have been, DDT is still banned, resulting in millions of deaths in Africa and elsewhere.

    You seem to make the implicit assumption that political self-descriptions are unchanging, i.e. that rightwing conservatism is an incurable and permanent affliction, like syphilis. If this is not true then it's possible that many who respect science simply no longer choose to share a self-label with the modern anti-science face of the rightwing and instead think of themselves as independents. Others perhaps have gone even further and now also fully disassociate their own beliefs with the right's vocal defenses of homophobia, racism, sexism, or corporate cronyism.

    The author betrays some bias by claiming "Climate scientists are primarily left-wing." It is certainly painted & perceived that way by people who don't know the science, but when you look at the research it is astounding how much evidence supports the climate science and how little supports the right-wing view. It's more of an "all but the right-wing" issue among climate scientists.
    One problem is that people views & motivations are much more complex than a 1-dimensional categorization allows. If peoples views are actually n-dimensional, whether someone falls on the left or right depends on the factor analysis: ie., where you draw the left-right axis through the n-dimensional cloud.
    For instance, recent research showed that people who are installing solar power are not predominately left (or right), but just tech-savvy early adopters (which was clear from the description, although not explicit).

    So over the years, I have developed this n-dimensional taxonomy (with tongue firmly in cheek and the aid of a thesaurus). First the familiar

    Looney-Left vs. Rabid-Right

    Then:

    Fertile Front (people generating & embracing new ideas & technologies to meet the new challenges)
    vs
    Regressive Rear (prefer returning to older ways)

    Zealous Zenith (overly enthusiastic about imposing their beliefs on others)
    vs
    Nihilistic Nadir (utterly non-enthusiastic about imposing their non-belief on anyone)

    Competent Kernel (those who think for themselves, and think well)
    vs
    Mymidon Masses (those who do & think as told)

    Centrist Core (those who gravitate to a middle position on everything)
    vs
    Muddled Middle (the totally confused who on average have a middle position, sort of like the Markovian Middle, who take the last position that was presented to them)

    Rebel Rim ("Rebels without a Clue"--instinctively fight authority)
    vs
    Fascist Hub (instinctively embrace authority)

    Altruistic Above (Very giving, of themselves & others)
    vs
    Selfish Substratum (Very stingy)

    Naturally, I welcome grant money to further research this...

    Hank
    Science is left wing.  There are 6% Republicans. Claiming the climate scientists are moderate, or even close, is silly.  I don't think it makes much of a difference to researchers or the public - the public does not perceive physics as left wing even though they are more left than right too - except that climate scientists let the loudest, most shrill, activists represent them all
    Seems to me that the drop in cons. trust in sci. is paralleled by the rise of the evangelicals in the party. Perhaps the two are related. What do you think? Is that a downward trend I see in the graph since the mid 80s? I believe there has been a similar drop in sci trust within certain religious groups. Think of the movement against evolution.

    Hank, I get my climate research from the journals. Even if the media muddles research beyond recognition, the facts are solid that mankind is changing the atmosphere (just the same as looking out the window on a NY to LA flight will confirm that mankind is changing the landscape).

    On the other hand every climate cynic argument I've seen boils down to some combination of:
    Misrepresented Data
    Misunderstood Theories
    Misused Statistics
    Misquoted Authorities
    The best they can do is "plank & speck" arguments which focus on small weaknesses/errors/interpretations in the climate research while ignore the gaping fallacies of their own position.

    On the whole, they are every bit as bad as the creationists....

    Your problem is with reality, not ideologically-incorrect "leftist" scientists

    Hank
     the facts are solid that mankind is changing the atmosphere
    ...
    Your problem is with reality, not ideologically-incorrect "leftist" scientists
    When have I ever denied climate change?  Not once.  

    Your contention that climate scientists are lying about political orientation on surveys is silly - but your contention that the loudest are not political activists is flat out crazy.  Maybe this is some canned copy and paste comment you leave everywhere but please at least read an article and other comments before engaging in the kind of patronizing comment that makes the people I am critical of look goofy.
    not so sure what's meant by "left", "right" and "liberal", "conservative" etc. in the context of a technical survey. Do these recent sociological surveys specify these terms?

    eg. in these surveys, when someone says they're "left"/"right" is it that just what they vaguely tag themselves (as in supporting a football team), or are they asked about their left/rightness on social/fiscal/government/etc issues on each of the scales of family/community/national/international .. or what? I can't imagine anyone would be consistently, or even heavily inclined towards being left or right in all possible areas.

    [/confused about how people use "left"/"right"]

    Reality has a liberal bias. It's as simple as that.

    Hank
    not so sure what's meant by "left", "right" and "liberal", "conservative" etc. in the context of a technical survey. Do these recent sociological surveys specify these terms?
    That is the problem.  Sociology takes self-reported survey answers and tries to call it science.  Most people call themselves 'moderate' even if they are left or right, it makes us all feel objective, and certainly the public does it.  The same for voting independent.  The public lays claim to conservative more than liberal but moderate most of all so the fact that scientists are overwhelmingly liberal says (a) they are more honest or (b) they are even more liberal than they claim.

    I don't use the term liberal in my criticism because, as you note
    Reality has a liberal bias.
    America is a liberal democracy, scientists get a liberal arts diploma.  Liberal, in the classic sense, is a requirement for excellence and science is a meritocracy.  But progressives are different than liberals the same way libertarians are different from conservatives. It is progressives constantly hijacking university departments for the latest special interest cause, not liberals. Without liberals, there is no Science 2.0.  But progressives get chased out pretty quick - and to my knowledge, I am the closest thing to a conservative we have, but only because when it comes to money, I think government is a poor medium for improving the world.


    Aren't libertarians (i.e. classic liberals) in principle (not necessarily in practice) the most scientifically/ rationally minded of all political groups?

    And when you say progressive, aren't you in fact more referring to a more radical philosophy/ ideological orientation?

    Hank
    I am, but that is who commands the attention.  Historically, progressives were not always radicals  but they are now. Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive, but he was interested in managing the environment in a technological world, not going back the stone age.  It was a few years later that progressives got all creepy about social Darwinism and eugenics and got replaced by liberalism when the world discovered the end result of what progressives want to do with science.

    But now the social authoritarian progressive is slowly overtaking the tolerant liberal on the left.  I find libertarians slightly less creepy than progressives, mostly because 'I want to stay out of your life' is less creepy than weirdo progressives passing laws against buying goldfish and micromanaging the way everyone behaves.
    Rick Ryals
    Reality has a liberal bias. It's as simple as that.


    All praise Copernicus...

    Amen
    There are some things to like about this article but mostly I think it is misleading.

    The things I like are:

    1. The author quite rightly states that the division in scientific representation is not due to conservatives being “dumb” or even less intelligent than liberals.

    2. The example of progressives regarding climate science as indisputable but then criticising the science behind GM foods, water fluoridation, vaccination etc is an excellent case of left wing hypocrisy.

    However there are I feel a lot of bad arguments here too.

    The author dismisses the idea that self-selection can explain political disparities in scientific representation and cites as an example the good salaries of academics. However there are a large number of factors besides money that can influence a career path. Some examples:

    (i) Conservatives are more prevalent in rural areas and hence probably find access to universities more difficult, (ii) Conservatives are more likely to be religious which is likely to discourage them from studying many forms of science, and (iii) Conservatives are more likely to admire the private sector than liberals and hence are probably more likely to seek employment there etc. It is easy to come up with other plausible examples of this.…

    Worse it is suggested that, as more educated Republicans are more sceptical of science, this invalidates the idea that the causal effect of education shifts people to the left. The author is clearly in need of a refresher course in intermediate statistics, as behavioural variables such as political stance and education are mutually endogenous. An earlier post illustrated this nicely – if education shifts people to the left, it is quite possible (as moderates leave the party) that the remaining right wing are (on average) more conservative than they were before their education. To truly identify the causal effect of education on politics we need a statistical process of IV estimation. This (correct) approach has been done to death and yes, education does push people to the left. (Although interestingly for me it had the opposite effect).

    Further, if I understand correctly the author implies that the science behind global warming reflects a political, not a scientific viewpoint. This is of course possible, but it requires the assumption that there is some type of (at least casual) left-wing conspiracy amongst the tens of thousands of scientists from all walks of like who study this topic. This seems much less parsimonious that the alternative, that the reason why scientists are united on this front is because that is the way the evidence points.

    I could go on and on but will leave it there.

    Hank
    The author dismisses the idea that self-selection can explain political disparities in scientific representation and cites as an example the good salaries of academics. However there are a large number of factors besides money that can influence a career path.
    Self-selection was not the topic of this piece but it has been dismissed thoroughly elsewhere.  What you never consider is that there is any possibility at all of the obvious, though it is accepted quite readily when it comes to other minorities and even women - the climate for actual political diversity is now hostile when once it was tolerant.
    MikeCrow
    Further, if I understand correctly the author implies that the science behind global warming reflects a political, not a scientific viewpoint. This is of course possible, but it requires the assumption that there is some type of (at least casual) left-wing conspiracy amongst the tens of thousands of scientists from all walks of like who study this topic. This seems much less parsimonious that the alternative, that the reason why scientists are united on this front is because that is the way the evidence points.

    No conspiracy required if climatologist are self-primed by being mainly left-wing and having a strong environmental streak to begin with. Toss in a Venusian Planetary scientist who sees CO2 as the cause du jour, and you have a movement.

    And at a minimum, the evidence isn't clear, (and here), and the GCM's are designed to show an increasing temperature as CO2 rises.
    Never is a long time.
    John Hasenkam
    This is of course possible, but it requires the assumption that there is some type of (at least casual) left-wing conspiracy amongst the tens of thousands of scientists from all walks of like who study this topic. 


    No. People get swept along with the crowd, you don't need conspiracy theories to explain why so many fall for falsehoods. Happens all the time. Be on guard. Hank has a bee in his bonnet about these studies. I have a different view: these studies are crap and people who do them are shit stirrers.  
    Hank – Agreed. Both that there are also likely to be self-selection issues with other types of minorities and that the climate for conservative scientists is probably very hostile. This is undesirable but may not always be unjustified – for example it makes sense for evolutionary biologists to be hostile to the ideas forwarded by creationists.

    John - Yes what you are referring to is known as ‘Group Think’ and the concept is very well known in all fields of science. You can be sure that climate scientists are better acquainted with the concept than you or I. There are a number of ways around the problem such as endeavouring to be aware of it when drawing conclusions to seeking naive analysis from a third party.

    Nevertheless the “Climate-change-can-all-be-explained-with-groupthink” idea is not a null hypothesis. That is, it bears the burden of proof relative to the competing hypothesis that the scientists have got it right. Unless you can obtain overwhelming proof that this is the case (rather than a gut feeling) you should drop the hypothesis. Your idea that climate scientists have it wrong because they don’t understand this simple concept requires rethinking.

    Rick Ryals
    This is undesirable but may not always be unjustified – for example it makes sense for evolutionary biologists to be hostile to the ideas forwarded by creationists.

    Nope, it isn't justified because their hostility causes them to become reactionary to creationists, to the point that they lie, spin and willfully ignore evidence that appears to support the creationists position.
    Hank
    You're addressing a different issue, Rick.  Should a creationist take a job as an evolutionary biologist?  We covered a court case a few years ago where a PhD biologist never disclosed he refused to accept evolution, got a job at a research center, and then refused to work on evolutionary biology - the job he was hired for.  When they fired him, he claimed religious persecution.

    'Creationists' is a loaded word; while it only means 'people who believe in a God' it is used to mean 'people who think the planet is 6K years old and accept no science'. Hopefully, the farther we get from the first decade of the 2000s, when that sort of framing was popular among the militant secular left, the more that broad stereotyping will disappear.  Almost everyone agrees religion should not be taught in science classes and vice-versa but the loud fringes do no one any favors with their support for each side.
    Rick Ryals
    Well, people say that I'm at my best when I'm off-topic... ;)

    And while I'm at it...

    'Creationists' is a loaded word; while it only means 'people who believe in a God' it is used to mean 'people who think the planet is 6K years old and accept no science'.  Hopefully, the farther we get from the first decade of the 2000s, when that sort of framing was popular among the militant secular left, the more that broad stereotyping will disappear.  Almost everyone agrees religion should not be taught in science classes and vice-versa but the loud fringes do no one any favors with their support for each side.

    Just an FYI, but the distinction between YEC's (Young Earth Creationists), and Old Earth Creationists, as well as the hands-off god of the Catholics and Jews, isn't a big secret among biologists or anyone else that's involved in the debate, and the distinction does affect the manner with which they are treated with varying degrees of hostility, so maybe I'm just missing the point again.

    Also, it doesn't matter what people think about religion being taught in science class, since that is flat-out against the law and the ACLU will have a field day with anyone who tires, which is why the effort to stop critical analysis as a "back-door" to teaching creationism in science class is a telling give-away that politics, and not science is what motives *all* who are involved.
    Hank
    since that is flat-out against the law 
    Well, it isn't against any law.  None. The states and local school districts determine their curricula and the same people who go on a bender about religion also went on a bender about a national education standard. 

    'Critical analysis' sounds like codespeak for 'teach the controversy' and it's a lot like confusing students with quantum mechanics and letting them think gravity does not work. It does nothing for education and just matches a cultural agenda - that doesn't belong in a science class either.
    Rick Ryals
    It most definitely is against the law, per the constitutional separation of church and state, and I disagree with your assumptions about critical analysis too, as there is no other forum for this important issue to play itself out.  Creationists want to question assumptions that have been made without justification about undefined mechanisms of evolution that carry an appearance of design, but are not pursued by libs for that reason only.

    My interest lies in the fact that this causes them to willfully ignore, deny and downplay the significance of evidence in support of naturally guided evolution too, so from my perspective, the libs are killing plausible science for the sake of their ideology only, and this must stop.
    Rick Ryals
    It most definitely is against the law, per the constitutional separation of church and state, and I disagree with your assumptions about critical analysis too, as there is no other forum for this important issue to play itself out.
    Hank
    One of us does not understand the limitations on federal powers - given your assertion, there would never be any issue with any school district teaching creationism, the fed could just send in marshalls and end it.  Yet that does not happen because education is the purview of the states.

    It is not critical analysis to undermine science, but that is why our students get clobbered on international tests. We insist there are no facts, just a thought method, while Asians actually learn things in school besides how to play rhetorical games with teachers.
    Rick Ryals
    Sorry, I re-posted my reply where it belonged, and you are the only person that I have ever run into in my decades of dealing with this issue who thinks that the states can supercede the federal government in order to teach creationism in school.  Not only that, but the ACLU threatens to do exactly that every time that the issue comes up.

    Name one case where this has happened... you can't, and critical analysis has been on the books of a number of states for some time now without resulting in the teaching of creationism in school, and that's ONLY because it is illegal.

    http://www.aclu.org/blog/religion-belief/tennessees-evolution-two-step
    But the ACLU won’t stop fighting against them, either. If it’s a dance-off they want, the ACLU is ready and willing, and we have the Constitution on our side.

    http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/aclu-ind-creationism-bill-is-unconst...
    The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana’s top lawyer said yesterday that a measure that would allow schools to teach creationism in science classes clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and invites legal challenges.

    U.S. Supreme Court precedents “going back many years” have established the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in public schools, Ken Falk said.

    “The idea that somehow our state legislature can trump the Constitution just doesn’t make sense,” Falk said in a news release issued by the ACLU.

    Hank
    There is a difference between a judge ruling something is in violation of the Establishment clause and declaring the bigger issue that they are ruling on is now a federal power. Education cannot violation the constitution but that does not make education one of the enumerated powers. Again, the federal government does not dictate curricula, that is why creationism crops up again and again.
    Rick Ryals
    And the constitution is the *only* reason that it isn't being taught in science class... like I said...
    John Hasenkam
    You can be sure that climate scientists are better acquainted with the concept than you or I.  

    I know the concept, I deliberately avoided using the phrase because I think it is just an idea. I don't like the concept "group think" because we have "group think". It is to some extent inevitable in our thinking. After all, what constitutes a group? 2, 3, a whole culture? All can be relevant. The concept is interesting but groups don't think, individuals think. So don't be so sure that I don't know anything about "group think", in fact I think psychologists are too inclined to come up with catchy but often empty concepts. 


    Your idea that climate scientists have it wrong because they don’t understand this simple concept requires rethinking. 


    Whether or not you understand group think is somewhat irrelevant. Understand it all you like but if you think you can escape merely by understanding it you are placing too much faith in your own individuality. You actually have to do something. This might help:


    We insist there are no facts, just a thought method, while Asians actually learn things in school besides how to play rhetorical games with teachers. 


    Hah! Only yesterday I was speaking to my sister about declining literacy standards and stated how what so many modern educators fail to comprehend is that learning is hard work, it involves actually learning great globs of material and that takes time. It is as if they this learning business is spontaneous and fun. It can be but not for most. If it aint hurting sometimes you aint working hard enough. 
    John Hasenkam
    Whoops, don't know what happened there ... THis might help
    From the Ten Commandments of Leo Szilard:

    Do your work for six years, but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the recollection of your friends does not hinder you from being what you have become.