Conservatives Lose Trust in Science
A study has found plunging trust in science since the 1970s by conservatives.
Just 35 percent of conservatives say they have a “great deal of trust in science” in 2010, a 28 percent decline since 1974, when 48 percent of conservatives — about the same percentage as liberals — trusted science.
Liberal and moderate support for science has remained essentially flat since 1974, according to Gordon Gauchat, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He published his findings [PDF] in the journal American Sociological Review.
“It kind of began with the loss of Barry Goldwater and the construction of Fox News and all these [conservative] think tanks. The perception among conservatives is that they’re at a disadvantage, a minority,” he told US News.
“It’s not surprising that the conservative subculture would challenge what’s viewed as the dominant knowledge production groups in society—science and the media.”
Gauchat said that whereas in the 50s and 60s, science built ‘stuff’ for Department of Defense and NASA, things that “easily built a consensus,” now it drives policy in areas such as environmental protection.
“Science is charged with what religion used to be charged with—answering questions about who we are and what we came from, what the world is about. We’re using it in American society to weigh in on political debates, and people are coming down on a specific side,” he said.
Jeremy Mayer, a professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, told US News that he disagreed that this is a new phenomenon, pointing to the use of science to justify racism in the 19th century. He said that the “anti-intellectual” populist vote, which used to belong to southern Democrats, is now a Republican theme.
“Ever since the [George] Wallace types joined the Republicans, they have gradually moved against science in increasingly open ways,” Mayer said.
Last week, a group arguing for evolution amongst evangelical Christians held a conference. Notably, the meeting offered the attendees the opportunity to not have their names recorded in order to “encourage open conversation on sensitive topics.”
Findings described as “sobering” were presented on what American Protestant pastors believe about creation. More than half profess a 6-day, 24-hour creation of life. Fewer than one in five, on the other hand, affirm an evolutionary process as God’s method of creation.
Last year, a study found that a majority of high school biology teachers don’t take an active stance on evolution, and 13 percent of teachers actually advocate for creationism in the classroom.
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