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Pew Survey Documents Gaps Between Public and Scientists 278

PvtVoid writes: A new Pew Research Study documents an alarming gap between public perception of scientific issues and the opinions of the scientists themselves, as measured by a poll of AAAS scientists. Even worse, the gap is partisan, with clear differences between Republicans and Democrats, and between conservatives and liberals. For example, while 98% of AAAS members agree with the statement that "Human beings and other living things have evolved over time", only 21% of conservatives agree, compared with 54% of liberals. Global warming, similarly, shows an ideological gap: 98% of AAAS scientists agreed with the statement that "the Earth is getting warmer mostly due to human activity", compared with 21% of conservatives and 54% of liberals. Encouragingly, almost everybody thinks childhood vaccines should be required (86% of AAAS members, 65% of conservatives, and 74% of liberals.) Go here for an interactive view of the data.
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Pew Survey Documents Gaps Between Public and Scientists

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @01:38PM (#50027261)

    In order to succeed as a scientist, one must be of above-average intelligence.

    The opinions of above-average people, on issues that require above-average intelligence to really understand, will naturally be at variance with the opinions of merely average and below-average people.

    I am sure there are plenty of average people who would disagree with me on this, however.

    • by praxis ( 19962 )

      In order to succeed as a scientist, one must be of above-average intelligence.

      Could not one of average intelligence yet above-average perseverance perform an experiment building on another's experiment and be called a "successful" scientist. You did not show that above-average intelligence is a necessary condition for success as a scientist.

      • Could not one of average intelligence yet above-average perseverance perform an experiment building on another's experiment and be called a "successful" scientist.

        Maybe, but they still have to write it up and get it published, and that's where the above-average intelligence comes in. There are drones in science, like in every field, but they don't get "successful" without publishing. And often that means working with others, and working with others requires above-average intelligence.

      • It might be possible to get a Ph.D., that way, but building a career in science requires more than managing to do something original enough to convince a thesis committee.

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      I think it's safe to say that in any SHTF event, it's the people who believe themselves to be smart who will suffer the worst.

      • To be fair, there is a vast difference between intelligence and wisdom; an intelligent and man may know/deduce everything there is to know about thunderstorms, but may not be wise enough to get his ass in out of one.

    • Re:Makes sense. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @02:31PM (#50027705)

      You are implying that ones political stance is an indicator of their intelligence?

      There is a huge group of people who's opinion is based on what the party says, I am a loyal Democrat/Republican so my stance will match what they say. There is no attention of the detail of the message nor any attempt to challenge the notion brought up. So the Democrats say Global Warming is a problem, people will blindly follow. If the Democrats say GMO foods are bad, they will blindly follow. Intelligence isn't the issue, it is just the current polarized nature of the two party system which will normally make one side right and the other wrong (assuming one side is right)

      Now the Democrats vs Government view on funding. Democrats prefer more of a blanket funding in scientists, So Scientists who are funded via the Democrats policies have invested interests in that party, so they are making a living off of researching climate science due to Democrats funding, so they will be friendly to that party, and in turn that party will listen to their studies. The Republicans will more likely fund Military or Energy science. Where there is less science and more engineering. Thus you will find a lot more Right winged engineers. As their main means of living is due to Republican policy. So the Republicans will more likely push ideas of a new Military Technology or Energy Extraction technology.

      It is interesting on how your political views change depending on where you are living and who is controlling your purse strings.
      Now they are crazies on both sides. You got the Leftist hippie type who wants to change everything to match their utopian vision where everyone is all happy because they follow one idea of a perfect life. Then you got the Far Right densest who thinks we should go back to the "Leave it to Beaver" life style, that he fondly remembers as a child (too young to realize the pressures of the world). These guys can often get into the House or Representatives thus get enough media attention to direct "The I have to do what the party says" people.

         

      • Re:Makes sense. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jonnyj ( 1011131 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @03:10PM (#50028007)

        You are implying that ones political stance is an indicator of their intelligence?

        That is the clear intention of the article summary, because it highlights only those issues where Democrats are more likely to agree with scientists than Republicans. A more honest summary would have also brought attention to the subjects where Democrats differ from scientists: nuclear power, pesticide use in foods and animal research, for example.

      • I'm just surprised that only 54% of democrats apparently believe in evolution, if I get the gist of this article right.
        I know that doesn't translate to claiming that 46% are creationists, but still, that's hardly grounds for all the stone throwing at conservatives over it.
        FWIW, I identify as a very moderate conservative, (with several things on the right I don't agree with) and even I don't dispute evolution.. nor for that matter, believe in the Biblical god except as a complex mythology, like so many m
      • You are implying that ones political stance is an indicator of their intelligence?

        What!? I'm sure both parties are equally likely to use words like "intellectual", "elite", "professor", "educated", "scientist" as disparaging or insults.

      • You are implying that ones political stance is an indicator of their intelligence?

        There is a huge group of people who's opinion.

        .

        You had me until "who is opinion". The word you're looking for, I believe, is "whose", and please report back to your grade-school teacher for remedial work and a spanking.

    • Congratulations A/C. That's the most successful troll that I have seen since.. well.. since the article itself!

    • I guess the public modded this funny. It's bang on the button.

  • Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @01:43PM (#50027289)

    The correct figures for the Global Warming question are: AAAS members 87%, conservatives 29%, liberals 76%.

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      Yeah, the similarity of figures between the two did strike me as suspicious.

  • Shocker... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @01:44PM (#50027305)

    A segment of the population has views that are different from the average of the entire population.

    Do the same thing with investment bankers and you'll see lots of gaps as well.

    Do it with politicians versus everyone else... gaps.

    Do it with police officers versus everyone... gaps.

    Look at our little community here on slashdot. Are our views analogous to the general population? Nope. Lots of gaps.

    So... I don't quite get the point of the survey. There have always been gaps between scientists and the general public and always will be just as there are gaps between any sub group and the whole and ALWAYS will be.

    Meaningless.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There have always been gaps between scientists and the general public

      I think the value of the study is showing how political ideology is strongly predictive of the gap.

      This is obviously not a new idea, but the study provides hard data to back it up.

    • This. Furthermore, the questions are primarily policy related, so they are especially meaningless. I may agree with you on climate change factually, but utterly disagree with you on what policies we should adopt regarding them. Of course "AAAS Members" don't agree with Joe and Jane Six-Pack, they don't work where they work, they don't live where they live, and so on and so on.

      Sheesh. I wish Pew had done a better job here.

      • This. Furthermore, the questions are primarily policy related, so they are especially meaningless.

        I don't know about you, but I personally would like to see science applied to policy much more often than it is.

    • A segment of the population has views that are different from the average of the entire population.

      You don't get a "view" on conclusions that are supported by an overwhelming weight of facts and data. You are also not entitled to a "view" that comes from a coordinated and deliberate effort to mislead by news outlets with a political agenda.

      It boils down to the simple reality that one side of the debate thinks they're entitled to their own facts.

    • I don't quite get the point of the survey. There have always been gaps between scientists and the general public and always will be just as there are gaps between any sub group and the whole and ALWAYS will be.

      It's an ad populum argument, and appeal to authority in survey form. Rather than waist time trying to construct a valid argument just state a majority of experts believe different than you. You should change to match these experts. Useful of backing up bad arguments, and to inform politicians how to pander to the largest group.

  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @01:46PM (#50027319)
    The question of anthropomorphic global warming and evolution can be studied and understood on a factual basis as can whether vaccines help. Whether vaccines should be required is not a question for science to answer. The summary conflates matters of fact and matters of judgement.
  • Alarming Freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OhPlz ( 168413 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @01:53PM (#50027377)

    Isn't that kind of the point of living in a free country? We're all entitled to our own beliefs. Why is it "alarming" or "even worse" that one group doesn't agree with another on a particular topic?

    • by Ionized ( 170001 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @02:02PM (#50027443) Journal

      because the topics mentioned aren't opinions, they are facts - there is no room for someone to have an opinion on whether "the Earth is getting warmer mostly due to human activity" for instance. Either it is, or it isn't, and facts overwhelmingly point to yes. By denying those facts we are totally fucking ourselves in the ass, pardon my french.

      • "the Earth is getting warmer mostly due to human activity"

        I think you don't quite understand the subject.

        Let me break it down for you.

        - The earth is getting warmer... Fact (well, depends on the period you look at and time scale... but generaly yes)
        - How much warmer... Debatable (statistical error for "global average temperature anomalies" are LARGE)
        - Are humans responsible by way of CO2... Somewhat and debatable (Climate sensitivity from a double of CO2 is constantly being revised, currently at around less

          • I love your post. It demostrates how much blind trust you have for infomation that is pro-climate change.

            I'd be willing to bet that any anti-climate change info you read, you do the same lack of research and simply assume it's a lie from Big Oil.

            You blindly believed and quoted (without any independent research) the summary of a slashdot article.

            The article itself gives a different number and submitted mentioned that the 98% was a typo.

            http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

            That number made sense to you because i

            • please share with us, where did you receive your advanced degrees in environmental science and climatology? it was probably somewhere really prestigious!

          • In other words, you don't know what you are talking about, but you heard this really neat meme, that, if it were true, would be a slam dunk for the opinion you hold. The problem of course is that the "98% of the scientific community" claim is not supported by any actual studies. The actual study said that 97% of papers on climatology published in peer reviewed journals supported anthropogenic global warming. The thing is that the study counted any paper on climatology which did not explicitly express the th
            • Ok let's say that only 60% of experts agree that man is the primary cause of the current trends. A number that I pulled out my anus, and is surely way too low.

              I'm going to go with 60% of the experts.

              Incidentally, those are the 60% that aren't on the payroll of the oil or coal industry.

        • You stated in a reply to Geoffrey Landis that you have indeed read the IPCC reports. If that is true then cite where you saw the following statements in them because I don't believe you.

          - Climate sensitivity from a double of CO2 is constantly being revised, currently at around less than 1C
          - CO2 has only started affecting our climate since the late 70s
          - Humans are responsible for little more than half of that warming by way of CO2

          There are a couple of different kinds of climate sensitivity but I've never heard any sensitivity for a doubling of CO2 being less than about 1.75C.

          CO2 has always had an effect on climate over nearly the whole history of the Earth. It's probably true that before the 2nd half of the 20th Century that human caused increases

      • And also, those people vote and act within society. When denying climate change becomes a politically beneficial platform, that's a problem. When teaching the basic biological facts of evolution becomes controversial, that's a problem. When vaccine preventable diseases start to make a resurgence because people think vaccines are dangerous, that's a problem. I work in plant science, and I can't help but mention that the very first thing in the survey relates to the gap in acceptance of genetically engine

      • Actually they're not facts, they're theories backed by very strong evidence. A small distinction but an important one.
      • It was ALL facts? For example, is it fact that pesticide treated food is safe to eat? Keep in mind that certain pesticides used in the states are not allowed elsewhere because they are considered unsafe.
        So, which fact is it?
        • congratulations, you correctly identified that not everything in the list was a fact. here's your cookie.

          the OPINIONS of the people on that list were ultimately formed based on facts, either real ones or fake ones doled out by alarmists, quacks, or fox news. my point stands.

    • by praxis ( 19962 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @02:02PM (#50027453)

      They are free to believe what they want, but they are not free to consider their beliefs as factual as actual facts.

    • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @02:09PM (#50027483)

      It's not alarming for people to have different opinions.

      What IS alarming is that scientific peer-reviewed information and the expertise of those who have had the intelligence and focus to get top-level credentials in a field of study is not valued higher than the opinion of those who have only casually looked into a matter without any rigour.

      I'm sorry, but everyone's opinion, on some specialized factual question amenable to scientific investigation, is not of equal worth.

      It is basic civility to listen to everyone's opinion. But opinions should be weighed rationally, according the opinion-stater's probable level of knowledge, demonstrated ability to reason, and freedom from self-interest on the particular topic.

      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        Fortunately, when it comes to public policy, everyone's opinion is of equal worth.

        • Democracy should not mean that one person's ignorance is equal to another's expertise. I certainty wouldn't want issues like medical regulations, environmental welfare, or food safety determined by popular vote, prone to the misinformation of professional activists or corporate ad campaigns, why would these topics be any different? Do you really think that in a technical or scientific topic like, for example, proper surgical guidelines, everyone should get equal say? I sure don't. I want a team of exper

        • Fortunately, when it comes to public policy, everyone's opinion is of equal worth.

          “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”
            Isaac Asimov

      • Good points. It goes beyond basic civility, though. It is a total waste to disregard the experts, in this case scientists. They are being paid largely by the gov't to develop knowledge and understanding. But somehow, when that knowledge presents an inconvenience, it gets attacked and denied. Weak.
    • Isn't that kind of the point of living in a free country? We're all entitled to our own beliefs.

      But you're not entitled to your own facts, especially when they contradict objective reality.

  • An authoritative, expensive survey to affirm what we already know. What's remarkable is that few will argue the results. You might think that conservatives would be embarrassed to see that their kind don't believe in evolution, but since they are conservative they probably agree. It's difficult to see who benefits from this exhaustive study.

  • Biased summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @02:07PM (#50027473)

    Aside from pointing out the glaringly obvious (people who identify themselves as Conservative gave responses consistent with what you would expect from people who identify themselves as conservative, same for LIberals), /. the summary ignores far more interesting points.

    1) There is a much smaller difference between Republicans and Democrats than there is between Conservatives and Liberals, e.g. the Evolution question goes from 21% versus 54% (Ideology) to 57% versus 72% (Party Id).

    2) Several of the questions show a fairly small difference between Republicans and Democrats (pesticides, animal research, world population, vaccines, manned space programs, bioengineered fuel, and space station).

    • It's also a biased poll. It's well known that liberals tend to hold some unscientific beliefs such as astrology, but they conveniently omitted any questions on them.

      • by meglon ( 1001833 )
        Yes, Reagan was a liberal. Did you notice, in your detailed dissection of the poll questions, that they were about science... not fucking idiocy like astrology? If there was a pool like this done on the idiotic fringe of "belief" systems, i'm would imagine that conservatives would score as having much higher numbers believing in the fringe areas, as conservatives tend to be much more prone to "believe" something than live in reality.
      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        I also don't understand the fixation on evolution. A certain percentage of any population, any country, any religion, will say that they believe what their religion teaches because that's what they've been taught to say (whether they actually believe it or not is another issue).
  • http://dailycaller.com/2012/04... [dailycaller.com]

    Amazing how this sort of thing works.

  • I love stories like this one, which are proven conclusively in the comments section under them.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2015 @03:47PM (#50028285) Journal
    Look at the nuke issue. Scientists want to continue building new nuke plants. Why? Because we KNOW that global warming is a REAL ISSUE that needs REAL SOLUTIONS.
    However, Liberals, like conservatives, put their head in the ground and ignore the fact that new gen IV reactors can NOT have the issues that we seen in these gen II and gen III reactors.
  • Indeed, there also is a large gap between the viewpoint of the public and economists [econlife.com].

    For example, few economists (11%) agree with the statement "'Buy American' has a positive impact on manufacturing employment", whereas 75% of the public feel that way.

    94% of economists feel that NAFTA was a good idea, only 46% of the public agree.

  • opinion
    [uh-pin-yuh n]
    noun
    1.
    a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.

    To most people, both supporters and opponents, evolution and global warming are a matter of opinion because they don't know enough for certainty. I suppose a lot of them could argue that it's actually a

    fact
    [fakt]
    noun
    4.
    something said to be true or supposed to have happened:
    The facts given by the witness are highly questionable.

    While evolution and global warming are both definitely questions of fact rather than of preference, there are very few who could make that determination themselves rather than trust someone else's judgement.

  • This could be easily solved by having a single place (a web site and an app) where the scientific community at large shares with the public what's the current consensus, explained in the simplest terms possible, with links to credible resources to second level and third level of depth.

    The site needs to be authoritative, and widely known as the single source from the community, so if anyone ever has a doubt, they know where to go to understand what the scientific community really think about a certain iss
  • ", with clear differences between Republicans and Democrats, and between conservatives and liberals. For example, while 98% of AAAS members agree with the statement that "Human beings and other living things have evolved over time", only 21% of conservatives agree, compared with 54% of liberals. "

    I hope PEW wasn't equally sloppy about conflating the republican/democrat axis with the conservatives/liberal axis.

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