View Full Version : Giant Gap Between What Public, Scientists Think

2015-Jan-30, 04:08 PM
From Laboratory Equipment magazine (http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2015/01/giant-gap-between-what-public-scientists-think?et_cid=4390679&et_rid=54636800&location=top)

The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about. Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization. Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.

In eight of 13 science-oriented issues, there was a 20 percentage point or higher gap separating the opinions of the public and members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to survey work by the Pew Research Center. The gaps didn't correlate to any liberal-conservative split; the scientists at times take more traditionally conservative views and at times more liberal.

"These are big and notable gaps," said Lee Rainie, director of Pew's internet, science and technology research. He said they are "pretty powerful indicators of the public and the scientific community seeing the world differently."

In the most dramatic split, 88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, while only 37 percent of the public say it is safe and 57 percent say it is unsafe. And 68 percent of scientists said it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, compared with only 28 percent of the general public.

I think this has been a problem for a very long time. I'm not sure if it is getting worse, but its a problem even if it is just staying this bad.

2015-Jan-30, 06:38 PM
I think it is getting worse and not just usa where I am only a visitor. Science used to be exciting but now there is widespread unease fed by woeful ignorance. I read that the majority of UK now says it gets its news from facebook rather than newspapers!

2015-Jan-30, 06:43 PM
Totally agreed.

What worries me in particular is how opinionated a lot of people are...without having much in the way of facts! There's too much of this "just because I think it's so, IT'S SO" or "all my opinions (subjective) are facts" mentality.

Or they just plain don't care, as if the world's troubles will just self-correct or go away eventually.

I've personally known too many people of average intelligence, who at least completed high school, who act like discussing their favorite cigarette lighter is SO AWESOME and really important. :hand: Try to raise a serious topic? Forget about it.

Such deliberate intellectual laziness is inexcusable.

I've finally written off a friend who cops a strangely superior attitude, in that whatever serious or semi-serious topic someone raises, she quickly dismisses and then brags about her daily beer consumption.

If she's the norm, we are indeed in trouble.

p.s.: Also, an in-law graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor's Degree in Education. And get this...she doesn't care what scientists think! :confused: She boldly admitted that, back in 2011, when I mentioned a scientific discovery. She adheres to "beliefs" which scorn science. :(

I'm glad she washed out as a teacher, frankly. We don't need school teachers like that.

2015-Jan-30, 07:51 PM
I'm increasingly alarmed by folks who seem to have a fear of science, or who deny/reject science, or who think their own belief system qualifies as science. Yet they have no clue how actual science benefits them each and every day.

2015-Jan-30, 07:54 PM
I'm increasingly alarmed by folks who seem to have a fear of science, or who deny/reject science. Yet they have no clue how science benefits them each and every day.


Like my mentioned in-law, who instantly dismissed science with "I don't care what scientists think" while we looked at cellphone photos uploaded to her computer, of her "pilgrimage" ... which destination she arrived at via airflight over the Pacific Ocean. :whistle:


2015-Jan-30, 08:04 PM
Or two relatives of mine, who have dismissed astronomy (and space exploration especially) with comments like, "We don't need to know what's out there, since God already knows..." etc.

And yet both beat a path to doctors' doors. WHY? God already knows what's in our bodies, why does any human (doctor) need to know?? :p Let's shut down all hospitals, clinics, offices today! Right??

It's astounding and frightening, that sort of mentality. And if called on it, they usually either blow up or say something equally dumb "in defense." :rolleyes:

2015-Jan-30, 08:22 PM
Just don't let them work on your brakes and stuff.

2015-Jan-30, 08:23 PM
Just don't let them work on your brakes and stuff.

:clap: :lol:

2015-Jan-30, 08:52 PM
Does the hostility to Science extend to a dislike of and suspicion of Technology?

2015-Jan-30, 09:03 PM
Does the hostility to Science extend to a dislike of and suspicion of Technology?
My answer is completely anecdotal, and based just on my impression, but I would generally say no. In fact, as Buttercup points out in one of her posts, some of the very people who dismiss some of the scientific findings, are also big users of the technology that science has generated.

My impression is that a lot of this "gap" is not created by a general, broad mistrust of all of science, but a very selective understanding and use of science. People generally seem to like the products of science, and casually agree with the findings of science, when those findings agree with their beliefs. But when those findings contradict something they strongly believe in, they readily dismiss the scientific findings. So, if for whatever reason, they don't believe in vaccines or climate change or the moon landings, they will selective dismiss the scientific findings for such things.

It actually is rather impressive that the human mind can hold such contradictory viewpoints at times; applying the rules of logic and evidence to somethings, and completely dismissing them for others. That's why people who are even professional scientists, educators, and engineers, can believe some pretty illogical stuff.

2015-Jan-30, 09:16 PM
Also, there's a " CHEAP " factor. When it comes to buying a television or a car or a plastic something or other , they're all for it. But when you submit a bill in congress to clean up the industrial aftermath of their blessings , it's some body else's
problem "Don't ask me to pay for (basically anything) their p[roblems. " So when the scientific community collectively sends out an alert , of which we are all complicit in causality, they conveniently wash their hands.
Unfortunately, this mindset is way too prevalent, and quite difficult to correct. It requires a sense of community and a clarity of vision all too often lacking , and in people who pretend to have an education.

2015-Jan-31, 02:06 PM
The media is generally mostly propaganda. People are encouraged to accept points of view without much evidence, or logical discussion, and to hold that their points of view are important and valid.

Also some people hold very strong beliefs which are not held by a lot of scientists, which makes them generally distrustful of science. This includes me, and I am distrustful of some aspects of science, although I think I have a better understanding of a lot of it, than some people, which leads me to trust it, in other ways.

2015-Jan-31, 02:49 PM
This is quite sad. I get the impression that the root of most of this is based on conflicting reports over the last few decades which end up confusing the general public. Take for example coffee and alcohol consumption, they are reported to be bad for you, then they are good, then bad again, then good. To people they can either be one or the other but to researchers involved they can be both depending upon which aspect is being talked about. Most recently it's vaccinations, good or bad for children? a scary prospect and choice for parents. The public which is mostly ignorant of how these things work, they don't know what or who to believe. Also, the political motivations of climate change over the past few decades play a big role in casting doubt on science, making some believe that it's just a hoax to generate more grant monies for the evil scientists involved in the research. You add all of these things up and blend in the complexity of science of which the vast majority of people do not comprehend and the sum total is a growing mistrust of the guys in the lab coats.

The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues.
I wonder how we square against the rest of the world?

2015-Jan-31, 05:29 PM
I take note that many climate deniers do not live in .... oh say...Key West ( 4 feet above sea level ). And when trouble
rears it's ugly head, the response is " It was gonna happen anyway " . When it comes to leadership and truth,
I'll stay with the Union of Concerned Scientists .