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Suspect Science

According to a poll by Gallup conducted back in August, about forty one percent of the United States population identify their political affiliation as conservative.  That represents a rise in their number.  Back in 2008, only thirty seven percent of people said they were conservative.  What is most surprising is that along with this rise in the number of people embracing conservatism, according to a recently released report in the American Sociological Review, more conservatives than ever distrust science.

Just over a third of people who call themselves conservatives said they had a trust in science.  That’s down from a little less than half of all conservatives who believed in science back in 1974.  At that time, that was about the same ratio of the number of liberals and moderates that say they trusted science.  But while political liberals and moderates trust in science has remained flat at about fifty percent, conservatives are backing off.  But is anyone really surprised?

Ignorance is not bliss on either sides of the political aisle.  Remember, half the people who are not political conservatives have issues with science.  So the mistrust of science isn’t specific to the conservative mindset.  But it is notable that the greater majority of conservative people distrust science by a two to one margin.  And when a majority of people refuse to look at scientific results as a source of truth or proof, no evidence of any value can sway someone with deeply hold beliefs based on nothing but conjecture.  The answer is nothing.  In fact, when science makes a conclusion that runs counter to deeply held beliefs, science does nothing but gives these doubting Thomases another reason to doubt their trustworthiness.

Proof is irrelevant to too many people.  It’s probably why so many people continue to believe that President Barack Obama does not have a legitimate birth certificate from the great state of Hawaii.  Seemingly intelligent people would rather hold fast with white knuckles to their irrational dream that Mr. Obama is so easily deemed illegitimate instead of giving the birth certificate issue an honest analysis.  With so many government agencies with a responsibility to protect the President of the United States and/or the people of the United States, anyone of these agencies would have been hyper quick to expose Mr. Obama as a political fraud and unqualified to serve if they truly an ounce of proof to do so.  But they don’t because there is nothing to support that dream.  But these people continue to think that they know better than all these government agencies and Mr. Obama’s political rivals.  If Barack Obama was not legitimate, the administration of his predecessor George Bush, Jr. would have made damn sure to deal with him appropriately.  They didn’t because there’s nothing there.  But you can’t prove that to so many conservatives because proof of anything is irrelevant when, in the words of Mr. Bush, you operate from your gut.

By letting their gut do the thinking instead of their brains, a disproportionate number of people who don’t believe in science are ready to engage in willful ignorance of the issues at hand.  It’s no surprise that there are so many studies that support the contention that watching Fox News is detrimental to your understanding of the world.  Science shows that people who watch Fox News are significantly more misinformed than people who seek their news elsewhere.  And the more exposure to Fox News the more intense the belief in misinformation.

In the twenty first century, science has the responsibility of guiding public opinion.  It was a job that was once left to religion, tradition, and baseless superstition.  But like religion and superstition science requires people to have faith in its conclusions in order for it to be effective in the development of public policy.  The evidence that results from science bears witness to modern debates where both sides of an issue are deeply entrenched in their ideology.  Science is supposed to give the testimony rooted in truth and without bias.  But these days, when our beliefs are refuted by science, too many people aren’t very willing to put their biases aside.  For many, the problem aren’t the beliefs rooted in prejudice, the problem is the junk science that’s obviously wrong.

Science isn’t immune from some of the blame that causes so many of us to suspect its reputation.  Once upon a time science ruled that black people were not human and were actually inferior to white people, bloodletting was healthy for people’s complexion, and leeches were a great penicillin substitute before penicillin was invented.  Those scientific conclusions were based on nothing but cursory observations that had nothing to do with a meaningful analysis of the results from repeated experiments with an unprejudiced eye towards finding the truth.  All too often science has a history of letting prejudice skew results and conclusions.

When people push to have the theory of intelligent design taught in science class along with scientific theories of evolution then it’s quite obvious the regard for science.  Some might say that there is insufficient proof to conclusively support the theory of evolution and so anything goes including the woefully unscientific and borderline retarded.  But if we have learned from the past we should know that science needs to be protected from people who would willfully tarnish it with their willful ignorance.

People might not believe in global warming.  The majority of the people who don’t might be conservative.  And that’s okay.  There are doubters for any scientific debate on both sides of the issue.  It’s part of the reason we conduct experiments and look for meaningful results.  But don’t come to the table with something made up and call it scientific simply because you don’t agree with what science has to say.  Willful ignorance will get us nowhere.

Monday, April 2, 2012 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts


  1. Don’t get me started. There are several problems (IMHO) and among them:
    1. Science is hard; often those reporting on the findings don’t really understand them….especially when the result is statistical in nature.
    2. Too many times, there are sensationalistic reports on a “new finding” that ends up not panning out (e. g. faster than light neutrinos)
    3. Few people understand the difference between a new conjecture and a long established scientific fact.

    Your comment about the old so-called “race science” reminded me of something recent: all of my life, I considered myself to be Mexican American. I have brown skin…and when I am in south Texas, people often start speaking Spanish to me.

    But I got my DNA tested (both the X and Y chromosomes); my haplotypes for both my X and my Y chromosomes are European!!! (probably Spanish). So you could say that genetically speaking, I am “white”. In my case, “race” (or ethnicity) really is only “skin deep”. Go figure. 🙂

    Comment by blueollie | Monday, April 2, 2012 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback blueollie,

      You brought up a very important fact that I totally left out. Science is hard for most people. It takes the careful application of thinking, reasoning, and logic. It’s much easier to disregard the scientific approach and pull shit out the ass. LOL!!!


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, April 2, 2012 | Reply

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