A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Are Conservatives Really More Anti-Science than Liberals?

A recent study says maybe a little, but not much-- and it depends on the issue.
By Lee Jussim, Psychology Today

Who is more anti-science, liberals or conservatives? There are at least two very different ways to think about this question:  1. Whose beliefs are more out of touch with science? and 2. Whose level of (dis)trust in science is more well-justified? This is the first of a series of blog entries that will deal with these and related issues.

So who engages in more science-denial -- liberals or conservatives?

I know you, my (mostly) liberal audience, you are itching to expose all those silly anti-scientific beliefs among conservatives, so let's start there:

Evolution.  Do conservatives deny evolution?  According to Gallup (Newport, 2012) 58% of Republicans think God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, whereas the figure is "only" 41% among Democrats.  That sure looks a lot to me like A LOT of people denying evolution, regardless of party.  You liberal Democrats really do not have much cause for pride with respect to the scientific savvy of many of your political comrades.  But still, Republicans are a bit more in denial.

Global Warming.  Do conservatives deny global warming?  Here the evidence is stronger.  The Pew Research Center (2012) found that 51% of conservative Republicans and only 7% of liberal Democrats claimed there was no evidence of global warming.  Furthermore, only 16% of conservative Republicans said global warming occurred because of human activity, whereas 77% of liberal Democrats believed human activity causes global warming.  There is no serious debate in the scientific community about these issues: global warming is occurring and human activity has exacerbated it, conclusions now accepted even by scientists who were once skeptical (Muller, 2012).  Ok, conservatives are pretty anti-science here.

However, on a slew of other issues, including fracking, the safety of nuclear power, and the alleged advantages of organic foods Republicans' views align more closely with those of the scientific community than do Democrats' views (e.g., Opposing Views, 2013).

Recent research has begun to hone in on how politics leads people astray from science.  The short version is this: Ideology is steeped in morality AND morality/ideology leads to distorted perceptions of scientific facts.

A new series of studies by Liu & Ditto (in press) showed that political ideology and moral beliefs influence people's judgments of facts.... Liu & Ditto also found three other interesting patterns.  There were modest tendencies for distortions to be strongest among people who: 1. held strong moral convictions; 2. considered themselves most informed; and 3. were conservatives.  This last finding was quite modest, so that even if conservatives' views of science are a bit more distorted than liberals, there was ample distortion among liberals.
The entire article is worth a read and can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I left a comment on the Psychology Today article with my blog site. I see no good reason science and religion should be at odds with one another. I put them together in my blog. I love God and His creation. We humans will believe all kinds of pluralistic things if we are not careful. The important thing, in my mind, is this: We must submit to the authority of God even with whatever our beliefs otherwise are. If we believe in evolution, then we must also believe it is by God's design and sovereign will. He takes whatever we bring to the table and grows us from there. The important thing is to come to the table. Susan

Allan R. Bevere said...

Hi Susan,

Indeed, it is time for some Christians and scientists to bury the hatchet.

We must not forget that there are more than a few scientists who are believers.