A commonly proposed solution to help diffuse the political and religious polarization surrounding controversial scientific issues like evolution or climate change is education.
However, Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that the opposite is true: people’s beliefs about scientific topics that are associated with their political or religious identities actually become increasingly polarized with education, as measured by years in school, science classes, and science literacy.
“A lot of science is generally accepted and trusted, but certain topics have become deeply polarizing. We wanted to find out what factors are related to this polarization, and it turns out the ‘deficit model’—which says the divisions are due to a lack of education or understanding—does not tell the whole story,” said Caitlin Drummond, the lead author who recently received her Ph.D. in behavioral decision research from CMU’s Department of Social and Decision Sciences and will be a postdoctoral research fellow at the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan this fall.
It’s hard to see why this result should be a surprise, for several reasons: Education enables people to see why an expert claim might be wrong. The educated/skilled people are experts themselves and, if they are honest, know the true limitations of their areas of expertise.
Besides, whether or not they are experts, people who are directly threatened by a consensus often know more of what is wrong with it than others do. That is why children from homes where Darwinism is doubted typically know more about theories of evolution than children from homes where no one doubts and no one asks or cares. They are also more likely to know about the false information about themselves spread by consensus makers. As noted earlier, seminars at churches are typically more informative than chatter at pot shops and malls.
The many proposals currently on offer for Fixing doubters testify to the growing authoritarianism of people who are deeply insecure. Put another way: A revered monarch needn’t fear baseless detraction; it’s the nasty little troll king in the Wizard of Id who was obsessed with finding out who thinks “The king is a fink!”
See also: Nutrition
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Tales of the Tone Deaf, featuring dim profs writing in dozy journals about why people doubt Science and how to fix them.
Prof claims to know how to slam dunk creationists One concern is that if Darwinians cannot reach their social control goals peaceably, they will resort to other methods.