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Study of causes of science skepticism sails right by the most obvious cause

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From psychologist Bastiaan T. Rutjens at Aeon:

What makes people distrust science? Surprisingly, not politics

Moving beyond domain-specific skepticism, what did we observe about a general trust in science, and the willingness to support science more broadly? The results were quite clear: trust in science was by far the lowest among the religious. In particular, religious orthodoxy was a strong negative predictor of faith in science and the orthodox participants were also the least positive about investing federal money in science. But notice here again political ideology did not contribute any meaningful variance over and beyond religiosity.

From these studies there are a couple of lessons to be learned about the current crisis of faith that plagues science. Science skepticism is quite diverse. Further, distrust of science is not really that much about political ideology, with the exception of climate-change skepticism, which is consistently found to be politically driven. Additionally, these results suggest that science skepticism cannot simply be remedied by increasing people’s knowledge about science. The impact of scientific literacy on science skepticism, trust in science, and willingness to support science was minor, save for the case of genetic modification. Some people are reluctant to accept particular scientific findings, for various reasons. When the aim is to combat skepticism and increase trust in science, a good starting point is to acknowledge that science skepticism comes in many forms. More.

Religious people are also less likely to trust superstitions, so it can’t be mere gullibility. It may be that they get information from their tradition that creates a reasonable basis for skepticism.

For example, no mention is made in the linked article of 1) the by now well-known problems with messages from government and corporate-driven science, 2) the acknowledged problems with peer review, 3) the scandal of corrupt forensic science, and 4) lectern-splintering on behalf of certainties that are simply much less certain than they used to be, especially in the school system.*

Rutjens is not doing himself or anyone else a favor by pretending that the reasons that people distrust science are necessarily irrational and that some fix needs to be applied to get them to trust what has proven untrustworthy.

*See, for example: Nutrition science is nearly baseless but it rules.

Peer review “unscientific”: Tough words from editor of Nature

Cop shows give a misleading picture of the gloomy state of forensic science today

and

Arizona education change: Parts of evolution theory termed “not proven.” Meltdown among Darwin’s faithful.

11 Replies to “Study of causes of science skepticism sails right by the most obvious cause

  1. 1
    asauber says:

    AK, Bob O’h, and Sev:

    Three more reasons to be skeptical of anything coming from the Science Community.

    Andrew

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    It’s like the Scientific Community isn’t even persuasive enough to destroy it’s own credibility.

    It has to send out goons to make it look worse.

    Andrew

  3. 3
    News says:

    asauber, three people, indifferently placed in the hierarchy, can’t do anything like that much damage. They sometimes make good points and often provide a basis for discussion.

    I’m more worried about a sociology of science that expends a great deal of effort in classifying doubt (and seeking remedies for it in some cases) while seeming to rule out of discussion the rational bases for doubt. The internet enables people to be more aware of such bases now than in the past.

    It’s as if we lived in a town that has sometimes had episodes with contaminated drinking water. And someone chooses to do a survey classifying the reasons for doubt about the water supply, without reference to that history. Worse, town taxpayers probably funded the study.

  4. 4
    aarceng says:

    What about routine backflips in nutrition science?
    What about unscientific speculation about dark matter and energy and the multiverse?
    Could it be that the New Atheist’s use of bad science to attack religion has had some backlash?

  5. 5
    asauber says:

    They sometimes make good points and often provide a basis for discussion.

    News,

    Weeeeeellllllllllll… I guess *SOME*times. 😉

    Andrew

  6. 6
    FourFaces says:

    Science skepticism should be the norm, not the exception. Skepticism is what make science good science.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    asauber @ 1

    AK, Bob O’h, and Sev:

    Three more reasons to be skeptical of anything coming from the Science Community.

    Guys, we’re one short if we’re going to form the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse. Anyone up for a little part-time laying waste to civilization?

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    asauber @ 2

    It’s like the Scientific Community isn’t even persuasive enough to destroy it’s own credibility.

    It has to send out goons to make it look worse.

    The Goon Show I can do! Bags Henry Crun and Hercules Grytpype-Thynne. (Only fans of surreal Brit comedy will get this)

  9. 9
    Bob O'H says:

    Oooh, can I be The Famous Eccles?

  10. 10
    SmartAZ says:

    Skepticism exists because science is totally wacko. Wikipedia documents that dark matter was invented in 1938 by Ian Oort specifically to fudge his data to agree with his theory, and now it is considered to be a foundational principle for all astrophysics. Dark matter can not be observed, so it is unscientific by definition. And you get a lot of personal insults when you point this out.

    Everybody assumes the sun is powered by fusion, which implies the inside is hotter than the outside, but the reverse is true. And you get a lot of personal insults when you point this out.

    Big bang is implied by
    Receding galaxies, which are implied by
    Doppler shift, which is caused by
    Motion away from us, which is assumed from
    Red shifted light

    So we have this remarkable train of logic all based on a single phenomenon and an assumption. If that assumption is wrong then most of what we think we know about the universe ain’t so. Well, Doppler effect is not the only cause of red shift. And you get a lot of personal insults when you point this out.

  11. 11
    SmartAZ says:

    As for the religious angle, that is explained in the bible:

    2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    Unbelievers have an unsound mind!

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