Popular Anti-Science

On Class M, James Hrynyshyn reports a counter-intuitive survey conclusion: people who are more educated about science are less likely to be worried about climate change. The study posits that views on climate change are "cultural" and not purely scientific, making people want to "fit in" to a skeptical mainstream. But James writes, "Surely embracing reality, regardless of the opinions of your peers, is more rational that rejecting it?" Meanwhile Orac impersonates the anti-scientific sentiments of the Republican party on Respectful Insolence, writing "Anthropogenic global warming? Nope! Accepting global warming science displeases our corporate masters and our anti-environmentalist base!" Orac says many veins of anti-science once associated with the far left, such as opposition to vaccines and genetically modified organisms, now run together with the fundamentalism of the far right. And just in case anyone needs a reminder, Coby has the latest data on arctic sea ice for 2011. Coby writes, "this year's September minimum is the second lowest in the satellite record," and "at least one analysis found that this year was in fact a new record, exceeding the 2007 low. What? Didn't the 'alarmist liberal media' make sure you heard about that?"

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left and right stopped working to described political beliefs long ago. in this case the common political trend of these groups is conservatism as they don't want the world changing even though it obviously does. So scientists are their natural enemy as they destroy their silly beliefs.

By Fission Chips (not verified) on 31 Oct 2011 #permalink

The more you know about science, and especially the geophysical sciences, the less you are concerned about fluctuations in temperature, because you know it ain't no new thing.

And the more you know about computer modeling, the less time you are inclined to spend paying attention to climate models.

It is easier to persuade an illiterate peasant that the world will end Tuesday than it is to persuade a worldly cosmopolite, or so one would think.

One of my favorite alarmist tropes is the soon-to-be-a-memory glaciers in Montana. Oh, woe is us! Of course, if you know that not so long ago, Montana was under about 1,500 feet of ice, the disappearance of the last few cubic yards of the stuff seems less blamable on human activity and more likely to be part of a natural process.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 31 Oct 2011 #permalink

Anti-science case-in-point: Harry Eager.

The study is misleading -- if you take a look at the survey questions, you will see that the questions cover material that does not go beyond the high-school/college-freshman level. The survey in no way assesses subject knowledge that goes anywhere near the level required to understand climate-science at the professional level.

What the study really shows is that a little knowledge is dangerous, something that is demonstrated in spades by Harry Eager's post above.

By caerbannog (not verified) on 31 Oct 2011 #permalink

Care to say something substantive? Appeals to authority are at a discount these days.

By Harry Eagar (not verified) on 31 Oct 2011 #permalink

Harry, Appeals to what you feel in your water are at an even steeper discount then non-existent appeals to authority (was a post removed? or is #5 referring to too easy or caerbannog) . Glaciers receded after the last ice age peaked, therefore watershed stabilizing glaciers receding or vanishing totally is a)not due to human activity, and b) not a problem ?? At most you could argue that A is plausible.

Sitting on your rump and thinking deep thoughts is not science Harry. Go out there and check if those deep thoughts you have actually match up with reality. You might be doing science badly at that point, but at least you will have started its rather wonderful path

By Robert S. (not verified) on 31 Oct 2011 #permalink

I firmly believe in global warming--in the short term and made by man. It may well cause (and likely will) human misery, especially in areas vulnerable to the changes because of food growing patterns or low land levels (e.g. Bangladesh). And I feel we should be taking action.

However as most earth scientists know we are entering a long term cooling trend (that is cooling over the next 100,000 years) that will likely result in ice down to the state of Kansas. In fact most of human history has passed during an ice age of one type or another.

But I am not super concerned not because of science but because of my philosophy: everything is temporary and something else will indeed ultimately adapt and take root. We needed the destruction of the dinosaurs to make way for the mammals that would lead to humans.

So I figure it this way: if we don't adapt we deserve not to survive--or at least it's quite acceptable to me that we don't. Maybe the insects, perhaps even intelligent ones, will someday inherit the earth. If by our actions or lack thereof we don't thrive and another species does then ultimately justice is served and everybody gets what they deserve.

So I don't deny climate change. I'm just skeptical that we are a species worth giving a damn about.

By DuaneBidoux (not verified) on 01 Nov 2011 #permalink

I hope your attitude isn't shared by your local firefighters.

I mean how would you feel when calling to report a housefire only to be told that houses are temporary, everything changes and once burnt to the ground, a new house will be built anyway so why bother sending an engine?

But beyond that, what a f*cking useless attitude.

Negative shocks harm the poor more than they harm the rich -- almost by definition. Educated people tend to be richer (and vice versa). Did they control for wealth or "economic life prospects" (graduate students aren't especially well-off, although science grad students (in the U.S. at least) make surprisingly close to the median income)?

Also, in the U.S., there may be a correlation between where educated people live and where people facing less expected harm from climate change live. The Northeast and IL/WI/MN probably have less to fear from climate change than the dry states and the South.

On one of these science blogs, a blogger keeps a little widget that displays how many more tonnes of CO2 need to be emitted before it's PROBABLE that we'll experience damaging climate change. I'm pretty sure he means it as a warning, but it says we won't hit that point for about 30 years. I always thought the problem was a bit more urgent than that.