Twist on truth: Knowledge, such as on GMOs, can lead to a rejection of the scientific consensus


[A] new study out [August 22nd] joins a number of earlier ones in indicating that scientific knowledge makes it easier for those who are culturally inclined to reject a scientific consensus.

The new work was done by two social scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fishchoff [see the full study here (behind paywall)]. 

[T]here’s no sign of cultural polarization on GMOs or nanotechnology. The former is a bit of a surprise given the widespread public mistrust of this biotechnology (and the frequent claim that the problem arises from a bunch of lefty granola eaters). It would also be easy to envision religious opposition on these topics, given that both involve “playing God” in the sense that humans are creating things that don’t commonly occur naturally.



“Participants’ general educational attainment and science education were at best weakly related to their acceptance of the scientific consensus,” they conclude. Scientific literacy helped a bit overall, as “those with higher scientific literacy scores were more likely to agree with the scientific consensus on three issues: the Big Bang, human evolution, and nanotechnology.”

The politicization of scientific issues may, in part, be the result of a long-term decline in trust in the scientific enterprise among conservatives.



The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: When it comes to controversial science, a little knowledge is a problem

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