Wednesday, October 5, 2016

No Surprises in the Pew Poll about Americans Attitudes toward Climate Scientists

What determines how much Americans trust climate scientists? Politics:
The survey finds wide political divides in views of the potential for devastation to the Earth’s ecosystems and what might be done to address any climate impacts. There are also major divides in the way partisans interpret the current scientific discussion over climate, with the political left and right having vastly divergent perceptions of modern scientific consensus, differing levels of trust in the information they get from professional researchers, and different views as to whether it is the quest for knowledge or the quest for professional advancement that drives climate scientists in their work. 
And what does not?
One thing that doesn’t strongly influence opinion on climate issues, perhaps surprisingly, is one’s level of general scientific literacy.
Another nail in the coffin of plans to solve our political problems with education.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

"One thing that doesn’t strongly influence opinion on climate issues, perhaps surprisingly, is one’s level of general scientific literacy."

What does this mean? How is this measured? What is "general" scientific literacy? What sort of scale are we looking at here? Are we looking at everyone, from the fully ignorant up to the foremost experts? Or are we simply considering the "average person", who is arguably effectively a scientific "layperson"?

I don't know of a single actual, professional scientist who denies climate change, regardless of their politics. Do such individuals simply not fit in the category of "general" scientific literacy? Are they considered too "specialized", or perhaps ooo exceptional, and are therefor excluded?

Because if this study is limiting itself only to non-scientists, then you don't really have a proper basis for comparison.

You can't say that science education doesn't influence a person's views on climate change if you exclude all but the lowest levels of education. That's like looking only at the lowest levels of medical training, and then saying medical education doesn't influence a person's views on the effectiveness of things like homeopathy or vaccines.

If you only take two "average" people, one of whom knows effectively nothing of medicine, and the other of whom has CPR training, that doesn't really represent the full spectrum of medical education that exists - and it wouldn't be at all surprising to learn that simply being trained in CPR doesn't actually do anything to prevent someone from thinking that vaccines cause autism. The one person may be relatively more educated than the other, but they're still both relatively ignorant on the overall scale.

By the same token, if you have one "average" person who knows effectively nothing of science, and another who is an amateur astronomer or something, and neither of them believe in climate change, that doesn't actually tell you anything meaningful about whether even better educated individuals will think the same way or not.