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Study Highlights Gap Between Views of Scientists and the Public

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-blame-the-schools dept.

United States 670

ZeroSerenity was one of many to write with news of a survey from the Pew Research Center which sought to find out how Americans feel about science and contrast that with the opinions of actual scientists. The study showed that "nearly 9 in 10 scientists accept the idea of evolution by natural selection, but just a third of the public does. And while 84% of scientists say the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, less than half of the public agrees with that." 27% of the respondents said that the advances of the US in science are its greatest achievement, down from 44% ten years ago. The study is lengthy, and it contains many more interesting tidbits. For example: scientists decry the level of media coverage given to science, and they also think research funding has too much influence on study results. 32% of scientists identify themselves as Independent, while 55% say they're Democrats and 6% say they're Republicans.

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reality is librul (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659339)

32% of scientists identify themselves as Independent, while 55% say they're Democrats and 6% say they're Republicans.

Ahh, reality with it's damned liberal bias again...

55% say they are Democrats (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659357)

We always try to keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation, but if that is so, what does the "55% of scientists are Democrats" statistic mean?

And if we also look at global warming with the same critical eye, can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

I'm not a global climate change denier. There is definitely something going on. Whether it is caused by humans or not, it doesn't really seem to matter. Let's focus on making this place a nice place to live. Clean air, clean water, clean land. These are things no one is going to argue with. Let's start making this a better world for you and for me.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659385)

And if we also look at global warming with the same critical eye, can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

The story is about science but English is still important. The statement in the fine summary (Way too lazy to RTFA before coffee) says that scientists believe that humans are warming the earth, it doesn't say humans are the only thing warming the earth.

I'm not a global climate change denier. There is definitely something going on. Whether it is caused by humans or not, it doesn't really seem to matter.

FAIL! Just looking at CO2 alone, humans put somewhere between twice and an order of magnitude more CO2 into the atmosphere than volcanism. Since it's easy to see using physics that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and we KNOW that CO2 released from volcanism is a significant heater (we can observe the localized effects intensely) then we KNOW that humans are a significant source of CO2, let alone all the other things that we make that nature never will.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659683)

I'm not a global climate change denier. There is definitely something going on. Whether it is caused by humans or not, it doesn't really seem to matter.

FAIL! Just looking at CO2 alone, humans put somewhere between twice and an order of magnitude more CO2 into the atmosphere than volcanism. Since it's easy to see using physics that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and we KNOW that CO2 released from volcanism is a significant heater (we can observe the localized effects intensely) then we KNOW that humans are a significant source of CO2, let alone all the other things that we make that nature never will.

Citation please.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659401)

I'm not a global climate change denier. There is definitely something going on. Whether it is caused by humans or not, it doesn't really seem to matter. Let's focus on making this place a nice place to live. Clean air, clean water, clean land. These are things no one is going to argue with. Let's start making this a better world for you and for me.

I see where you're coming from but nonetheless it kind of does matter. If it's caused by us then we need to change our ways in order to make this place a nice place to live. How are you going to justify to people that they need to change if you cannot prove that they're doing something wrong?

Re:55% say they are Democrats (2, Insightful)

bsane (148894) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659685)

If it's caused by us then we need to change our ways in order to make this place a nice place to live.

And the reality of that is- if we could no longer produce CO2 we'd better reduce the population of the planet by quite a bit. Feel free to start.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (4, Informative)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659413)

And if we also look at global warming with the same critical eye, can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

Oh, for fuck's sake.

1. We, humans, are pumping over 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
2. A corresponding increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration has been observed.
3. The interaction of CO2 with IR radiation is well-established and well-understood by anyone with an understanding of simple chemistry.

Which point, exactly, is in dispute?

Re:55% say they are Democrats (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659421)

and yet the world has cooled over the last 10 years so one of your assumptions is wrong. Which one is it?

Re:55% say they are Democrats (2, Insightful)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659485)

One of YOUR assumptions is wrong: that the planet is a simple system and that there are no major variations in the climate. A trend of increasing temperature is still present even if there are temporary drops.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659505)

Does no one take simple fucking statistics anymore?

Re:55% say they are Democrats (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659539)

40% do, 58% don't 15% don't know ;)

Re:55% say they are Democrats (4, Funny)

bunratty (545641) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659627)

If the world has been cooling for the last ten years, someone should tell all that Arctic ice [nytimes.com] to stop melting. Hey, get with the program Arctic ice! Cooling, I tell you! Cooling!1!

Re:55% say they are Democrats (4, Informative)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659787)

and yet the world has cooled over the last 10 years so one of your assumptions is wrong. Which one is it?

Alternatively, you're wrong. NASA's figures [nasa.gov] says you are.

I can spot more than five decades of supposed cooling during the 20th century as per you definition, but as you can clearly see the overall trend is not cooling.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (1, Insightful)

bhima (46039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659573)

Which point, exactly, is in dispute?

I'm thinking it's the part where people arrive at a conclusion regarding matters of science from a path dictated by politics and or religion.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (2, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659425)

We always try to keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation, but if that is so, what does the "55% of scientists are Democrats" statistic mean?

And if we also look at global warming with the same critical eye, can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

OK, I hadn't considered that being more liberal might lead one to a career in science, but why not. I was hypothesizing the converse, that being a "scientist" made them likely to be more liberal than the average citizen. Perhaps due to education level, exposure to a particular subculture, something like that.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (2, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659549)

It can't have anything to do with greater funding for pure research coming from Democrats. I wonder if the scientists polled were only defense contractors, would those numbers change...

Re:55% say they are Democrats of those surveyed (0, Redundant)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659433)

Please note, its not that 55% are Democrats... its 55% of those surveyed.

and anyone with half a brain knows that you can skew a survey simply by sampling where you know you will get the results you want.

Re:55% say they are Democrats of those surveyed (2, Insightful)

bhima (46039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659609)

Out of curiosity why are you accusing the Pew Research Center of systematic unethical and deceptive practices?

Do you think they always engage such behavior? Or is it just certain studies?

Re:55% say they are Democrats of those surveyed (0, Troll)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659673)

Do you think they always engage such behavior? Or is it just certain studies?

I'm not making any particular charges against PEW, although certainly every time I hear of one of their studies I am pissed off, and when I read it I say "That methodology is fucking stupid." HOWEVER, I just want to put out there that if your purpose is to sell bogus studies, then even the act of putting out valid studies is only misdirection to support your evil.

Re:55% say they are Democrats of those surveyed (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659725)

Yes, you need to look at the bigger picture dude, it's a big conspiracy to suppress the Libertarians, dude! Because if the majority of scientists doesn't share the same political affiliation as I do (and everyone knows how big libertarianism is outside of IT nerd circles), then it must be that the Pew Research Center has a secret agenda of suppressing libertarians. Because everyone knows The Man has a big thing against libertarians. Like anyone cares about libertarians... hehe

Like Shivetva when I don't like a fact I discard it by claiming that the fact was obtained by discarding other facts. I distort reality by accusing others of distorting it in the first place. It really works, in my version of reality.

Re:55% say they are Democrats of those surveyed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659655)

Exactly. OTOH, the average Republican already "knows" every answer because they were told what the Bible says about almost everything.

  Lotteries are for people who are bad at math.

  Religions are for people who don't want to "think."

  Effect does not equal cause.

Just because a banana fits into a human hand nicely, doesn't mean there was some magical creator. A big stick also fits into a hand, so is that a sign that we should be clubbing each other all the time? No. It means that our ancestors found that grabbing a banana shape was extremely useful and hands slowly became more and more efficient at grabbing and holding that shape. Over time, we were tuned to live in this world, just like every other living thing on Earth. Humans are more adaptable than any other mammal, which lets us live in more environments than all the others. We've been tuned over millions of years by our genetic code, not in "6 days." My mother has a science degree and is very involved Catholic. Her way to reconcile this 6 day time difference is that days were much longer when Genesis was happening. There's no mention of the length of a day in the Bible during this time. The length of a day is a minor detail, IMHO. Whatever.

Re:55% say they are Democrats of those surveyed (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659737)

Humans bred commercial varieties of bananas for size, flavor, texture and seedlessness (they may have some seeds, but not compared to wild bananas). So not a magical creator, but pretty much a creator.

Anyway, mostly pointing out that that particular argument is dumb.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (3, Insightful)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659437)

We always try to keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation, but if that is so, what does the "55% of scientists are Democrats" statistic mean?

A lot more than your comment. Honestly, i can't make head nor tail of this.
"but if that is so" - if correlation DOES imply causation?

The fact that correlation doesn't imply causation is often taken to extremes, like this, and if you say it in relation to something like global warming, where there are solid reasons for accepting the link, it is fair to say that you need not believe anything. For future reference, it is necessary to point out that correlation does not imply causation where there is a false or tenuous or overly complicated reason given for why the two things are related.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (4, Insightful)

Biogenesis (670772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659441)

Clean air, clean water, clean land. These are things no one is going to argue with.

Unless cleaning up your act will cost you a lot of money, or you make a lot of money selling pollutants like oil.

At least we have the history of CFCs to look back on as an example of how to clean up effectively. It's such a shame that CO2 is a) harder to avoid producing and b) more difficult to blame than CFCs were.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659515)


what does the "55% of scientists are Democrats" statistic mean?

From a purely scientific viewpoint, it doesn't really "mean" anything without more information. I could come up with a whole slew of theories to explain this statistic, but they'd all be extremely speculative since it's just one piece of information.

The only thing it might mean (if the sample is accurate) is that the Republican party is extremely unpopular among scientists at the moment.

can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

My understanding is we have a mechanism, a model, and a lot of evidence that shows global warming is caused by us. Where did you get the idea that it was ONLY a correlation?

Re:55% say they are Democrats (0, Troll)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659619)

Wait, I thought it was global warming? Oh that's right, the tag line had to change to climate change due to the earth going back into the cooling phase, seeing as it goes through cycles of warming and cooling every few decades.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659679)

And if we also look at global warming with the same critical eye, can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

No, we can't just only show a strong correlation. I'll leave to someone more motivated the pleasure of explaining to you how we account for the emissions of various gasses, either directly from the tailpipe or indirectly by provoking the defrost of vast areas of permafrost, or how we know for sure what the effects of these gasses are on the climate.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659697)

And if we also look at global warming with the same critical eye, can we really say that humans are responsible for global warming when all we can really show is a strong correlation?

Causation cannot in any case be fully proven. All we can ever see is correlation.

Re:55% say they are Democrats (1, Troll)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659749)

what does the "55% of scientists are Democrats" statistic mean?

That most highly educated men and women of science and reason are liberals. If you're a liberal like me you can see this as a comforting sort of validation that you're right.

flat (0, Troll)

hammarlund (568027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659373)

The majority of scientists used to agree that the earth was flat. And at the center of the universe.

Re:flat (1, Insightful)

BonThomme (239873) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659415)

Yes, the the patrons of those scientists had a vested theological interest in those positions. Not that any actual science was really conducted to validate them...

Re:flat (2, Insightful)

hammarlund (568027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659471)

Yes, the the patrons of those scientists had a vested theological interest in those positions. Not that any actual science was really conducted to validate them...

Perhaps not unlike the corporate interests of some scientists these days.

Re:flat (3, Insightful)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659657)

scientists may be bought. science cannot. if you falsify results for money, anyone reproducing the experiment will demonstrate your flawed conclusions.

Re:flat (1)

bsane (148894) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659763)

True- but whats often reported as 'science' is analysis, modeling and extrapolation of small scale independently reproducible Science.

That kind of 'science' certainly is falsifiable.

You really think one of the following is true:
-We understand everything that could possibly effect our atmosphere well enough to model it with certainty?*
or
-We have a couple planets sitting around we could experimenting with?

*Not saying we can't learn from models and predictions of less than complete info, but don't try to sell it to me as the indisputable Truth.

Re:flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659731)

Yes, the the patrons of those scientists had a vested theological interest in those positions. Not that any actual science was really conducted to validate them...

Perhaps not unlike the corporate interests of some scientists these days.

And, perhaps not unlike the the political interests of the rest of the scientists these days.

Re:flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659423)

Nope. There was no scientific method, so there were no scientists. At best the majority of *philosophers* agreed the earth was flat and the center of the universe. On pain of death.

Or did you forget what the church did to people who started claiming the earth orbited the sun?

Re:flat (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659431)

No they didn't. Catholicism was the major driver behind geocentrism, and no-one with any sense ever believed the earth was flat.

Re:flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659445)

What's your point? If you want to keep your current worldview regardless of any new information, you're better off becoming a priest.

Re:flat (1, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659461)

The majority of European scientists used to agree that the earth was flat, and at the center of the universe. The Mayans, Incas, Egyptians, and Indians knew better, evidently well before Galileo.
BTW, the general gist of TFA can correctly be summarized as "average modern human still a superstitious boob, status quo maintained".

Re:flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659635)

The majority of European scientists used to agree that the earth was flat, and at the center of the universe.

This is an myth.

Recent scholarship, particularly since the 1990s,[3] has shown that with extraordinarily few exceptions "no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat" and that the prevailing view was of a spherical earth.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth

Re:flat (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659693)

Bullsh*t. The Greeks computed the size of the earth (within 5%) some 3,000 years ago. Get your facts right Neocon...

Re:flat (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659715)

The majority of European scientists used to agree that the earth was flat

Not even that. The greeks knew the Earth was round and had calculated its size pretty accurately. Since then, there hasn't been serious disagreement among scientists or sailors or educated people generally. There may have been some denial from the religious and the simply ignorant, but the story you hear about Columbus being the one who proved the world was round --or whatever the story is-- it's BS.

Re:flat (2, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659465)

A lot has changed since then and even the term scientist as well. There are however still biased scientists today as there were back then, scientists whom receive their paychecks from tobacco companies to supply data that brings doubt to lung diseases caused by smoking tobacco. Still to gain the acceptance of the majority of scientists today should not be taken lightly, as it is not an easy task.

Re:flat (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659589)

Don't just blame malice. There will be a slight bias to the people who pay you most of the time. It may not be intentional. But if you work for "The Cap and Trade Working Group" you are more likely to support the CO2 cause of global warming, than if you work for the "Natural Gas Producers Association."

Re:flat (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659841)

Of course there will be a slight bias, the question is what it will lead to. Sometimes it leads to further studies due to unsatisfactory results, and sometimes it leads to false data. As long as one doesn't temper with the results the proper conclusion can be made by anybody.

Re:flat (4, Informative)

fractic (1178341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659481)

This is just plain wrong. Even the ancient greeks knew that the earth was spherical. This has been the dominant scientific position for a long time. The wikipedia article on it is quite good flat earth [wikipedia.org] .

Re:flat (2, Insightful)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659483)

The majority of scientists used to agree that the earth was flat.

That's just a modern myth about olden days people. People have known the world was round for thousands of years.

Re:flat (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659499)

When? Where?

Re:flat (3, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659611)

Eratosthenes calculated the radius of the earth back then in 240 BCE, thats long before science as we know it today even existed.

Good heavens Miss Takamoto! You're beautiful! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659383)

She blinded me with science!

Unscientific? (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659397)

32% of scientists identify themselves as Independent, while 55% say they're Democrats and 6% say they're Republicans.

Selecting a party instead of a candidate seems rather unscientific to me. I've probably voted for more Democrats than Republicans in my life, but it seems to me that the scientific approach is to study the evidence and select a candidate based on his record, stated positions, etc.

Frankly, lately, it strikes me that the most scientific approach might be to vote against the incumbent regardless of party. Incumbency seems to strongly correlate with making decisions based on things other than evidence. Incumbents seem inclined -- increasingly over duration of incumbency -- to base their decisions on favors they owe and promises of future favors they can collect rather than on evidence and deep, objective consideration.

Re:Unscientific? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659593)

"Selecting a party instead of a candidate seems rather unscientific to me."

So? The purpose of the poll is not to be scientific. It's to show what a group of scientists being polled do or feel.

I think your complaint is biased, because you feel that science and Democrats have been successfully linked. That is a fact that the poll is ot going to change, since there are many other polls backing this claim as well.

Scientists are largely Democrats and their political sway hold that way. Scientists are overwhelmingly of higher education, and those of higher education largely are Democrats.

The question you seem to be running around is whether this impacts their opinions and outcomes of scientific results and their interpretations of them--do their political opinions impact how they see results? The answer is yes, and scientists don't like that link, since they feel it's an insult, as they are suppose to be impartial.

Re:Unscientific? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659615)

I think it's simply economics. Democrats are known for stealing money from people and giving it out to their certain blocks of special interests. Scientists come up with great justifications for fascism like "global warming." It's a symbiotic relationship.

Re:Unscientific? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659629)

I wonder whether the scientists who identified as Independents are also registered as Independents. I have never understood why anyone would register as an Independent rather than with a party since Independents cannot vote in primary elections.

Re:Unscientific? (3, Interesting)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659687)

Personally I think its a more psychological effect, like those air fresheners that switch fragrances so you notice the effect more. If you leave the same person, party or attitude in office long enough, you stop noticing what they're doing in any positive light so you switch it up. After a while, the positive attributes of the new leader or party become cloudy and unnoticed and you do it again.

Education Gap (5, Insightful)

Myji Humoz (1535565) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659399)

Being a scientist is linked very closely to being educated at graduate level or higher. These views (acceptance of evolution, belief in human caused global warming, etc) are linked to the replacement of a prior belief (whatever the Bible implies) with a belief in a complicated theory that often doesn't make sense without serious study. A casual textbook explanation of evolution leads to questions of how complicated mechanisms such as sexual reproduction came into being, which leaves serious doubts about the validity of "scientific theories" in the minds of individuals with high school education.

Should we be surprised at all that increased levels of education help people critically analyze and accept/deny scientific theories? Should we still be surprised that the more educated someone is, the more liberal (generally speaking) their political views tend to be? So long as the cutting edge of science involves far more math or heavy statistical theory than the average human is educated in, the layman who doesn't take time to research issues will have to either take faith in the word of "experts", or take faith in the "word of God, as brought to you by $Preacher.)

Re:Education Gap (4, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659529)

Should we be surprised at all that increased levels of education help people critically analyze and accept/deny scientific theories? Should we still be surprised that the more educated someone is, the more liberal (generally speaking) their political views tend to be?

I think it may explain being socially liberal -- recognizing that moral decisions are inherently difficult to make objectively. I am skeptical, however, that analytical skills correlate (or at least should correlate) strongly with being fiscally liberal. There seems to be decent evidence that being fiscally liberal, particularly in a society in economic decline, is hazardous.

Then again, I guess there is ample evidence that neither Republicans nor Democrats are fiscally conservative.

Re:Education Gap (4, Interesting)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659555)

Should we be surprised at all that increased levels of education help people critically analyze and accept/deny scientific theories? Should we still be surprised that the more educated someone is, the more liberal (generally speaking) their political views tend to be? So long as the cutting edge of science involves far more math or heavy statistical theory than the average human is educated in, the layman who doesn't take time to research issues will have to either take faith in the word of "experts", or take faith in the "word of God, as brought to you by $Preacher.)

My father-in-law is a pretty good example of this. He didn't finish college at the traditional age and has gone on to be hyper-conservative, unquestioningly accepting religious teachings on non-religious subjects, including science and the physical world. E.g. I put on a pair of latex gloves before attempting to fix a poop-and-hair clog in the automatic litter box -- a reasonable precaution, I thought. He told me: "you know, viruses and bacteria go right through latex."

I figured this finding would be rather important for the medical community to know so I checked it out. It seems that Christian fundamentalists teach that latex is germ-permeable so that they can say that condoms are useless to prevent STDs, so the only sure-fire way to avoid disease is total abstinence prior to lifelong marriage to another abstainer.

I'm not opposed to religion, but I strongly feel that its teachings should only be used in a philosophical context, and not -- for example -- for informing our actions w.r.t. the physical/natural world.

Re:Education Gap (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659733)

So when did your Dad join the Taliban?

Re:Education Gap (2, Interesting)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659767)

I don't think your father-in-law's views have anything to do with his education level.

I have known several priests and bishops in various faiths over the years, and many of them hold multiple doctorates and/or masters degrees (they have nothing better to do than read, one would think). One bishop (who has since passed) was psychologist for years before joining the priesthood. A priest here in Maryland is an electrical engineer, another priest has a masters in Russian literature (again, before he joined the priesthood) which he obtained in the 1970s. Another man I know of, who is now in his forties, had 4 doctorate degrees before he decided to join the priesthood. I know at least 6 bishops offhand that have doctors in theology or psychology.

Anyone, no matter what education level, can fall into ruts where they are only willing to believe what they believe and that's it, this includes both theologians and scientists.

Re:Education Gap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659801)

"I'm not opposed to religion, but I strongly feel that its teachings should only be used in a philosophical context, and not -- for example -- for informing our actions w.r.t. the physical/natural world."

You can't have both, I have people within my families church were hoping for christs return in 2000, and they all rose a stink about it and couldn't stop talking about it. Religion defines the world for people, if someone truly believes and is willing to die for their beliefs you can't not be opposed to ignorance.

It's sick that we allow such ignorance to flourish in the first place, it's unfortunate that we are a minority and the fact that the majority of human beings have minds like lemons.

Re:Education Gap (-1, Flamebait)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659817)

You are against religion. In a purely philosophical context it would be called faith or believe system. Religion is the institution. Which religious people should all be put in.

Re:Education Gap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659605)

John Q. Public gets his information from the over simplifying, dumbed down, and sensationalizing TV and radio. And when you have supposedly educated people, I'm thinking of one with a law degree, saying that magazines like Scientific American have a "Liberal Agenda" and cannot be trusted, it's no wonder that the American public is one of the most scientifically illiterate western culture on the planet and as a result, we, as a culture, think and behave as a bunch of ignorant buffoons.

Re:Education Gap (4, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659709)

Advanced education (or advanced knowledge) in a specific subject, tends to be accompanied by an accurate sense of just how much one does not know. People with a rudimentary understanding of something often have a much higher sense of certainty than people with deep knowledge. The more you know, the more you know you don't know.

With respect to the Republican/Democrat/Independent split, I find it interesting that a third identify as independents. I think that for at least the last couple decades, the Republicans have taken on so much of an "America Fuck Yeah" religiousity, that people who understand that the world is not simple because they have discovered in their own area, how much others misunderstand the topic and the findings and how much more there is to learn, are easily disillusioned by the Readers Digest platitudes that seem sufficient for the vast majority of people. As a result, those who actually know how little they know, can see how they are underinformed outside their area of expertise and are much more likely to accept that they may be wrong in any of their beliefs. Given the Republican party's penchant for unthinking dogmatism, it is easy to see why people who have become very expert in a specialized area would be hesitant to be associated with the Republican party. By the same token, Democrats can be just as bad, but there is some logic in going with the lesser evil (although I personally have decided against that path), and because the Democrats on average aren't such thundering bible-bangers, it seems natural enough to go that route.

"scientists" are from liberal think tank (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659447)

Pew used the AACS membership list to generate their list of "scientists" to poll. Anyone that wants to fork over $99 can join the AACS, including kindergarten teachers. Would you call the opinion of a kindergarten teacher the opinion of a scientist? The stated goals of AACS essentially define it as a left-leaning organization, so it's no surprise that 55% say they are Democrats.

Perhaps Pew could not do their research on such a decidedly biased sample to begin with -- but I suppose that is asking too much these days.

Re:"scientists" are from liberal think tank (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659559)

It's AAAS [aaas.org] , not "AACS".

The stated goals of AACS essentially define it as a left-leaning organization

[citation needed]

Re:"scientists" are from liberal think tank (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659639)

Just because the AAAS list was used as the original source, it doesn't mean that they didn't filter and select a subset of that list. If you know anything about conducting surveys or statistical analysis, you'd realize that the raw materials generally go through several rounds of refinement before progressing with the study.

Re:"scientists" are from liberal think tank (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659643)

Pew used the AACS membership list to generate their list of "scientists" to poll. Anyone that wants to fork over $99 can join the AACS, including kindergarten teachers. Would you call the opinion of a kindergarten teacher the opinion of a scientist? The stated goals of AACS essentially define it as a left-leaning organization, so it's no surprise that 55% say they are Democrats.

Perhaps Pew could not do their research on such a decidedly biased sample to begin with -- but I suppose that is asking too much these days.

Everyone is biased. You need to look behind the headlines to find out anything. I just wish CNN and Fox had a [citation needed] tag.

And thanks for that bit of information. It does give a little perspective.

Re:"scientists" are from liberal think tank (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659831)

So you're saying this is similar to that global warming denier petition that went around a few years ago? The one where 22,000 "scientists" from non-geoscience-related fields got to voice their opinions about something that they admittedly know very little about? It's kind of like that, right?

Education (3, Insightful)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659453)

The disparity between the views of scientists and 'the public' is another illustration of the generally poor quality of education. This is evident here in the UK, and perhaps even more in the US, where the base quality of education is often questionable, and often the subject matter is 'taught' in a far from sensible way. Just look at the debate over how (or even if) evolution should be taught. The populace are never going to be able to participate in informed debate from a position of ignorance, but that is exactly what is currently happening. This whole mess is made even worse by those in power (politicians) putting their own agendas before fact and truth, and by putting short term (political) considerations above the long term good (see the 'debate' raging over global warming for a good example of this). The public will never catch up with the level of appreciation and understanding scientists have of these matters unless their underlying knowledge and education is adequate, and right now it clearly isn't.

Only 9 in 10 accept evolution? (4, Funny)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659455)

Hrm... I'd like to see exactly how they arrived at *that* number...

They're not counting engineers as scientists, are they?

Re:Only 9 in 10 accept evolution? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659511)

I've talked to ecologists and biologists who argued that there was a distinction between micro and macro evolution.

And I'm one of those pathetic engineers.

Re:Only 9 in 10 accept evolution? (3, Insightful)

cheebie (459397) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659707)

Given the poor quality of the questions in that poll, almost any results are possible. They forced you to choose between 'natural process' and 'guided by a supreme being' as exclusive opposites. How about if you believe (as most religious people do) that natural processes are guided by a supreme being. The nature and tone of the question will cause most to choose the supreme being option, when they probably are thinking 'both'.

The other problem is that this particular issue has been latched onto and exploited by politicians and opinion-shapers. It has become an 'our side vs. their side' thing. People chose the anti-evolution option because that boosts their side. If you could decouple it from the fight, you might be able to convince more people.

You can probably guess where I come down on the issue. I do believe in God. I can't prove it, but I accept it as a tautology. I also believe in evolution as a natural process. I believe that the creation of the universe was a more subtle process than most Biblical literalists do. God set up the rules and conditions so that what he wanted to happen would happen. Sort of a 15+ billion year bank shot. To me, that is _much_ more impressive than "Wham, here's everything".

Define "scientist" (3, Informative)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659473)

The "Pew Research Center" canvassed the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS publishes the Science journal which has a distinctly liberal bias.

Note carefully: I'm not saying that's a bad thing. However, it means that the sample is biased. I'm actually surprised that as many as 6% of respondents identified themselves as Republicans.

Re:Define "scientist" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659633)

Do you have any reason to believe that the AAAS membership itself is not representative of the overall population of scientists? For that matter, Science is a peer-reviewed scientific journal (and one of the most prestigious in the world), so either it already reflects the scientific community's beliefs or reality has a liberal bias. Exactly what kind of "liberal bias" does Science tend to show, anyway? Do they not print enough articles on creation "science" or half-baked George Will editorials denying global warming for you? Or are you just full of shit?

It would help if the media weren't clueless too. (3, Insightful)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659479)

The fact that the media gives equal time and access to creationists, conspiracy theorists, homeopathic medicine and various other tinfoil hat whackmobiles does the body politic no favors whatsoever. There's no emphasis on rigorous thought. Sentiment and ratings trump accuracy and logic.

Critical thinking should be a required course in every high school in the land, and if you fail you don't get a diploma. But the churches would scream bloody murder. The last thing they want is children thinking for themselves.

Re:It would help if the media weren't clueless too (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659747)

The last thing they want is children thinking for themselves.

That applies to any self-perpetuating group. If you catch people when they're too young to make distinctions, you can implant your ideas down at the level of attitudes where they're very, very hard to get at later. Relatively few people who were raised in a non-religious environment ever acquire faith later in life: such an adult will perceive much of a typical religious belief system to be as corny, fictitious and unjustifiable as it really is.

Conversely, the bulk of people who were raised in religion die still believing it. As one of the aforementioned people who was not brought up in a God-fearing household, I often wonder how people who have strong religious beliefs manage to accommodate such cognitive dissonance. That is, how they rationalize the very evident inconsistencies between their programmed view of the Universe, and what actually is.

Depressing... (1)

Valtor (34080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659487)

This is really depressing. :( But at least it's still scientists doing the science and not the 66% of the population that does not even understand where we come from (evolution).

Valtor

Re:Depressing... (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659545)

The problem here is that Americans are derisive of intelligence and scientists in particular. Calling someone an "Einstein" or an "Egghead" is not purely a compliment even among geeks and nerds... in fact, aside from the word "scientist" the words themselves used to describe them are shown to have their own negative connotations via etymology. When I want help pumping shit, I call a plumber. If I have a problem with my house wiring that I can't handle, I call an electrician. When I want help understanding the fundamental nature of the universe, I look for a scientist.

Unfortunately, there is a major conflict between science and certain religions bent on control. You might notice that certain religions don't actually conflict with science, because they don't make ridiculous claims, because they're not trying to control people for their own ends. They only seek to make the world a better place. It's clear that Christianity (the best example for our nation) is intended only to benefit Christians -- if you aren't one, you can just go to hell.

Science is the quest for that which is. Religion is the quest to explain that which is not. Paths may be varied, but there is only one set of facts. When the two contradict, it's clear that falling back on religion is a failure. Those cultures which have most successfully embraced science have always been most successful, a trend which will only continue.

Re:Depressing... (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659819)

It's clear that Christianity (the best example for our nation) is intended only to benefit Christians -- if you aren't one, you can just go to hell.

More correctly, if you aren't one, you are going to Hell.

Realistically speaking, however, if you look at the root of all religions (going back to the pantheons of the ancient Greek, Roman and even earlier civilizations) you will note that they are attempts to explain that which was, at the time, unexplainable or simply unacceptable (i.e., death.) The problem is that we've advanced way, way beyond the need for such primitive descriptions of how the Universe works. To this day, far too many people are simply unwilling or, in many cases, constitutionally unable, to accept that and move on.

Where we have not succeeded is in eliminating the need for the social control that organized religion provides. By and large, people are animals when you get right down to it, and civilization doesn't function well (or at all) if everyone is just doing what's best for him or herself, no matter the cost to anyone else. Fear of God (or Zeus, or any other external deity) has kept millions of people more-or-less in line for centuries. Consequently, one can't say that everything organized religion has done is bad, but unfortunately we're at the point where their antiscience bent is causing a severe cultural rift, and is in fact causing a lot of damage.

Re:Depressing... (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659601)

For me, science is creating a hypothesis, creating experiments to challenge the validity of said hypothesis, then allowing others to reproduce it.
Granted I had an undergrad in chemistry and published in JACS and Science, so I have a bias against evolution being lumped into "science." Just as I do with economics.
* Physics: is core and amazing (beyond me);
* Math is beautifully simple, completely from the the ground up;
* Chemistry definitely science, though I fall into Vonnegut's camp of mistrusting it;
and * Microbiology is absolutely amazing, DNA, RNA, pathways etc. I've worked around this in industry for 5 years now and I'm aways impressed.
I just don't get why Science even needs to prove or disprove a God. Can't we just leave it in a box with Schrodinger's cat?

---
From the Simpsons, "As for Science versus Religion, I'm issuing a restraining order. Religion must stay 500 yards from Science at all times."

Re:Depressing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659743)

Science isn't trying to "prove or disprove a God." Evolution says absolutely nothing about how life originated, just how it developed from the first primitive creatures to where we are today, and anyone who claims otherwise is an idiot.

Re:Depressing... (1)

Fortunato_NC (736786) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659839)

I just don't get why Science even needs to prove or disprove a God. Can't we just leave it in a box with Schrodinger's cat?

It is literally impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God. See Russell's Teapot [wikipedia.org] if you don't understand this.

What science attempts to do is provide explanations for the workings of the universe. Religion purports to have already answered these questions. The only problem is that religion provides only one answer: "Goddidit!" That sort of thinking discourages rational inquiry, and is ultimately harmful, because it impedes real progress. Religion (at least, the monotheistic versions I am familiar with) offers a "go along, get along" view of the world - if you follow our rules for your whole life, we'll all be happy, and our invisible friend will be really good to you after you die. Science, on the other hand, searches for truth without regard to how it makes you feel, and that is uncomfortable for many religious types. Science's explanations for natural phenomena leave less and less room for the "Goddidit" view of things, and that threatens a large group of people who make their living off "Goddidit".

Who the hell did they poll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659495)

Honestly I don't really know anyone that doesn't accept evolution by natural selection. Who are they talking to?!

Re:Who the hell did they poll? (1)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659705)

Honestly I don't really know anyone that doesn't accept evolution by natural selection. Who are they talking to?!

Try moving to the midwest, son. I lived in Kansas for five years and boy I'll tell ya I met more than a few folks who don't accept it. I once had a conversation with somebody who literally believed the Earth was only six thousand years old. When I brought up that carbon dating of fossilized dinosaurs revealed their age to be millions of years old and radiometric dating of the oldest rocks on Earth revealed their age to be in the billions of years old, this person replied with, "God creates false readings to test our faith." There's really no winning an argument like that.

Who are "scientists?" (0, Troll)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659509)

The word "scientist" is ridiculously broad. Who are these people to which the media constantly refers? And who gives a shit what "scientists" think about politics?

I'd like to know what economists think about politics, including facts and historical data to back their opinions up. But I guess that would take ACTUAL research, which is harder than calling 1000 people and asking them 10 questions each.

This study needs to be broken down by discipline (1)

postermmxvicom (1130737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659671)

Mod parent up. Just because you are educated in one thing does not mean you are educated in all things.

Hear is an anecdotal news flash. I have my BS in theoretical physics. Every one of my Physics friends (including those who went on to their PhD) and anything I have heard from my professors and their professors (except for one) says global warming smacks of bad science.

So, it'd be interesting to see this study broke down by discipline so we could look at their educated opinions.

Re:Who are "scientists?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659777)

I'd like to know what economists think about politics

Hmm why? Have you found a measure of success that politicians should maximize, and it happens to be measured in dollars?

Re: skimpy media coverage of science (1)

wexsessa (908890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659557)

While I was living in Britain in the late 1970s, the BBC announced a new evening radio programme to cover the Arts & Sciences in more depth. For a few weeks it looked promising, but the ratio or Arts to Science gradually tilted towards the Arts and the Science withered to a few occasional short items. I assumed that this was due to the Beeb being inhabited primarily by Arts people, who love to talk about their work, whereas the Science people were busy elsewhere doing their science. Here in Canada the CBC has an hour of science a week (Quirks & Quarks, Saturday mid-day & repeated one late evening), which is quite decent (at the interested lay people level). They cover three or four topics in some depth. But the CBC's Arts programming greatly exceeds it.

Re: skimpy media coverage of science (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659689)

It's still not great (The iPlayer currently lists 57 "Science & Nature" programmes and 116 "Arts & Culture" shows, but it's still more than: Antiques (26), Beauty & Style (6), Cars & Motors (6), Cinema (5), Consumer (12), Crime & Justice (7), Disability (1), Families & Relationships (2), Food & Drink (17), Health & Wellbeing (12), History (36), Homes & Gardens (37), Money (51), Pets & Animals (10) & Travel (2)).

That said, there are some excellent examples (though mostly on the radio, rather than TV); I'm a great fan of Radio 4's Material World [bbc.co.uk] and there are also shows like Digital Planet, Fossil Detectives, Leading Edge, Science Cafe & Science In Action.

The sad truth is that most people either don't give a shit about science as long as their internets work or would be interested but struggle with the exclusionary aura that a lot of science programmes exude - which is why I like Material World as it makes a effort to be accessible to everyone.

The revealing statistic (5, Insightful)

jgeada (1304637) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659621)

I found it very revealing to see the statistics about what the public thought the scientific consensus is. Paraphrasing from the original article:
- Public thinks 60% of scientists agree that evolution occurred, but actually 97% of scientists support evolution.
- Public thinks 56% of scientists agree that global warming is human caused, but actually 84% of scientists support the theory that human activity has and is causing global warming.

This nearly 50/50 split in the public's view leads me to think: what is the primary source of science news for most of the public? The press. And most of the time, particularly on controversial issues, the press just presents two talking heads with opposing views as the current state of affairs. If you didn't know better from other sources you'd have to assume that the scientific consensus was split 50/50.

Global Governance (1, Insightful)

flyingrobots (704155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659623)

It's too bad the Global Warming debate is being hijacked by politicians. Al Gore recently described the new climate bill out of the US Congress as 'helping to bring about global governance' [climatedepot.com]

The problem with the folks not buying into this global warming crap isn't so much the science it's the new taxes and other restrictions of freedom it will impose combined with other countries smart enough not to get involved.

I think there is building evidence that the scientists that believe it is happening are wrong. No one can explain why global temperatures have flat-lined. The models aren't working. It seems some agencies are adjusting data to agree with their models, when in reality we aren't experiencing the warming we've been warned about. Here is an article that illustrates this problem. [theregister.co.uk]

The debate isn't over and the folks understand that, especially considering the burden that will be imposed on them if they go along with it.

You don't have to be computer scientist to use a computer. Likewise, folks know they don't have to be scientists to understand that it is very unlikely that we have the power to affect the climate of the earth. Additionally they are seeing the data and they are seeing that reality isn't agreeing with scientists models.

Satellite data is starting to show a bunch of negative numbers. The (false) notion that this planet is warming is starting to give way to reality [uah.edu] , and the regular folks understand that.

Kevin

Blame tv (1)

thetacron (1502343) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659631)

I think that whats constantly being passed on tv as science in US is eclipsing any real discovery. They need to realize that most real discoveries come in small parts ususally building on some one else's works. It's not woops we suddenly have warp drive. That and any real discoveries are being covered up by media hype of who died this week and who is dating who. A media discovery might get 2 minutes on CNN where as a funeral is playing on 16 channels for 2 weeks straight.

These stories are stupid (4, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659661)

The research for these types of stories is horrible.

What do I care if 84% of scientists believe the earth is getting warmer from human activity? My father's a scientist who studies product safety. His opinion on global warming is no more educated than the rest of the public's but he's a "scientist." A marine biologist might observe changes in habitat and deserve an opinion, but a chemist at a drug research lab probably doesn't rank above my own knowledge of global warming.

Polling groups of people with a similar job title in totally different fields is misleading at best.

I fail to see ... (2, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659669)

... how any *real* scientist could be anything but independent. Political parties subscribe to belief systems that are principally about self-preservation and perpetuation. Aligning oneself with one party or the other would seem to violate everything science is about. FWIW, I am registered unenrolled (a.k.a. independent) and typically vote anti-incumbent unless one or the other candidate truly inspires me (rare) or scares me (frequent).

Science Czar vs public, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28659723)

If the general public is different from scientists, I hope they'll resist the new Sciece Czar. He's a eugenist in favor of a planetary government [littlegreenfootballs.com]

Scientists outside their field? (1)

kryptomaniac (319301) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659773)

If a scientist is evaluating subjects (often well) outside their sphere of study, how does that make their opinion any better than anyone elses?

"And while 84% of scientists say the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, less than half of the public agrees with that."

So "all" the non-climate related scientists evaluated the GW claims and read the papers and make their own opinions?

OR

Do they rather simply believe what they're taught in school?

From my vantage point... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659811)

I would say that actually there are more republicans in science than what that study found. Granted I cannot survey all the scientists in America. However, in the blue state where I am working on my PhD more than 6% of the scientists I know have conservative leanings. In my entering class of 22, there were two students who viewed Rush Limbaugh as a legitimate news source and blamed everything wrong in the universe on Bill Clinton, personally. And those were just amongst the fraction of students who were open with their political views.

One surprising trend (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28659813)

One surprising trend I found in this survey was that among scientists, young scientists between the ages 18-34 believe in God more than older scientists aged 65 or more (42% vs 28%).

If I'm not mistaken I think that in America (and in a lot of other countries) the number of believers in God is greater among elderly people than among the younger generations. So why the noteworthy discrepancy with scientists? Would it be that scientists 'find out' that there's no God some time during the course of their life/career? Would the 65+ year old scientists have been as religious when they were young as the current young scientists? Or could it be something else?

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