Does Science Intelligence Make People More Reasonable?

By Shlomo Maital

 The latest Scientific American (October 2017) has a short piece and accompanying diagram, reporting research on the key question:

Do people who have higher ‘science intelligence’ (i.e. knowledge and education in the realm of science) understand better the risks inherent in:   Global warming (climate change); private gun possession (the more guns, the more violent gun deaths), and fracking (causes environmental harm)?   

   The answer?   It depends. It depends on the political views of the ‘science-educated person’.   If you are liberal democrat, then – the answer is yes, science education makes you far more sensitive to the inherent risks, except for guns, where the perceived risk is seen as high regardless of science or no science.

   But if you are a conservative Republican? The more science you know, the less concerned you are about the risks.   Your political views color, in fact dominate,  your scientific awareness.

   I think this finding explains a great deal.   Research on guns will not help bring gun legislation. Research on global warming (or even, wildfires and hurricans) will not bring restrictions on emissions. Research on the risks of fracking will not bring any slowdown in fracking.   And the enormous fracture in dysfunctional American politics between Dems and Republications will not be repaired by evidence, facts and research.

      Why? Because, “I have a Ph.D. in geophysics, and by the way, don’t confuse me with      facts, my mind is made up.”

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