Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday November 6, 2021
Many conservatives have a difficult relationship with science
Many scientific findings continue to be disputed by politicians and parts of the public long after a scholarly consensus has been established. For example, nearly a third of Americans still do not accept that fossil fuel emissions cause climate change, even though the scientific community settled on a consensus that they do decades ago.
Research into why people reject scientific facts has identified people’s political worldviews as the principal predictor variable. People with a libertarian or conservative worldview are more likely to reject climate change and evolution and are less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
What explains this propensity for rejection of science by some of the political right? Are there intrinsic attributes of the scientific enterprise that are uniquely challenging to people with conservative or libertarian worldviews? Or is the association merely the result of conflicting imperatives between scientific findings and their economic implications? In the case of climate change, for example, any mitigation necessarily entails interference with current economic practice.
We recently conducted two large-scale surveys that explored the first possibility – that some intrinsic attributes of science are in tension with aspects of conservative thinking. We focused on two aspects of science: the often tacit norms and principles that guide the scientific enterprise, and the history of how scientific progress has led us to understand that human beings are not the centre of the universe. (Continued: The Conversation)