Conservative anti-science

Chris Mooney has an interesting post, citing recent research by Gordon Gauchat that shows a noticeable decline in trust in science among political conservatives in the United States, over the past few decades.

There isn’t much that I know of in this sort of research that would help me estimate what the contribution of conservative religiosity is to the lack of trust in science. It could be interesting to disentangle, say, a supernaturalist reaction against the naturalistic tendency of modern science, and a right-wing libertarian worship of capitalism and consequent anti-environmentalist thinking. (Though it’s also interesting how many conservatives seamlessly combine the two.)

Does anyone know of any research relevant to such a question?

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07073564722634869398 Daniel

    Did I miss something or was religion not mentioned even once in Mooney's piece? To talk about conservative rejection of science and not talk about religion just misses the story.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Taner Edis said…

    It could be interesting to disentangle, say, a supernaturalist reaction against the naturalistic tendency of modern science, and a right-wing libertarian worship of capitalism and consequent anti-environmentalist thinking.
    =========
    Comment:

    It occurs to me that these two sorts of explanations represent Hegelian/Idealist vs. Marxist/Sociological explanations.

    One way that we try to explain ideas and beliefs is in intellectual terms – looking at the logic and philosophy behind an idea.

    Another way we try to explain ideas and beliefs is in terms of the social function/role of those beliefs, especially in relation to how power and wealth are distributed among people.

    I suppose that 'worship of capitalism' can also be viewed as a logical or philosophical ground for anti-scientific beliefs/attitudes, but the anti-environmentalist aspect of this viewpoint has obvious implications for how power and wealth are distributed – huge amounts of money are made by corporations by avoiding environmental regulations and thus by passing the true costs of their business activities on to poor and middle class people and third-world countries.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    …and 'worship of capitalism' also has implications for how power and wealth are distributed among people.

    From a Marxist viewpoint, 'worship of capitalism' is itself a product of a capitalist system, i.e. people are indoctrinated/socialized into this viewpoint as a means of maintaining an unjust status quo, just as people in the South were indoctrinated/socialized to accept slavery as a means of maintaining that unjust economic system.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Heck, I have witnessed the change in my lifetime. I entered elementary school in the immediate aftermath of the Sputnik launch. Politicians and Pundits were wringing their hands and crying that America was losing the "space race." The story was that disciplined Russian youths were being drilled in calculus and rocket science, while we indolent American kids zoned out on cheeseburgers and rock 'n' roll. Consequently, the science and math content of our curriculum was greatly enhanced. Scientists were put on a pedestal, even shady characters like Werner von Braun. Both liberals and conservatives deferred to scientific opinion, and the media put a positive spin on everything scientific.

    Now things are very different. Special interest groups such as fundamentalist Christians and large corporations have vested interests in obfuscation. This, of course, is how evolutionary science and climatology got to be hot-button political topics. I found it very interesting when, sometime back, Republican presidential candidates were asked how many accepted the evolutionary account of human origins. The same sorts of questions have been asked about human-caused global warming. Where you stand on scientific issues has become a criterion of political rectitude.

    Further, those with a vested interest in undermining science are very well funded and very media savvy. They know how easy it is to mislead a scientifically ignorant public. You just create a fake "research" institute or "think" tank and trot out your "experts" to contradict the real experts. Most people can't tell the difference, and quite a few don't want to.

    Inquisitions, Indexes of prohibited books, and such old-fashioned tactics did not stop science or even slow it down. Big money working in tandem with pernicious, antiscience ideologies just might.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15345900255255283518 Cman

    I disagree with the statement that Conservatives have a distrust in science. For example, I am a biblical creationist myself, and I support using SCIENCE to prove my claims. Also, modern science has no naturalist tendencies. For instance, all naturalists will agree that evolution occurred. This in itself is impossible based on the SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS, a law which no competent scientists will attempt to argue with. No new information can be added over a period of time, which is precisely what evolution needs in order to exist. This is only one of many instances in which the naturalistic view of science is merely a RELIGION that excludes any truth that would point towards the existence of a God.

  • Ders

    You don’t understand science. You don’t start with the bible and use science to prove it. You start with science and see where that leads you.


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