Why do people reject science?

Why do people reject science? September 11, 2012



We see this all the time, even though “every piece of existence on Earth” supports evolution, people still deny it. It’s nearly always due to having never studied biological sciences, and not understanding what the Theory says.

Some Australian researchers wanted to find out something similar, why do people reject climate science? When the available data abundantly shows human activity making the Earth warmer, why do people reject the data?


More than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to discussions of climate science completed a questionnaire that queried people’s belief in a number of scientific questions and conspiracy theories, including:  Princess Diana’s death was not an accident; the Apollo moon landings never happened; HIV causes AIDS; and smoking causes lung cancer.  The study also considered the interplay of these responses with the acceptance of climate science, free market ideology and the belief that previous environmental problems have been resolved.

The study focused on what common factors came up for the population of people that reject climate science.  What was the most common predictor?

…..found that free-market ideology was an overwhelmingly strong determinant of the rejection of climate science. 


It looks like the strongest marker of a person who will reject the data around climate change, is a strong belief that a free market economy is the best solution to problems. Maybe this isn’t surprising. After all, making changes to our behavior is the only way to mitigate the effect of humanity on the climate. Believing that “the invisible hand” will solve any and all problems conflicts with the idea that the a modern economy needs to take impact on the environment into account as a cost.

There was another interesting find,

It also predicted the rejection of the link between tobacco and lung cancer and between HIV and AIDS. Conspiratorial thinking was a lesser but still significant determinant of the rejection of all scientific propositions examined, from climate to lung cancer.



Read that again. Strong belief in a free market economy might make sense for why a person would reject climate science, cognitive dissonance is a painful thing. You can’t both believe that human behavior is the cause of climate change, and believe that no adjustment needs to be made to our behavior.

But rejecting the fact that HIV causes AIDS? Believing that cigarettes have no link to higher cancer rates? These people are failing to be rational, and it’s dimming the future for all of us.


It’s not a conspiracy, but a failure to be reasonable.



You can find me on twitter, @DrDavidBurger

I recruit in Kansas City, http://www.kcatheists.org/
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