More Scientifically Literate People Are More Skeptical of Global Warming
This tendency is, of course, quite selectively observed. Liberals entirely ignore the economic science that says that minimum wage laws are harmful. And liberals are more likely to believe that astrology is somehow scientific. Indeed, among voters in the 2004 presidential election, more Kerry voters than Bush voters said astrology was “very scientific” or “sort of” scientific.
But where supposed global warming is concerned, liberals wrap themselves in the mantle of “science” and proclaim that skeptics are flat-earthers.
But now comes a study, from a mainstream academic journal, financed by the National Science Foundation, showing that the more somebody knows about science and math, the more likely they are to be skeptical of the supposed risks of global warming.
When asked “How much risk to you believe climate change poses to human health, safety or prosperity?” those with a higher level of science literacy/numeracy saw less risk. The difference is not large, but it runs in entirely the “wrong” direction. It is also statistically significant: greater than could be accounted for by mere chance.
The authors of the study, who seem to be true-blue (or perhaps true-green would be better) believers, don’t draw this obvious conclusion, but rather invoke social conformity. They say:
For the ordinary individual, the most consequential effect of his beliefs about climate change is likely to be on his relations with his peers. A hierarchical individualist who expresses anxiety about climate change might well be shunned by his co-workers at an oil refinery in Oklahoma City. A similar fate will probably befall the egalitarian communitarian English professor who reveals to colleagues in Boston that she thinks the scientific consensus on climate change is a hoax.The problem with this argument, of course, is that it works equally well for climate scientists, who are as sensitive to the opinions of their subculture as anybody else. Indeed, more so, since to prosper (and even to get tenure) they need to be within the acceptable range of opinion.
This tendency to demean — and indeed to threaten and intimidate — those who are skeptical about global warming seems to suggest one of two things. Either those who support that view are at some level insecure about their position, and not willing to see an open and free-wheeling debate, or they are part of such a narrow little subculture that they really can’t understand how anybody can disagree with them.