Friday, March 30, 2012

Conservatives Have "Slipped" Away From Science (Gordon Gauchat, Stephanie Pappas)

Scientific insight or more junk science? Via Hot Air, Stephanie Pappas discusses a new report from Dr. Gordon Gauchat:
Politically conservative Americans have lost trust in science over the last 40 years while moderates and liberals have remained constant in the stock they put in the scientific community, a new study finds.

The most educated conservatives have slipped the most, according to the research set to appear in the April issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

...At the beginning of the survey, in the 1970s, conservatives trusted science more than anyone, with about 48 percent evincing a great deal of trust. By 2010, the last year survey data was available, only 35 percent of conservatives said the same.
Concern for bias in Stephanie's article starts with the title, "Conservatives Losing Trust in Science." This is considerably less neutral than the title of Gauchat's article, "Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere."

Gordon Gauchat calls his objectivity into question by agitating for Barack Obama starting with the first sentence of his article:
In the first months of his presidency, Barack Obama addressed the National Academy of Sciences to speak about U.S. science policy and a renewed commitment to fund scientific research. In this speech he charged: “We have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas” (White House 2010). The previous administration under George W. Bush was widely seen as unfriendly toward the scientific community. As a consequence, many scientific organizations and advocacy groups became concerned that political and ideological interests were threatening the cultural authority of science.
Gauchat then draws sloppy connections between conservative distrust for the scientific community and the policies of recent Republican administrations while labeling skepticism about the integrity of the scientific community and debate about the proper role of government in funding science as "anti-science." Moreover, as commenters at Hot Air are quick to note, Gauchat conflates distrust for the "scientific community" with distrust for "science."

I think that Gauchat greatly overstates his case in light of the fact that his data indicate that trust for the scientific community has been quite low among liberals and moderates as well (below 50% on average).

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