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View Diary: Breaking: Americans Find Something Else Not To Effing Believe In. (299 comments)

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  •  wait, hang on (1+ / 0-)
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    Darmok

    First of all, you're running together a new poll result with something that the NSF did or reported on. (The UPI story seems fundamentally confused here: Science and Engineering Indicators is a report, not an annual survey.)

    Why shouldn't many people be "not confident at all" that the universe is 13.8 billion years old? How is that different from admitting that they don't know?

    Now, let's put that thing about "just don't believe the science" back in the context of the supporting research. The NSF report notes that the 2012 General Social Survey did a half-sample experiment in which half the respondents were asked about the proposition that "the universe began with a big explosion," and half were told that "According to astronomers, the universe began with a big explosion." The NSF report says that, without the preface, 39% of respondents said the statement was true; with the preface, 60% said it was true. (The tables I ran indicate that actually the percentages are more like 55% and 76%; right now I can't account for the discrepancy, and the NSF doesn't appear to give a source.)

    Now, how on earth does UPI descry from that that "more respondents are aware of the science than originally suggested -- they just don't believe the science"? What does that even mean? That who originally suggested? My takeaway is that a lot of people aren't aware of the science, and so merely attributing it to "astronomers" is enough to change their answers.  How many people actually obdurately deny the big bang? I haven't seen a study that gives a satisfactory answer.

    "Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure they are right." —E. E. Schattschneider

    by HudsonValleyMark on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:50:46 PM PDT

    •  Don't know would have been an acceptable reply (0+ / 0-)

      However it is much more fashionable to say, that they don't believe, no reasoning required it is the stock answer at this time.

      You have to put the reply in the cultural context of today

      "I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity." Nadezhda Mandelstam

      by LaFeminista on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 02:55:01 PM PDT

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      •  IMO that has to do with question construction (0+ / 0-)

        The proportion of people who volunteer "don't know" responses varies widely depending on many factors. It's true that people often volunteer responses when the most honest response would have been that they don't know. But a question that asks people how confident they are of [X] doesn't lend itself to a don't-know response. Heck, I'm a pretty insecure guy, but I at least know how confident I am that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. It would be pretty roundabout to have to say "don't know" in order to communicate the right attitude toward science. (Changing the wording to "billions of years" would surely change my answer.)

        That's my professional critique of the question design. I'm sure there are people who are firmly committed to a young universe, as well as people who would tend to give young-universe answers without actually caring very much. I just don't think these questions reveal how many there are.

        "Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure they are right." —E. E. Schattschneider

        by HudsonValleyMark on Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 06:07:18 PM PDT

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        •  it's part of a larger problem (1+ / 0-)
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          kvnvk

          'belief' in evolution and climate science is dropping as the evidence in support of both keeps on piling up and the evidence against continues to be completely nonexistent.
          that's not a wording problem. It's a society-wide acceptance of magical thinking and permission to deny observable reality wholesale. Whether it's intellectual laziness, propaganda, the herd mentality, or a combination of all and more I do not know.

          Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

          by kamarvt on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 05:33:19 AM PDT

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          •  evidence? (0+ / 0-)

            "Belief" in climate change has ebbed and flowed, but Pew found a considerable increase between 2010 and 2013. The GSS shows an increase in "belief" in evolution from 2006 to 2012, although that is less robust. I haven't canvassed all available polls, but I don't see the basis for your confidence that the trends are in the opposite direction.

            It seems to me that if you don't know whether it's "intellectual laziness," then you also don't know whether it's "acceptance of magical thinking." Most people haven't thought much at all about either climate change or evolution. That doesn't strike me as surprising or blameworthy. I suspect that hardcore public denialism is a very small part of the problem, but I'm open to contrary arguments.

            "Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure they are right." —E. E. Schattschneider

            by HudsonValleyMark on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 06:14:16 AM PDT

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            •  plenty (0+ / 0-)

              http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...
              lots of dismay from scientists in that article.
              Here's a money quote;

              "Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts," said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.
              The whole thing is an indictment of the fostered ignorance gaining traction in America. It's a short read. It bolsters the diarist's case nicely.

              Then there's this; Gallup's polls on evolution over time.
              The trendlines are absolutely in the direction i stated over the last three years. It's the sharpest divergence from the mean in the 32 years of data.

              Those were two of the top three results when I typed evolution polling into Google. A lot more came up, but you can peruse them without my help.
              There are polls showing both an increase and a decrease in creationism vs evolution, as it is lately a hot issue politically (that alone is alarming, imo). So, like all else these days, we can all choose a poll that confirms our own views.
              that's helpful, isn't it?
              As to magical thinking, check out the graph of 'what people do and do not believe' in this article from Harris interactive.  'God' and 'miracles' top the list at over 70%, and Darwin's theory of evolution polls behind the virgin birth of Christ.

               Climate science 'acceptance' goes up and down with local current weather; if that's not the epitome of uninformed opinionating, I don't know what is.
              I'm old enough to remember a time when if people didn't know much about an issue, particularly one where there was cold data and science to strengthen the claims made, they made an effort to learn something about it before shooting off an opinion, but those days are over. Now it's a circus of gauging knee-jerk 'public opinion' on things where their damned opinion is uninformed and irrelevant to the reality.

              Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

              by kamarvt on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:03:01 AM PDT

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              •  a few things (0+ / 0-)

                Scientists expressing dismay about the public's science knowledge? Stop the presses!

                The Gallup numbers to which you linked show, over the last three decades, a slight increase in the opinion that "God had no part in [the] process" and no other clear trend. Support for the 'creationist' opinion may have gone down in 2010 and then back up in 2012, but it is far from clear.

                Climate science 'acceptance' goes up and down with local current weather; if that's not the epitome of uninformed opinionating, I don't know what is.
                Who said it wasn't uninformed?

                "Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure they are right." —E. E. Schattschneider

                by HudsonValleyMark on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 07:38:48 AM PDT

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                •  I couldn't find a quote like the first one (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  kvnvk

                  that I used above from anytime prior to the turn of the Century. Maybe I'm not so good at teh google.
                  Public pushback on the distrust of science is relatively new, because the coordinated creation of that distrust by a major political party (not a fringe group) is also new. The Snopes trial was not countenanced by a major tv network, a major political party, and a vast network of talking heads. If it were to play out today, that would be different (Cliven Bundy).  That's devolving, and that's never a good thing for a society. The Republican party mainstream is in the midst of an overt pr campaign to accuse the entire scientific community of a world changing conspiracy. that is pretty darn radical stuff.

                  You see a 4 point trend down in creationism in 2012 (actually that's from mid 2008-2011),  what I see is a polarization; the six point rebound between 2011 and 2013 came almost entirely from people abandoning the intelligent design 'compromise' and going all in with creationism. We can quibble about the minutiae and MoE, clearly a rigorous treatment of this would require both of us devote at least the day to it. Most volatile time of all is recently. No four or six point swings prior to the last few years. One thing that seems to parallel; the rise and fall of the fortunes of the political right match that of support for creationism.  That four point drop was during the worst of the recession and the most hopeful time of Obama's first term. Rationality seems to have been on the rise, but took a beating with the ascendance of the republicans in late 2010.  Similar dynamic with the Clinton years; creationism's peak was during the Lewinsky/impeachment affair.

                  I think we can agree that there has always been a streak of this willful ignorance (call it what you will) in American culture;  my concern is the fueling of this attitude by people and groups that certainly know better, but are playing with fire for financial gain. Their reach is vast, and the disinformation they spread is viral in a way it could never have been in days of yore. I am also troubled because our lives are more dependent on the science that is snubbed than they were centuries ago, so the consequences of not only ignorance but hostility toward science are more damaging than ever. I see it gaining ground in the same obnoxious way that overt racism is making a comeback in public life; that's why I push back in my own ways. Maybe you don't see it the same way; and that's to be expected.

                  Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

                  by kamarvt on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 08:35:39 AM PDT

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                  •  here's the thing (0+ / 0-)
                    Most volatile time of all is recently. No four or six point swings prior to the last few years.
                    You're inferring that from very sketchy evidence. Essentially there is one poll result "out of line" with the others, perhaps due to sampling error (bear in mind that we should expect some poll results to be outside the MoE) or conceivably a question order effect.

                    Also bear in mind that the SE of a proportion is a function of the proportion, so we expect to see the sample proportions for the large categories "moving" more than the proportions for the small category even if the population isn't changing at all.

                    I'm not slavishly wedded to the null hypothesis (in social science, it generally isn't literally true), but the broad-brush generalizations seem oddly situated in a thread about science. Also, if Republicans want to bury reality in a phony culture war, we don't have to go out of our way to help them.

                    "Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure they are right." —E. E. Schattschneider

                    by HudsonValleyMark on Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 08:51:27 AM PDT

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