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Conservatives don’t trust science…do they have a point?

A scientist works in a lab.
A scientist works in a lab.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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A new study coming out in the April issue of The American Sociological Review says that conservatives trust in science is lower now than at any other time in nearly 40 years. According to the study, back in 1974, conservatives and liberals were dead even when it came to confidence in science, but gradually, over a period of years, conservatives' confidence began to erode.

By the 1990s, the two groups became sharply divided with liberals maintaining a high degree of science acceptance and conservatives, not so much. The study author, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill sociology professor, Gordon Gauchet, says science is often used to add weight to political debates or policy decisions which has resulted in the shift in conservative’s opinions.

He also cites Fox News and conservative think tanks as reasons for the divide. It’s easy to dismiss the viewpoint that science is somehow tainted as anti-intellectual or simply wrong-headed, but conservative thinkers say otherwise.

They say peer review journals and those in the scientific community don’t go as hard on papers that uphold the dominant narrative, while subjecting findings that don’t to harsh scrutiny or ignoring them altogether. They say that, all too often, science is used to push agendas and scientists suffer from expectation bias.

Does science and the scientific community lean a little to the left? Looking at it objectively, is science not as objective as many of us would like to think? Do conservatives have a compelling and legitimate reason not to trust science?


Michael Shermer, Founder and Publisher of Skeptic Magazine

Ronald Bailey, Science Correspondent, Reason Magazine