|Can it be |
In this particular study, those who self-identified as Tea Party members tested well for science comprehension. Some of the questions came from here, others from here.
The degree to which a percentage of the Tea Partiers tested better in this particular sampling was trivially small, not significant. That did not stop the right wing media machine from trying to make something of it that is not justified. Among Kahan's findings more generally:
“Scientific literacy correlates negatively with religiosity.” And “science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction — i.e., the more ‘liberal’ and ‘Democrat,’ the more science comprehending.”How then can it be that these two apparent contradictory findings are both true?
A Pew Poll from 2008 supplies the answer; the more educated a conservative, the less they actually believe science and scientists:
Among Democrats, higher education is associated with the belief that global warming is mostly caused by human activity.Chris Mooney, a note science author went on to document this phenomena in greater detail in his books, the "Republican Brain: the Science of Why They Deny Science", and the "Republican War on Science". The short version is those who have post-secondary degrees believe they are smarter than all the scientists in other areas of expertise. The greater the education, the more the believe they know best, and the greater permission these conservatives give themselves to ignore and deny facts. The further to the extreme, the greater this problem and contradiction. This latter group, the more educated conservatives, are the ones who tested well on science comprehension. There must have been no questions on facts they didn't happen to like along ideological lines.
Yet for Republicans, unlike Democrats, higher education is associated with greater skepticism that human activity is causing global warming. Only 19% of Republican college graduates say that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming and it is caused by human activity, while 31% of Republicans with less education say the same.
I have encountered some of these conservatives, most especially among engineers for some reason.
I encountered some of these Tea Partiers in a discussion elsewhere on the internet, where some Tea Partiers were trying to distance themselves from the crazies and the spelling impaired in explanation of this Yale study validation.
Their claims they really aren't all crazy, and that some of them even believe in the Theory of evolution in spite of it being 'just a theory', not settled science, should give you an idea of the scope of the exchange.
I asked if they believed in Gravity as settled science. The answer was yes, because it is the LAW of Gravity, not some unsettled theory. They asserted that there was a clear consensus on the topic. I also asked them if they believed that Global Warming was similarly settled science, and was told many silly but not particularly surprising -- and quite wrong -- things about global warming generally, and anthropogenic global warming specifically.
There was surprise, and even at first angry denial when I pointed out that the study of gravity existed under the title Gravitational THEORY in modern science - the 'G' in the title of this post. Most of these Tea Partiers appeared to be old codgers who hadn't seen a science course in more decades than I have fingers on one hand. Even conservapedia, which is far from fact friendly, admits that gravitation is a theory:
Gravitation is a scientific theory which attempts to define the tendency for every object with mass to attract every other object with mass.
This and other engineers then tried to assert that as such well-educated men they were qualified themselves to reject the claims of anthropogenic global warming. They admitted they had not read the actual data, but relied only on the excerpted email publicized by right wing media.
They were shocked, chagrined, and unable to provide a comeback when I pointed out that internationally, all of the recognized Academies of Engineering supported that anthropogenic global warming was real:
- InterAcademy Council As the representative of the world’s scientific and engineering academies, the InterAcademy Council issued a report in 2007 titled Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future.
Current patterns of energy resources and energy usage are proving detrimental to the long-term welfare of humanity. The integrity of essential natural systems is already at risk from climate change caused by the atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases. Concerted efforts should be mounted for improving energy efficiency and reducing the carbon intensity of the world economy.
- International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS) in 2007, issued a Statement on Environment and Sustainable Growth:
As reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), most of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to human-produced emission of greenhouse gases and this warming will continue unabated if present anthropogenic emissions continue or, worse, expand without control. CAETS, therefore, endorses the many recent calls to decrease and control greenhouse gas emissions to an acceptable level as quickly as possible.
The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is a government-created non-profit institution in the United States, that was founded in 1964 under the same congressional act that led to the founding of the National Academy of Sciences. As a national academy, it consists of members who are elected by current members, based on their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The election process for new members is conducted annually. The NAE is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the rest of the National Academies the role of advising the federal government. The NAE operates engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers.
Formally, "members" of the NAE must be U.S. Citizens. The term "foreign associate" is applied to non-citizens who are elected to the NAE. "The NAE has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign associates, senior professionals in business, academia, and government who are among the world’s most accomplished engineers," according to the NAE site's About page.It is safe to state that the endorsement of the reality of climate change by these and other prestigious engineering academies came as something of a shock. Added to that shock was my pointing out that this was in addition to, not in place of, the expert opinion of scientists for whom the study of global warming was their specialty.
Election to the NAE is considered to be the among the highest recognitions in engineering-related fields, and it often comes as a recognition of a lifetime's worth of accomplishments.
At least none of the climate change deniers who were engineers tried to assert they were better engineers or better scientists than the members of the NAE.
The next argument I was presented was that "less than 50% of the World's Scientists support Global Warming". That is patently, demonstrably factually inaccurate, as a perusal of the scientific organizations which do affirm global warming clearly show. However, prior to being confronted with the lengthy list, and the very short list of scientist deniers, this appears to have been the sincerely inaccurate belief of these self-avowed Tea Partiers. These Tea Partiers ALSO had no comeback for the facts, and indeed, seemed stunned to find how isolated their ideological minority really is.
Even the American Association of Petroleum Engineers, back in 2007, affirmed :
"no scientific body of national or international standing rejected the findings of human-induced effects on climate change"The reality is that the well-educated and intelligent Tea Partiers might do well on a science quiz for science literacy, but they are ideologically willfully ignorant and succumb to hubris in believing themselves superior to the best minds of the world's many, many scientists. They are so confident in their error, that they refuse to inform themselves of any facts that contradict their blind and ignorant beliefs.
Following that factual failure, the next argument presented was an attempt to smear East Anglia, the college where much of the scientific research has been done. It was referred to as a dinky, know-nothing little backwater school without prestige or credentials.
Nothing could be further from reality; while it is true that East Anglia is smaller than some of the OTHER prestigious institutions, it is part of a cluster of academic institutions dedicated to research. In prestige, it is ranked 17th in the UK; it has a world-wide prestigious reputation. This is not some dinky, no-account backwater crap educational entity. This is world class scientific research of the highest order.
The saddest part of that reality is that many of these Tea Partiers also justify their willful ignorance on the basis of partisan politics. Sadly pretty much ONLY in the United States - as my co-blogger Laci has noted elsewhere - is it the case that conservatives are climate change deniers. Other conservatives in other countries do not share their insanity on the subject, although a little of the willful ignorance from the U.S., deliberately and calculatingly funded by the fossil fuel big money, has contaminated our neighbors to the north in Canada. But there, thank God, they are thoroughly ridiculed for it, in Canada, to the point that climate denial is uncomfortable, if not impossible, by conservatives and their politicians. Here in the U.S. such willful ignorance and stupidity is instead rewarded.
As noted in a Guardian piece earlier this week, there is an actual media industry around the disinformation of U.S. conservatives:
Fox News defends global warming false balance by denying the 97% consensusFox News claims bias is balance, exemplifies the five characteristics of scientific denialism
A study published earlier this year in the journal Public Understanding of Science found that consumption of politically conservative media outlets like Fox News decreases viewer trust in scientists, which in turn decreases belief that global warming is happening. This is in large part a result of disproportionate representation of the less than 3 percent of climate scientists who are 'skeptical' of human-caused global warming, as well as interviewing climate contrarian non-experts, for example from conservative fossil fuel-funded think tanks.I think my favorite comment from the above-referenced Tea Partiers science knowledge discussion was the response to my noting that only 6% of scientists self-identify as conservative, Tea Party, or Republican. The explanation for that was that good, honest, self-respecting conservatives of any variety wouldn't take a job where the funding came from government. It was my great pleasure to point out that assumption was not true.
Last week, I reported that studies of media coverage leading up to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report revealed that Fox News and other politically conservative media outlets continued this practice of false balance. Fox News was particularly guilty, representing climate contrarians in 69 percent of their IPCC stories.
According to the OECD - the Organization for Economic Cooperation, an entity founded in 1961, (out of an earlier entity post-WW II to help administer the Marshall Plan), consisting of 34 countries which pretty much duplicate the membership of NATO:
According to OECD, around two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industries, and 20% and 10% respectively by universities and government. Comparatively, in countries with less GDP, such as Portugal and Mexico the industry contribution is significantly lower. The US government spends more than other countries on military R&D, although the proportion has fallen from around 30% in the 1980s to under 20. Government funding for medical research amounts to approximately 36% in the U.S.So long as conservatives deny science, deny reality, deny FACTS, so intensively, so extensively, there can be no effective negotiation. Compromising with delusion is not really a valid option. Facts MUST be the foundation on which any meeting of the minds proceeds. Until conservatives acknowledge the scientific consensus of everything from the THEORY of gravitation to the THEORY of Evolution, to the overwhelming consensus on the human causation and dangers of global warming, we will have a terrible economic and political conflict in the United States. It is, ultimately, the conflict between reality and idiot ideology, between sanity and the delusions of willful ignorance and denial.