How Conservatives Lost Faith in Science

New research shows that people who self-identify as conservative distrust science as an institution. Is it because our culture has changed or because their brains are wired that way?

What's the Latest Development?


A new analysis of polling data taken over 36 years reveals that Americans who self-identify as conservative distrust science more now than anytime since 1974. Sociologists explain the results by saying our political and scientific culture has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Conservatives, for whatever reason, have come to define themselves against the grain of 'intellectual elitism'. At the same time, our national scientific agenda has moved from beating the Soviets to the moon to concerns over global warming and evolution, implying business and education regulations at odds with conservative ideology. 

What's the Big Idea?

To what degree do we choose our political viewpoints and to what degree are they determined by our biology? The 2005 book "The Republican War on Science" claimed that conservatives demonstrate brain patterns linked with traits like 'fixity of belief' and 'a desire to have certainty'. The author was careful to point out, however, that traits given to us by nature are merely predispositions and that our surrounding environment determines the final expression of our genes. Because the conservative shift in opinion vis-a-vis science has occurred so rapidly, it suggests nurture is more to blame than nature. 

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

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