Poll: Majority of Americans not too confident in Big Bang theory
posted at 4:41 pm on April 21, 2014 by Allahpundit
Alternate headline: “Blogger tries to liven up slow news day by starting culture-war food fight.”
See any trends in this AP data?
As you’d expect, phenomena that are personally observable, like cancer or mental illness, are more plausible to people. Global or cosmic phenomena like climate change and the Big Bang, where you’re forced to take the word of researchers, are more dubious — especially to religious believers, since claims at that scale implicate origins. Doubts spike about the Big Bang because any theory of origin is incomplete by definition; someone will always reply “but what came before that?” and the answer will always disappoint. Even so, though, The Atlantic notes a 2008 study that found skepticism of the Big Bang and evolution was higher in the U.S. than it is many other western countries despite the fact that Americans’ scientific knowledge generally is comparable to theirs. That’s probably a function of America being more religious.
There’s a partisan bias here too:
The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication…
Political and religious values were closely tied to views on science in the poll, with Democrats more apt than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change.
Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.
I can understand why religious belief would affect views of evolution, the Earth’s age, and the universe’s beginnings, but offhand not why it would affect views of climate change. That’s more a matter of correlation than causation, I take it — conservatives are more skeptical of climate change than liberals and conservatives are also more religious, so you see religion and climate skepticism overlap even though the former’s not really driving the latter.
One interesting outlier in the numbers above: Why is there so much public confidence in DNA? Granted, it’s a personal, not cosmic, phenomenon so people should be more willing to accept it, but it’s not directly observable the way the symptoms of cancer or mental illness are. I think there are two reasons for the buy-in. One: Everyone recognizes that children resemble their parents, physically and otherwise, so there are in fact observable “symptoms.” Science is always on stronger footing when it’s trying to explain something you’re seeing with your own eyes. Two: The insatiable public appetite for crime stories has made DNA familiar in a way that most biological concepts aren’t. When you see the villain of the week on “Law & Order” get life without parole because the DNA on the murder weapon could only be his in a population of seven billion, you’ll believe. Maybe that’s what global warmists should be doing with their time: “Climate Detectives” on Investigation Discovery. The polls will turn around in no time.