Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think

The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about.

Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general organization. Scientists were more certain that is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.

In eight of 13 science-oriented issues, there was a 20 percentage point or higher gap separating the opinions of the public and members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to survey work by the Pew Research Center. The gaps didn't correlate to any liberal-conservative split; the scientists at times take more traditionally conservative views and at times more liberal.

"These are big and notable gaps," said Lee Rainie, director of Pew's internet, science and technology research. He said they are "pretty powerful indicators of the public and the scientific community seeing the world differently."

In the most dramatic split, 88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat , while only 37 percent of the public say it is safe and 57 percent say it is unsafe. And 68 percent of scientists said it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, compared with only 28 percent of the general public.

Ninety-eight percent of scientists say humans evolved over time, compared with 65 percent of the public. The gap wasn't quite as large for vaccines, with 86 percent of the scientists favoring mandatory childhood shots while 68 percent of the public did.

Eighty-seven percent of scientists said global warming is mostly due to human activity, while only half of the public did. The figures for scientists are slightly different than past academic studies because of wording of the question and the fact that AAAS members include many specialties, but they tell the same essential story, said Pew associate director Cary Funk.

What to do about climate change is another issue. Nearly two-thirds of scientists favored building more plants, but only 45 percent of the public did. But more of the public favored offshore drilling for oil and fracking than scientists did.

More than four out of five scientists thought the growing world population will be a major problem, but just less than three out of five members of the public did.

Pew polled 2,002 adults in August and did an online survey of 3,748 AAAS members in the fall. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the public and 1.7 percentage points for the scientists.

In 2009, Pew has asked only a handful of questions like these to both scientists and the public and the gap hasn't changed much since, Funk said.

"On the whole, as compared to most members of the public, scientists are likely drawing from a larger scientific knowledge base—and thinking more scientifically—about each of these issues," George Mason University communications professor Edward Maibach said in an email. "Therefore, their views appear to be more in line with a completely dispassionate reading of the risks versus the benefits."

Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS, said the gap between the way the public and scientists look at issue is a cause for concern.

"Science is about facts; science is not about values," Leshner said. "Policies are made on facts and values and we want to make sure that the accurate, non-distorted facts are brought in to any kind of discussion."

The trouble is that scientists don't think the public knows the facts. The survey said that 84 percent of the scientists said it is a major problem that "the does not know very much about science" and another 14 percent said it is a minor problem.

And 97 percent of the scientists criticized the educational system. Three-quarters of the said not enough science and math education is a major problem and another 22 percent said it was a minor one.

"It's not about being smart or dumb," Leshner said. "It's about whether, in fact, you understand the source of the fact and what the facts are."


Explore further

Misconceptions of science and religion found in new study

More information: Bridging the opinion gap, www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6221/459
Journal information: Science

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Jan 29, 2015
more bullshit. scientists are subject matter experts. generally , what they think in 'general' makes them not much different than the EDUCATED public at large. though i say educated, but i also mean non-superstitious.

when scientists opine on expert areas that are outside of their expertise, they are very much like the public at large---with their head up their ass----

plenty of lawyers , scientists, doctors and others have their heads up their asses. they get paid to be good at what they do. and when they aresuccesful , many of them, just like ordinary folks, let the success get to their head and believe they know a whole lot of stuff that they simply dont.

Jan 29, 2015
what they think in 'general' makes them not much different than the EDUCATED public at large


They just happen to be more educated than the public in general. Universities, even in highly specialized subjects typically require basic courses outside of your field that go more in-depth than what the general public is exposed to. After all, real science often is cross-disciplinary.

when scientists opine on expert areas that are outside of their expertise, they are very much like the public at large---with their head up their ass--


The scientific method and most of the tools for analysis is the same for everyone. All the hard sciences are very alike, and only the problems change. A medical doctor can well interpret the results from a physicist's experiment because they're both employing the same statistical methods.

The only problem is with economists and social sciences, who don't always really do the science bit.

Jan 29, 2015
The general public read the media articles written by wrtiers with opinions. Scientists base their views on facts and nothing else. The general public can't be bothered to research into things so the form an opinion based on tabloids.

Its hardly surprising how delusional some of the public are.

Jan 29, 2015
"Scientists base their views on facts and nothing else."

where are your facts to support this conclusion?

Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
The AAAS Open Access door is cracked with full access to the Science Mag article that has the link to the full text Pew survey. Very interesting.

On one hand is the "giant gap" moan, and on the other is self-congratulations on STEM education. It seems to have achieved its desired end.

PEW survey accessible here: http://www.pewint...ion-gap/

Jan 29, 2015
think a big part of the problem is that scientists think they "know it all"


There is no reward in science to acknowledging one does not know.

Papers that document negative results are not of interest.

Jan 29, 2015
I think a big part of the problem is that scientists think they "know it all" and get a bit puffed up with their knowledge. In turn they take many condencending views towards others.


The only "scientist" on this site that fits your description is JVK.

Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
if anything, scientists who are actually very wise and 'smarter' are apt to demonstrate their general wisdom about topics by saying these words only "i don't know".

when someone feigns knowledge or offers certitude in opinion about things outside their expertise, that is when , like so many people out there, they demonstrate their ignorance.

better for a fool to be silent , then to open his mouth and remove all doubt. plenty of scientists are fools. simply having studied in an area and becoming an expert in it doenst make one an qualitifed to speak with certainty in other areas.

much of our presumptions about knowledge are not only an emotional certitiude partially anchored in our personality from birth, but it is also a set of expectations about knowledge (critical thinking , doubt and humilitry about our assumptions, )that must be taught to oneself not only in school but by diligent application of those thinking skills.


Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
I think a big part of the problem is that scientists think they "know it all" and get a bit puffed up with their knowledge. In turn they take many [condescending] views towards others.
Like towards others who think the Earth is 6,000 years old, you mean? Who could be condescending toward that?
.
There is still a wide wiggle room for religion in science
Really? Speculative thinking, okay. Holding assumptions not yet proven true, toward pursuit of a deeper truth, yes, I get that. I don't see groups of scientists getting together every Sunday praying to black holes, though, or going door to door handing out copies of Nature, pressuring their neighbors, do you? I think you brand it 'religion' because you know how shaky religion's foundations truly are, what a thin gruel it is when it comes to explaining the world, and want to think the same about scientific views that run counter to fundamentalist beliefs. Is that an unfair conclusion?
.
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Jan 29, 2015
scientists who are actually very wise and 'smarter' are apt to demonstrate their general wisdom about topics
Nobody doubts the existence of smart individuals here. But when we talk about scientists as a whole, their performance may actually get below-average (especially given the fact, they've equipment and access to literature). In this regard the reading of articles http://www.realcl...170.html missed the crash by Phill Tetlock (in Czech) may be useful.

Odd, but here's ZephirAWT over here saying the same thing: https://i.reddit.com/r/Physics_AWT/comments/2rf629/why_we_need_to_listen_to_the_real_experts_in/ You want to broad brush science as a whole by keel-hauling economists? Be my guest, but I don't see them in the same light at all.
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then the scientists will change into religious dumb ignorant trolls
What happened to make you so bitter toward science?

Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
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Jan 30, 2015
Were sick of there tunnel vision. Science is broken down into so many different areas and there is nobody combining them. They say GMO's are safe. Did anyone look to see if it would effect the honey bee? NO! Did anyone look to see if it effects humans? NO! What happen if you add acid rain to them? They don't know! Now that we have the internet, public and science will collide.

Jan 30, 2015
As a scientist I think the difference is that most scientists get their opinions on the world from the scientific literature. Hence their views on evolution, climate change etc etc differ to those who base their views on politics or religion.

Scientists give most credibility (not absolute faith) to the published scientific consensus on topics outside their field (e.g. climate change) because they understand the scientific publication process - e.g. that science is inherently competitive and therefore a LOT of data has to accrue for any type of theory to eventually be considered well established - as is the case with evolution, AGW etc etc...

What amazes me is the arrogance of the layman in thinking he or his favourite web blog knows better.


Jan 30, 2015
"Evolution and climate change still get plenty of traction among the demographic that needs to promote their notion of superiority over conservatives - it rationalizes why conservatives can't seem to get tenure jobs in academia - but if we really cared about science and the public, and not just putting one over on the other party, we'd stop fighting a fake culture war about evolution and the right wing and take a more honest look at all the people on the left promoting anti-science ideas about food, energy and medicine. "
http://www.scienc...y-152620

Jan 30, 2015
What amazes me is the arrogance of the layman in thinking he or his favourite web blog knows better.

I'd stop short of saying arrogance and just understand their info sources aren't as data intensive...
Otherwise, you sound -
arrogant...

Jan 30, 2015
it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about.

Not surprising. After all: Scientists talk about stuff that takes years to work up to. Where you have to have the solid basis first before you can grasp the latest results.
If that basis is lacking all the 'science communication' isn't going to help (Sorry Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, et. al. ...I really enjoy lsitening to you guys, and you're really trying. But beoynd the SERIOUSLY interested layman you're not reaching anyone. At least not to the point where they truly 'get' what you're saying. All they get are a few soundbites they can throw in at parties (or comment sections))

...as a final note on the article when contemplating the discrepancies: you have to take into account we're talking about the AMERICAN public. Which is an...erm...not very well educated critter (to put it mildly).

Jan 30, 2015
Now that we have the internet, public and science will collide.

You've a short memory. Take a moment to reflect on the origin of the World Wide Web, who created it, and why.

Clearly communicating information has been a keystone of science ever since science became a formal discipline. Scientists, like anyone else, are subject to bias. The discipline of science makes it harder for bias to be a source of error. Can't make that claim about the rest of the stuff you might find on the Internet today. Search hard enough and you can find support for any belief. Veracity isn't a popularity contest. Way too many people don't get that.

Jan 30, 2015
...as a final note on the article when contemplating the discrepancies: you have to take into account we're talking about the AMERICAN public. Which is an...erm...not very well educated critter (to put it mildly).

Hey, hey, hey...
I resemble that remark...:-)
But your comment sounded kind of... erm... arrogant...

Jan 30, 2015
But your comment sounded kind of... erm... arrogant...

It does. And it is. But remember: I have gone to school here (in germany) and there (and have had the opportunity to very briefly have a look at the british, and also at the pre-fall-of-the-iron-curtain russian school system)...as well as being able to evaluate the discourse in forums of various languages (well, german, english and french to be exact)...and the differences are somewhat ...striking.
There are nutter everywhere, to be sure...but on the US dominated sites the 'nutter-level' is exceptionally high.

Jan 30, 2015
Biologist Paul Ehrlich advocate using state power to impose his values on everyone.

Nobel physics prize winner William Phillips is a Christian.

Scientists are individuals and no more or less human than anyone else with all their faults and foibles.

Why do so many here want to deify science and scientists?

Jan 30, 2015
US dominated sites the 'nutter-level' is exceptionally high.


The US 'nutters' seem to understand that danger of Islamonazis while the Euros and even the Germans are unwilling to acknowledge.

Jan 30, 2015
Unfortunately when I think of Scientists anymore, I think of main big corporate industrial business interests and if you express any concern or question anything, you are demonized as an anti-science Luddite, which allows them to avoid answering any questions. The days of science being anything about discovery and wonder are long gone now. Seriously, just look at our natural world.

Jan 30, 2015
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Jan 30, 2015
The "scientists" were simply subscribers to the AAAS magazine (which has an editorial bent in favor of human global warming). If I subscribe to "National Geographic Magazine", does that make me a world explorer?

Jan 30, 2015
Well it ain't going to get much better anytime soon. The scientist-Skippys got to go to the science schools and study for years and more years to understand the stuffs they do. They are way out numbered by all the couyons who get on the interweb spreading the crankpot stuffs that they don't study for years and years. If they had to try to keep up with all the crankpots they wouldn't have any time left to do their science stuffs.

And it don't help things none that there are so many peoples on the interweb lying about being the physicist and the chemist and the biologist and the nuclear engineer for the easy to fool Skippys to latch on to.

Jan 30, 2015
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Jan 30, 2015
If the politicians would work in the same way, like the scientists, they would be punished for it already.


@ Zephir-Skippy. How you are Cher? I am still good, thanks.

So you are thinking the politician-Skippys are setting the example that the scientist-Skippys should be following? Cher that is a weird idea.

Jan 30, 2015
They say GMO's are safe. Did anyone look to see if it would effect the honey bee?

Careful. They said: GMOs are safe to eat (which they are). Quote from the article:
In the most dramatic split, 88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat genetically modified foods,

That doesn't mean GMOs are sensible to use (for a variety of environmental reasons, of which bees may be one). But that wasn't the question. If the question would have been "Should we adopt (widspread) use of GMOs in agriculture" you can bet the answer would have been different and the gap much narrower (if not reversed).

The contemporary science is completely driven with money

Can you name a billionaire scientist? For the love of me I can't.
So: you're argument (and your world view) are provably wrong, Zeph.

Jan 30, 2015
This article tries to pin the public disagreeing with "scientists" on the public being largely stupid, or, to a lesser extent, their not using the same standards to make judgments. Basically, though, "scientists" are being used as the gold standard to judge citizens by, What about the 90 percent of "reports" to "journals" being discredited for not having been appropriately "peer reviewed"; their permitting of thalidomide, fen-phen, Vioxx and other catastrophes; their not countering lies about mass production of banned weapons in Iraq; the malaria treatment that created sickle cell anemia; the fact that, before 1850, the AMA threatened to remove the license of every physician who washed their hands? Mention these and "science" slithers back to it's claim that it never said it was 100 percent. Then why do they take such liberties claiming vaccines are safe and condemning those who don't vaccinate?

Jan 30, 2015
Recall that the Center for SCIENCE in the Public Interest advocated for the banning of coconut oil in cinema popcorn and should be replaced with trans-fat oils.

Jan 30, 2015
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Jan 30, 2015
"But the bigger reason, of course, is this: if you make the case that all (or at least a good many) of the world's surface temperature data records have been wantonly tampered with to the point where they are effectively useless, you are more or less accusing some of the world's most distinguished (and lavishly funded) scientific institutions of, at best, culpable incompetence and, at worst, outright fraud.

Also, to accuse so many temperature gatekeepers of getting the details so badly wrong, you are also implying that there must be some kind of conspiracy involved, even if it is only a conspiracy of silence to cover up what a tremendous cock up they've made of their work over a period of years.

Finally, you are suggesting that everything we have been told about dramatic, unprecedented, man-made global warming by the alarmist establishment over the last three decades may be based on a massive lie"
http://www.breitbart.com

Jan 30, 2015
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Jan 30, 2015
Can you name a billionaire scientist?

Most scientists are too stupid to become a billionaire.


Jan 30, 2015
"From a certain perspective, this attack was simply an expression of the Left's Stalinist impulse – the fear of information that contradicts a narrative they have confected about the financial crisis. But in a deeper sense it is an expression of the intolerance and bigotry that has begun to infect much of the Left's attitude toward any dissent. This is an attitude so foreign to traditional American and democratic values that it poses a threat to the nation's future. If we can't have a civil discussion about an important public issue we are doomed to a kind of civil cold war, and maybe something worse."
http://dailycalle...he-left/

The same happens here with the socialist science worshipers trying to shout down any who challenge their faith.

Jan 31, 2015
Can you name a billionaire scientist? For the love of me I can't.
So: you're argument (and your world view) are provably wrong, Zeph.

Craig Venter, maybe?
He studied bio...
Gates? Jobs? The Oracle guy?
Computer Science, right?
Anyway.. There's a science to making money...

Jan 31, 2015
Can you name a billionaire scientist?

Most scientists are too stupid to become a billionaire.
-soggyring2

Money is your god, and it is impossible for you to conceive of other motivations.

Jan 31, 2015
Can you name a billionaire scientist?

Most scientists are too stupid to become a billionaire.
-soggyring2

Money is your god, and it is impossible for you to conceive of other motivations.


If a 'scientist' wanted to be a billionaire, he might succeed. But 'scientists' may be more interested in other matters and are willing to trade money for ego.

Medical doctors can earn millions.

How many scientists may have worked for Microsoft or some other start up for stock options and are now wealthy?

The point of the question is asinine implying 'scientists' are so pure of heart and spirit they take vows of poverty to pursue their work to save humanity and billionaires are evil.

Henry Ford never graduate high school but innovated and invented the auto industry employing thousands of scientists.
Rockefeller employed chemists to improve the refining process.
Westinghouse employed Tesla.

Feb 01, 2015
"Americans for Prosperity – Texas Policy Director Peggy Venable said that the great turnout was "just a fraction of the parents who are demanding the right to choose their children's schools." Venable told Breitbart Texas that the demand for educational options was so high, the wait list for Texas' charter schools was over 100,000."
http://www.breitb...capitol/

The 'liberals' here get soo excited when the state of Texas reviews text books for public schools.
How many 'liberals' support the rights of parents to choose the schools for their children?
Sweden uses vouchers for education. Why are US 'liberals' opposed?

Feb 01, 2015
This explains the reason for the gap quite well:

"To summarize: the answer to the question "is the Left evil or stupid?" is "yes". The truth is what we always expected: they never held the values they professed. They were charlatans; they never had any intention of fighting for free speech with which they disagreed, they never gave a damn about blacks, Jews, homosexuals, immigrants, or science."
http://voxday.blo...eft.html

This explains the reason quite well:

Feb 01, 2015
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Feb 01, 2015
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Feb 01, 2015
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Feb 01, 2015
Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think


For good reason, "scientists" slavishly, and naively, believe other "scientists". Science has become a religious cult movement not unlike scientology. Scientists wholeheartedly grasp to the notion the they are infallible and somehow inhuman in their ability to not exhibit the traits they see as pervasive throughout the rest of society. They believe they should be above reproach from the ignorant masses. Their sermon is the belief in "facts", most of which are ironically dependent upon a myopic worldview. The problem largely is due to specialization coupled with an inability to visualize a big picture viewpoint.

The public, through an understanding that the sciences are merely another segment of society (and vulnerable to the inherent ills of society), are able to retain a healthy skepticism.

The problem lies more with the sciences rather than the public.


Feb 15, 2015
"Scientists base their views on facts and nothing else."

where are your facts to support this conclusion?


If the test can be reproduced its often considered a good paper. If its not reproducible then it can hardly be factual can it.

Feb 15, 2015
Ironically, today http://www.kitco....ogy.html are those, who are seriously interested about research of cold fusion. The average nuclear physicists aren't interested about it at all - despite they're just those, who actually need some money for their research.


Maybe that's because, given that they are trained and educated to understand this stuff, they realize it is a sham Zephyr.

See, that's something you might be able to relate to. If you had an education in nuclear physics. Or chemistry. Or even math.

Feb 15, 2015
given that they are trained and educated to understand this stuff,

That's the problem with cold fusion. They don't understand that stuff.

Before science there was engineering. Humans developed process and procedures that made things like beer, plaster, bread and didn't know what cause it to work.
The way some think science should work is that it doesn't exist or is impossible until 'science' can explain the theory.
But then science would have to ignore gravity and life.

Feb 17, 2015
given that they are trained and educated to understand this stuff,

That's the problem with cold fusion. They don't understand that stuff.

Before science there was engineering. Humans developed process and procedures that made things like beer, plaster, bread and didn't know what cause it to work.
The way some think science should work is that it doesn't exist or is impossible until 'science' can explain the theory.
But then science would have to ignore gravity and life.


But you see, cold fusion, and anti-gravity, and so called "Tesla resonant energy devices" and "vacuum energy solutions" all have one thing in common:

THEY.
JUST.
DON'T.
WORK.

This has in fact been proven over and over again by tests made by scientists under well-controlled, reproducible conditions. It's those last two things that are most important .. without them, you aren't doing science, you are just messing around in your garage.

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