According to a not-especially-surprising study, trust among conservatives in the validity of science is at an all-time low. The data, collected by researchers at UNC Chapel Hill, indicates just 35% of conservatives classify themselves as having "a great deal of trust in science," a steep drop from a reported 48% in a 1974 poll.
According to researcher Gordon Gauchat, the conservative disdain for science is focused (predictably) on two issues: climate change and evolution. Less predictably, these sentiments aren't just limited to the likes of Rick Santorum — who has labeled those two issues as a "hoax" and a "[promotion] of atheism," respectively — but have increased notably among more educated, "elite" Republicans.
"These results are quite profound because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives," said Gauchat. "I think this is the new reality. I think that there's a cultural clash that's occurring now, and I think there's a fundamental issue. Science has been dependent on the government for funding since World War II. Does that arrangement change if we're electing more conservative politicians?"
An official from Republicans for Environmental Protection explained that much of the problem stems from the assumption that the scientific community is "serving the agenda of the regulatory state," adding that "there is concern about what those [scientific] conclusions could lead to in terms of bigger government and more onerous regulation."
This explanation makes sense, but then again, did anyone really expect a whole lot of scientific rationality from a party that's apparently convinced of the complex thoughts, emotions, and political agency of an unborn fetus?
Image by Dave Herr.