The Sciences

Right science

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanNov 12, 2013 10:19 AM
220px-JohnvonNeumann-LosAlamos
John von Neumann

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About a month back a researcher at Yale published survey results which showed that Tea Party members exhibited more science knowledge than the general public, somewhat to his chagrin. I wasn't particularly surprised, because the knowledge of science as it relates to political ideology is somewhat complex. Often the right-leaning get lower marks because of strong reactions to questions perceived to be ideological. It's a rather robust finding that the more intelligent are more ideological, so it is no surprise that a group like the Tea Party would do better on tests which measure underlying cognitive orientation.

This was brought back to my mind by a new piece in The Atlantic which had a "Slate-pitch" sort of title: The Republican Party Isn't Really the Anti-Science Party. There was some comment on Creationism in the piece, so I wanted to review the data on this mostly ideologically freighted of the standard science questions asked of the public. To do this I used the General Social Survey. To limit demographic confounds I constrained the samples to non-Hispanic whites who responded 2006-2012 ("Selection Filter(s): Race1(1) Hispanic(1)"). Additionally, I partitioned the data into two classes, non-college and college-educated ("Degree(r:0-2;3-4)"). Then I looked at political party identification and ideology ("Partyid" and "Polviews(r:1-2;3;4;5;6-7)").

As someone with a professional fixation upon evolution and a lean toward conservative political viewpoints, obviously these results are disturbing to me. But they are what they are. The typical run of the mill Ph.D. scientist disagrees with the Right here rather strongly. I think the attitude toward evolution specifically is a major symbolic marker which alienates scientists as a demographic from anything to do with Republicans or conservatism, and vice versa. Though there are presumably normative implication in evolutionary, the primary disagreement here is basically on very long established and orthodox science.

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