Skip to content

When science clashes with beliefs? Make science impotent

May 27

It’s hardly a secret that large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise. But many studies have indicated that these same people aren’t happy with viewing themselves as anti-science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance. That has left psychologists pondering the methods that these people use to rationalize the conflict.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology takes a look at one of these methods, which the authors term “scientific impotence”—the decision that science can’t actually address the issue at hand properly. It finds evidence that not only supports the scientific impotence model, but suggests that it could be contagious. Once a subject has decided that a given topic is off limits to science, they tend to start applying the same logic to other issues.

The paper is worth reading for the introduction alone, which sets up the problem of science acceptance within the context of persuasive arguments and belief systems. There’s a significant amount of literature that considers how people resist persuasion, and at least seven different strategies have been identified. But the author, Towson University’s Geoffrey Munro, attempts to carve out an exceptional place for scientific information. “Belief-contradicting scientific information may elicit different resistance processes than belief-contradicting information of a nonscientific nature,” he argues. “Source derogation, for example, might be less effective in response to scientific than nonscientific information.”

It might be, but many of the arguments against mainstream science make it clear that it’s not. Evolution doubters present science as an atheistic conspiracy; antivaccination advocates consider the biomedical research community to be hopelessly corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry; and climatologists have been accused of being in it to foster everything from their own funding to global governance. Clearly, source derogation is very much on the table.

I have been arguing with people who make science impotent my entire life.

Full Article When science clashes with beliefs? Make science impotent.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: