Does Climate Apathy Hinge on 'Pervasive' American Stupidity?

More Americans say they are "not at all confident" about scientific facts such as global warming and evolution than those that say they are. (Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/ Creative Commons)

Does Climate Apathy Hinge on 'Pervasive' American Stupidity?

New survey highlights connection between political and religious affiliations and scientific beliefs

Despite near-consensus by the scientific community that processes of global warming and natural selection are real, Americans continue to be skeptical, according to a new poll released Monday.

Following its publication, Nobel Prize winning scientists said that the research highlights the "force" of those politicians and special interest groups working to thwart scientific truths.

More than half of respondents to the Associated Press-GfK poll (pdf) said they were "not at all confident" that the universe began with the Big Bang. Further, 42 percent said they were skeptical that "Life on Earth, including human beings, evolved through a process of natural selection."

When asked to rate their confidence in the statement, "The average temperature of the world is rising, mostly because of man-made heat-trapping greenhouse gases," 37 percent responded "Not too/ not at all," compared with 28 percent saying "Somewhat," and 33 percent identifying as "Extremely/ very confident."

2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley lamented to the Associated Press that the results reveal how "Science ignorance is pervasive in our society."

The poll highlights how one's religious beliefs and political affiliation are closely tied to their views on science. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to express confidence on such scientific facts as evolution, the Big Bang and climate change. And, according to the APreporting on the poll, confidence in those concepts also declines "sharply" as "faith in a supreme being rises."

Schekman added that these viewpoints are only "reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts." Robert Lefkowitz, 2012 Nobel Prize winning Duke University biochemistry professor, credited the "force of concerted campaigns to discredit scientific fact," citing political, business and relgious interest groups for their attacks on scientific truths such as climate change and evolution.

The poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014 and surveyed 1,012 adults selected to be representative of the U.S. population.


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