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The Motivated Rejection of Science 771

Layzej writes "New research (PDF) to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science has found that those who subscribed to one or more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a free market economy were more likely to reject the findings from climate science as well as other sciences. The researchers, led by UWA School of Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, found that free-market ideology was an overwhelmingly strong determinant of the rejection of climate science. It also predicted the rejection of the link between tobacco and lung cancer and between HIV and AIDS. Conspiratorial thinking was a lesser but still significant determinant of the rejection of all scientific propositions examined, from climate to lung cancer. Curiously, public response to the paper has provided a perfect real-life illustration of the very cognitive processes at the center of the research."
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The Motivated Rejection of Science

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  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:28PM (#41262515) Journal
    What do they know about anything??? This study just proves what I knew all along - the scientists are all in collusion with each other AND the government to take my gas and my guns and my cigarettes!!!
  • by For a Free Internet ( 1594621 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:30PM (#41262571)

    Once upon a time the capitalist system, a tremendous advance over the feudal system of property that preceded it, drove an unprecedented expansion of scientific and technical progress.

    Now capitalism is in its imperialist epoch of terminal decay, dragging humankind into a new dark ages. Only the proletariat can save humanity by smashing the power of the bourgeoisie and inaugurating the socialist future! Workers to power!

    • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2012 @03:18PM (#41264963)

      I know you are joking, but I think Karl Marx was probably more right on that than we'd think - and that open source, crowdsourcing, and others are the tip of that.

      The problem with his image is that people tried to force it, and changes like that can't be forced, they have to come because society has changed to the point where they are necessary. Trying to force it just means you'll get it wrong, as the structures needed to even understand what you are doing correctly haven't been built yet.

      Which means what we'll get is nothing like what tried to imitate it, and probably nothing like what we'd imagine it to be.

      • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:12PM (#41266971)

        I think communism works great at a community level but doesn't scale very well. It's why families who pool resources thrive. The allocation of resources is better defined. The incentive to contribute is stronger because the benefits are more apparent. It's communistic principles working within a larger, more capitalistic environment.

        The problem when you try to do implement this on a national scale isn't due to people being forced into it. If anything, the masses are probably more likely to go along excepting they'll get something out of it. The problem is that you're eliminating incentive. If you're getting a stable allotment regardless of what you do, what's the reason to work any harder? The betterment of the nation is too abstract for most to appreciate.

        And the fact of the matter is that humans will abuse any system they implement. You're always going to need some form of leadership and inevitably those who are connected with find a means to aggrandize themselves. People are pretty good at finding ways to cheat any system. So inevitably you end up with the haves and have nots, except that in communism it's institutionalized.

        As always, the best approaches borrow from a wide variety of mindsets and implement them at levels where they fit best. And it's probably a sliding scale, requiring more or less of any particular element based on prevailing conditions. And when you account for cultural tendencies things get even more complex.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:31PM (#41262573)

    When a certain in-duh-vidual started claiming there was mercury in vaccines & even RFIDs, I pointed-out that mercury was removed years ago. I also politely asked for proof of the RFIDs.

    At first the guy said I need to do my own research, and I said I already did, but I've found nothing. Then he blew up and started calling me nasty names & other bullshit.

    These conspiracy persons have more problems than just lack of faith in scientific research. They have emotional/anger management issues. Of course that also means I won the argument..... he never did provide proof that vaccines have RFIDs in them.

    • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:45PM (#41262839)

      Being right doesn't mean you win.

      Proving your opponent wrong doesn't mean you win if they don't accept it.

      There are only 2 ways to win an argument:

      You bring your opponent over to your point of view and they agree with your superior logic and evidence.

      You are brought over to your opponents position and agree with their superior logic and evidence.

      • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:53PM (#41264437)
        Winning a debate, on the other hand, is a lot easier. All you have to do is make the other guy look like an idiot.
        Arguing with a conspiracy nuts is a waste of time. Debating them, in front of others, is beneficial.
      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        There are only 2 ways to win an argument:

        You bring your opponent over to your point of view and they agree with your superior logic and evidence.

        You are brought over to your opponents position and agree with their superior logic and evidence.

        Unless I am mistaken, you haven't listed two way to win an argument; you've listed one way to win and one way to lose. These don't even exhaust the ways there are to end an argument.

        There actually are two ways to win an argument, namely
        (1)You bring your opponent over to your point of view and they agree with your superior logic and evidence.
        (2) You bring your opponent over to your point of view through some logically irrelevant means.

        The number of irrelevant means are endless: wear him down, make him feel

    • Conspiracy theorists tend to be middle-aged, majority, males, with a sense of powerlessness. The conspiracy tends to give them a sense that they, alone, know the truth. It's an obsession, and they tend to wrap their own self-worth in their "knowledge". Since they have no other purpose for existing, they can't be persuaded otherwise. (Until another, better, conspiracy comes along)

      Personally, I find gardening much, much, more fulfilling than most conspiracies, but I do like to make up a good one now
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:33PM (#41262613) Homepage

    Seems obvious to me we're talking about a group of people who are willing to believe what they are told to believe or give in to ideas because one makes them feel better or less uncomfortable.

    It kind of describes a lot of people, but primarily, it describes the religious faithful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think that point was covered indirectly. Free market capitalism is a religion.

  • Absurd! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:33PM (#41262621) Journal

    I do not "reject" science as my socialist detractors may claim. Rather, I merely withhold my currency from the marketplace of ideas in order to incentivize the production of science more in line with today's consumer preferences!

  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:44PM (#41262815)

    From one of the linked articles:

    "More than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to discussions of climate science completed a questionnaire"

    I'd agree that it is probably a fairly good representation of those deeply involved in the debate, who read those blogs and are willing to take time to do the survey.

    How much it says about the general populace is a different question. And notably one the researchers don't try to answer.

    This is a classic example of taking a study about a sample of a limited population and broadly generalizing it in the submission write-up for slashdot.

  • by zerobeat ( 628744 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:45PM (#41262851) Homepage

    Its remarkable how many people criticizing this study have concluded the authors are socialists. How do you know? What is your evidence? You have already made up your mind that these researchers are just colluding with other scientists to make a political point that deniers of science are conspiracy nuts.

    But you have no evidence at all. How many of you have already run off and read the paper yet... thoroughly? And yet, here you are condemning it. Wow! Good way to prove the authors point but announcing a conspiracy when you see science you don't like (but haven't read). Their work has just been beautifully f*$king demonstrated here in the comments section of /.

    • Its remarkable how many people criticizing this study have concluded the authors are socialists. How do you know? What is your evidence?

      Clearly, anyone who disagrees with me is just making stuff up to support their evil agenda, and like the Bible says, "socialism is the root of all evil".

  • Once again... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @01:46PM (#41262877) Journal
    correlation is not causation.

    This "study" is heavily polluted by republican propaganda. Did these test subjects come to these conclusions under their own accord, or were they influenced by right leaning media (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc.).

    People feel the need to identify with social groups, and therefore may be influenced by others in their social group. In my opinion, it's why people align along party lines. In other words, I suspect the cause is social, not neurological, as implied above.
  • by thepainguy ( 1436453 ) <> on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:08PM (#41263327) Homepage
    Kooks reject climate science, therefore all who reject climate science are kooks.

    In 4th grade I learned that that piece of "logic" doesn't hold water.
  • by phamNewan ( 689644 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:16PM (#41263473) Journal

    It is interesting to me how the topics are chosen to determine what is rejection of science and what is not. For example this week another study came out that organic is not healthier than conventional, yet the anti-free market people reject that science as bogus.

    I reject the idea that CO2 is going to cause global warming, but accept lung cancer is caused by smoking and AIDS by HIV. I ignore the creationists, but accept that they are free to believe what they want to on that, but evolution all the way for me.

    I have also been an R&D engineer for more than a decade. Somehow the idea that because I accept free-market principles instead of central planning indicates that I am anti-science is total bullshit.

    Of course since this is a peer-reviewed paper I could be labeled as anti-science for not accepting this paper, but that is something I am willing to risk.

  • by Prune ( 557140 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @02:25PM (#41263767)
    Let's ignore things such as that different blogs were offered radically different versions of the survey to post (and the primary determinant of the differences seems to be whether the survey was being offered to a blog supporting AGW or denying it), though that by itself probably invalidates the results.

    The main concern remains that out of a survey, of 1100 people only 3 skeptics strongly accepted, the conspiracies, and of these two were highly suspect (it's worth reading through the discussion). If this was just a paper in a journal, nobody would care. But again we see science by press relase, and pre-press release (Corner Guardian article). Do you really think it justified the heading of the paper, and the Telegraph newspaper headline? This is what drew attention to the paper, and this is what annoyed people.

    Given the low number of skeptical respondents overall, these two possibly scammed responses significantly affect the results regarding conspiracy theory ideation. Indeed, given the dubious interpretation of weakly agreed responses, this paper has no data worth interpreting with regard to conspiracy theory ideation. It is my strong opinion that the paper should be have its publication delayed while undergoing a substantial rewrite.

    The rewrite should indicate explicitly why the responses regarding conspiracy theory ideation are in fact worthless, and concentrate solely on the result regarding free market beliefs (which has a strong enough a response to be salvageable). If this is not possible, it should simply be withdrawn.

    I daresay Lewandowsky must have cheated on his exams on experimental design and statistics as a student.

    PS Lewandowsky's choice of a title is, and should be, far more damaging to his reputation as a scientist than the other flaws in his paper. The title of the paper smacks of political activism and sensationalism, not professionalism.
  • by glebovitz ( 202712 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:22PM (#41266187) Journal

    The operative word is ideology which is "the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, etc." Once you subscribe to an ideology, you tend to be close minded to alternatives. Contrast that against the scientific process that uses hypothesis, evidence, and theory to drive belief and action. A true scientist would constantly test existing theories against new evidence and reformulate new hypotheses and theories to support the new evidence.

    The free market is one of those funny ideas. Free markets are good at reconciling supply and demand. Unfortunately, free markets can form into oligopolies and cartels which are sub optimal at resolving supply and demand. There is a difference between supporting free markets and having a free market ideology. I support a free market and expect government regulations to keep the market free. I also expect the government to solve social issues that the free market is unable or unwilling to solve.

    It's kind of like Darwinism. Scientific evidence supports the theory of natural selection and evolution. I can go in my back yard watch animals behaving in a Darwinian manner. I subscribe to Darwinian theory, but I am not a Darwinian ideologist. I don't believe people have to behave that way. I believe as a society we can do better than that.

    Not that scientists don't fall into ideologies around a particular sciences. It sometimes takes a crafty politician (and scientist) to convince a scientific body accept a new theory.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:54PM (#41266677)
    I didn't follow this from the summary: who doesn't think that HIV causes AIDS? And why would they think that? Do they not think that the Flu virus causes the Flu, or is it only HIV that they're singling out?
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:25PM (#41267173)

    The internet has done one thing very very well, propagate stupidity faster that passes off as science or news.

    There is a local radio station that has a PSA about how to be "greener", and the majority of the suggestions and "facts" claimed in the PSA are just plain wrong.

    For instance they claim that driving 120 km/h in a 100 km/h zone uses 20% more gas. This is fundamentally stupid because there is no correlation to an increase in speed by X% matches the increased rate of fuel consumption.

    Another gem, apparently Canadians throwing out plastic garbage bags results in millions (plural) of tonnes of landfill waste a year. The average plastic grocery bag weighs 6 grams. There is therefore 166666666667 bags in 1 million metric tonnes (169341166667 in a long tonne). THis breaks down to each Canadian throwing out over 4500 bags a year. I personally do not do that much shopping.
    Also I can't stand the idea of "mythmatics", the idea that large numbers are scary so we should reduce those numbers to be green. Yes 1 million tonnes is a big scary number, however consider how much of ALL garbage is thrown out. Statistics Canada suggests the average Canadian throws out 1 tonne of garbage a year, which means the total impact of even throwing out 4500 plastic grocery bags is only 2.7%. However I doubt the average Canadian even throws out 1/10 of that many bags a year, meaning that really less then 0.3% of total landfill waste is from plastic bags.

    Throwing out plastic bags is the biggest non-issue compared to the rest of the weight of garbage that is thrown out.

    Most of this is regurgitated stupidity from the internet based in little fact and a lot of hyperbole. People read about it online and then re-broadcast it without investing any amount of time verifying it.

    The problem is that the internet has become very good at showing content that looks factual, even makes sense if you think about it, but is based on no facts, no science, and is ultimately wrong, but then gets propagated over and over again until it basically becomes urban myth.

    A lot of "Green" science is mired in this kind of social disinformation.

  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Friday September 07, 2012 @06:17PM (#41267871)

    Yet another warmist attempt to educate the masses, regardless of the data.

    The paper is based on an amalgamation of several different surveys, that weren't sent to the people he claimed they were sent to - []

    The fact of the matter is that the paper did *not* observe what it claims to observe, and was so shoddy and filled with methodological errors, it shouldn't have gotten past the first glance of peer review.

    A black stain, once again, on the soul of warmists.

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @01:00AM (#41271007)

    The name of that journal jumped out at me for some reason. I had to follow up to learn why it unsettled me so.

    Not having been provided a link to the journal, I sought it online. It seems that it is one of many published by the 'Association for Psychological Science'. Each of these journals has a dramatic cover depicting a side view of a male head either receding or projecting in six increments.

    I was unable to find this article but pleasantly surprised that I could access some other articles in full text. The subject and content of the articles is about what one might expect- a serious statistical analysis of some perceived phenomenon followed by a conclusion.

    I have my own ideas of what science should be. Someone comes up with a theory and then proceeds with all his might to try to disprove that theory. Then all his friends and enemies try to disprove the theory. If they should all fail, then there is hope that something has been learned. Many areas of 'science' seem to fail this test.

    I love the concept of psychology and the occasional insights that come of the discipline. I've studied it off and on for over 50 years, through a number of fashionable deviations. I'm sure there is hope for some good result due to the millions of people who dedicate themselves to this interest.

    It's just that I really struggle with the concept of science being so closely associated with the exploration of psychology. Can we really use the word science, the same word that we use for physics and chemistry, in relation to psychology?

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter