(July 5, 2011) Surprising findings lead researchers to recommend science be taught differently, to enable skeptics to arrive at correct conclusions.
A draft study produced by researchers at Yale University and four other research institutions has arrived at a surprising (to them) finding: The more that people are scientifically literate, and the more that they’re numerate, the likelier that they’ll be climate change skeptics.
Even more surprising (to them): socialistic types and free market types are poles apart in their thinking on climate change, with those most knowledgeable in each camp having the strongest views.
The researchers, most of whom hail from prestigious law schools, then wrestle with what to make of their results, which demonstrated (to them) that scientific knowledge and agility in math led to erroneous global warming beliefs.
“Our study results belie the conventional view that controversy over policy-relevant science is rooted in the public’s lack of scientific knowledge and its inability to engage in technical reasoning. As ordinary people learn more science and become more proficient in modes of reasoning characteristic of scientific inquiry, they do not reliably converge on assessments of climate change risks supported by scientific evidence,” they state.
Among the researchers’ conclusions: Teaching science in a neutral way, without understanding the students’ political orientation, can backfire, in that their knowledge may make them more skeptical. What is needed, the researchers say, is a means “to predict such controversies [as climate change] and to formulate strategies aimed at forestalling their occurrence or ameliorating their consequences should they occur.
“Development of these forecasting and management tools is the task of the science of science communication. Establishing the institutions and procedures necessary for promoting their reliable use in policymaking is a public good of singular importance to the wellbeing of modern, culturally pluralistic democracies.”
I don’t recommend that you tackle this study, which mostly reads like its title, The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change. But the conclusions are penetrable for those who are determined, especially those who are scientifically literate and numerate climate change skeptics. The study can be found here.
This article first appeared in the National Post.