Sunday, May 30, 2010

Make Science Impotent

A very interesting article was just published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology by Geoffrey Munro of Towson University. It is entitled "When Science Clashes with Beliefs? Make Science Impotent". It is becoming a recognized phenomenon that when "large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise", that segment of the population then deals with it by making science impotent in "properly" addressing that issue. It interesting to note that when they are "not happy with viewing themselves as anti science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance", other defense mechanism start working. Scientific Impotence is defined as the decision that science cannot actually address an issue properly. In this study the author gave some college students an issue and abstracts to read, some with nonsense words for scientific ones and some not. He also gave another group an issue and then allowed them to research the topic, again with abstract from scientific and non scientific sources. He found that once scientific impotence was invoked and that issue is off limits to science, they tended to start applying the same logic to other issues. He also found that "belief contradicting scientific information may elicit different resistance processes then belief contradicting information of nonscientific nature." There are many types of alternative ways of disregarding or minimizing scientific information. One is source derogation and another is identifying perceived methodological flaws. The problem with the last is that many people rejecting scientific information without access to the methodology that produced it or the ability to understand it if they did. There are several problems with his study. One the sample size is small. Two it only used college students and they are routinely confronted with belief challenging information. Others of course, but this is a very interesting study and now give light to fact that Discovery Institute among others that challenge evolution also are challenging climate change and others, it is contagious. Other work needs to be done if we ever are to get an handle on why people reject science in favor of belief and how.
Skeptical DoDo

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