Quem sabe, entende e faz ciência polariza mais sobre tópicos científicos controversos!!!

quarta-feira, agosto 23, 2017

Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics

Caitlin Drummond a,1 and Baruch Fischhoff b,c  

Author Affiliations

aDepartment of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213;

bDepartment of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213;

cInstitute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Edited by Roger E. Kasperson, Clark University, Worcester, MA, and approved July 19, 2017 (received for review March 23, 2017)

Edited by Roger E. Kasperson, Clark University, Worcester, MA, and approved July 19, 2017 (received for review March 23, 2017)


Public opinion toward some science and technology issues is polarized along religious and political lines. We investigate whether people with more education and greater science knowledge tend to express beliefs that are more (or less) polarized. Using data from the nationally representative General Social Survey, we find that more knowledgeable individuals are more likely to express beliefs consistent with their religious or political identities for issues that have become polarized along those lines (e.g., stem cell research, human evolution), but not for issues that are controversial on other grounds (e.g., genetically modified foods). These patterns suggest that scientific knowledge may facilitate defending positions motivated by nonscientific concerns.


Although Americans generally hold science in high regard and respect its findings, for some contested issues, such as the existence of anthropogenic climate change, public opinion is polarized along religious and political lines. We ask whether individuals with more general education and greater science knowledge, measured in terms of science education and science literacy, display more (or less) polarized beliefs on several such issues. We report secondary analyses of a nationally representative dataset (the General Social Survey), examining the predictors of beliefs regarding six potentially controversial issues. We find that beliefs are correlated with both political and religious identity for stem cell research, the Big Bang, and human evolution, and with political identity alone on climate change. Individuals with greater education, science education, and science literacy display more polarized beliefs on these issues. We find little evidence of political or religious polarization regarding nanotechnology and genetically modified foods. On all six topics, people who trust the scientific enterprise more are also more likely to accept its findings. We discuss the causal mechanisms that might underlie the correlation between education and identity-based polarization.

science literacy polarization science communication science education trust


1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: cdrummon@andrew.cmu.edu.

Author contributions: C.D. and B.F. designed research; C.D. performed research; C.D. analyzed data; and C.D. and B.F. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1704882114/-/DCSupplemental.


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