Science writer Chris Mooney (Unscientific America and The Republican War on Science) has a recent column in The Washington Post about how scientists need to approach the general populous in getting their facts heard and understood. Mooney looks at climate change denialism, anti-vaccine hysteria and Yucca Mountain. (He doesn’t include opposition to evolution or denial of the Holocaust, but he easily could have).
For one thing, it’s political outlook — not education — that seems to motivate one’s belief on this [climate change] subject. According to polling performed by the Pew Research Center, Republicans who are college graduates are considerably less likely to accept the scientific consensus on climate change than those who have less education. These better-educated Republicans probably aren’t ignorant; a more likely explanation is that they are politically driven consumers of climate science information.
Mooney sees the answer in science policy debate and investigation. He holds Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization as a shining example of such debate. However, he fails to mention the Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism (2004) which did exactly that and was then ignored by anti-vaccine hysterics. Sadly, politics will always trump science, though the science community must always try and be as open and communicative as possible.