Social Question

Paradox25's avatar

Do you think that most peoples opinions on many science related issues are biased, according to their political or religious stances?

Asked by Paradox25 (9900 points ) July 18th, 2012

It is going to be very difficult for me to word what I’m trying to ask, but I’ll try here. According to this article, along with many others, Republicans and Democrats seem very divided on topics such as manmade global warming and evolution. The article says that the issue of manmade global warming is likely to be divided based upon political stances, while the topic of man evolving from lower life forms is likely to be divided based upon religious reasons (or lack of).

What I’m really trying to ask here is not whether Republicans, Democrats, conservatives or liberals are biased when forming their opinions on many science related topics. However, I’m asking whether you, as an individual, allow your religious or political beliefs to influence where you stand on topics like manmade global warming, man evolving from lower life forms, etc?

I’m asking this question because I’m amazed at how divided that many topics related to the natural sciences are, according to a person’s stance on economic, political and religious issues.

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14 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You wrote that very well. I’m amazed when two (or more) college educated people can look at the exact same thing, and one says it’s white and one says it’s black based on their point of view. Come on, use what’s between your ears. It happens constantly and boggles my mind. They don’t even have to be college educated for that matter.

tom_g's avatar

@Paradox25: “I’m asking this question because I’m amazed at how divided that many topics related to the natural sciences are, according to a person’s stance on economic, political and religious issues.”

It’s important to point out that the divide isn’t a scientific one. For example, evolution denial isn’t happening within science. It’s happening among people who either don’t understand the science or wish that they didn’t.

Of course, we love to receive confirmation from science that our beliefs are justified. But I don’t engage in denying the science in order to prop up my beliefs. There are beliefs that I have (embarrassingly) held that I no longer do because the data is just not there.

Sunny2's avatar

I trust Science more than politics, economics or religion. I try to explain my beliefs in logical science based facts (as I know them). Gut feelings are just feelings, not reason Unfortunately there are many people who recognize gut feelings as reasonable decision making tools.

wundayatta's avatar

Certainly I think people are biased based on things like religion and political orientation. There was an article in the New Yorker not long ago that helped me understand something that was going on. It seems that belonging to a group is more important to humans than scientific evidence.

Why? Because our lives depend more on the love and care of the people around us than they do to science. We can be wrong scientifically and still survive because we are tribal creatures and as long as we are tight with our group, we will be taken care of. But as soon as we stop agreeing with the group, we become outcast, and no one will help us when we need it.

Certain issues become touchstones for group identification. If the group changes, we have to change our opinions, or we no longer are part of the group. This happened with Republicans over the past couple of decades. The Republicans used to advocate Obamacare. But not they are totally against it. Now, if you aren’t against it, you can’t be a Republican, even if it was a perfectly acceptable stance a decade ago.

So it makes sense for us to change our views to stay acceptable to the group, even if the evidence suggests we are wrong. It is far more dangerous to lose the protection of the group than it is to have a science policy that is counter-factual. The deaths from bad health policy are hidden. But it is obvious when the Tea Party kicks you out. Everyone knows you are a traitor.

So which would you choose? There are people who will stay with science even if the group changes, but it turns out there aren’t a lot of them in the general population. Interestingly, the people a fluther seem to be much more like that: principled, even if it causes them to be on the outs with some group. But then, we get to support each other here, and that makes a difference.

nikipedia's avatar

I second @tom_g. Politics influence people’s belief in science to a certain extent, even a large one, but knowing the facts or refusing to know them tends to be the critical factor, I think. That said, ample studies have shown that people are simply more likely to believe facts that support what they already believe.

There are probably issues within my personal belief set that have been influenced by my political parties. There are a lot of things I don’t know enough about, so to the extent I have an opinion, it’s the “party line,” so to speak. But I am also reasonably well aware of how informed or uninformed I am.

I used to think all the fringe lunatic anti-science beliefs were coming from the far right. But increasingly, the far left is guilty of this too—opposition to GMOs, insisting home birth is just as safe or safer than in a hospital, and opposition to vaccines are all campaigns led by the far left without any scientific justification whatsoever.

_Whitetigress's avatar

It is politics at its finest. Each party has it’s backers and certain set of philosophies. Hm, I remember being told to make an argument for a topic I had to look up. I literally could have went on either side of the spectrum and defend each to its death, morals put aside. I definitely believe most peoples knowledge is skewed by religion especially when it comes to science. For a matter of fact, I was once plagued to believe evolution wasn’t real, I was once plagued to believe gay people were “something else”, I was once plagued to believe I was, “Not of This World” Then I realized life was being manipulated.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I don’t know how to answer this. I’m an atheist, I’m socially liberal, and I have been in love with science since I was a small child. I try to be objective, I try to use my critical thinking skills, and I try to always make decisions that aren’t harmful to other people.
It does piss me off when other people do the opposite, but I’m not sure if those things are linked in some influential way in my mind, or if it is just the natural flow of things.

Paradox25's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Two critical thinkers can come to different conclusions, but what I think is important here is how one comes about this.

@tom g Yes, that was the whole point of the article, and my question. The old confirmation bias. It would be nice to see more people research both sides (if not more) to an argument rather than just the ones that make us feel good.

@wundayatta I realize that most people find being accepted by their peers and loved ones as being much more important than science, and I find this notion actually reasonable. I do have to wonder about one thing though, if my opinions on certain scientific topics means that I’ll likely lose my support in my peer circle, then they were people that never really were important to me to begin with. I could do without them. Most people that I knew were not like that, and I was always open about my beliefs.

@nikipedia There is no way that we can become experts on every subject out there, though there likely categories of certain topics that each of us will be more knowledgable in than others. I’ve changed my own views drastically over the years, and I’ll admit myself that I’ve had a disposition to go with evidence that I wanted to believe, and disregard the other arguments. I then got older and realized that I was bored with my own confirmation bias’ and was more interested in facts. I guess this is a question that many people wouldn’t be too open about.

There is a wealth of information out there today via the Internet, and there are so many fringe elements in science out there that you can find just about anything to support your beliefs, regardless of what they are. Information cascades are likely another reason why people may disregard their own personal research, and many times even avoid researching a topic.

Paradox25's avatar

@Blackberry Like I’ve always said, it is virtually impossible to win a debate. Also, we all have different ways of looking at things.

mattbrowne's avatar

Republicans and Democrats seem very divided on topics such as manmade global warming and evolution? What?? I can’t believe that the majority of Republicans are Creationists. Do you have any statistic for this?

Paradox25's avatar

Matt, what you’re implying had nothing to do with my question, or the article (assuming you’ve read it). The article never claimed that most Republicans are creationists, but it only brought up the drastic differences on those two issues mentioned above in my post according to political affiliation. Stats were provided for this in the article.

mattbrowne's avatar

I have now. And am somewhat relieved!

gailcalled's avatar

“However, I’m asking whether you, as an individual, allow your religious or political beliefs to influence where you stand on topics like manmade global warming, man evolving from lower life forms, etc?”

No.

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