Scientists see the world differently than we do
Scientists see the world differently than we do (Thinkstock)
Scientists see the world differently than we do
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The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about.

Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization.

Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.

In eight of 13 science-oriented issues, there was a 20 percentage point or higher gap separating the opinions of the public and members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to survey work by the Pew Research Center. The gaps didn't correlate to any liberal-conservative split. The scientists at times take more traditionally conservative views and at times more liberal.

"These are big and notable gaps," said Lee Rainie, director of Pew's internet, science and technology research. He said they are "pretty powerful indicators of the public and the scientific community seeing the world differently."

In the most dramatic split, 88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, while only 37 percent of the public say it is safe and 57 percent say it is unsafe. And 68 percent of scientists said it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, compared with only 28 percent of the general public.

Ninety-eight percent of scientists say humans evolved over time, compared with 65 percent of the public. The gap wasn't quite as large for vaccines, with 86 percent of the scientists favoring mandatory childhood shots while 68 percent of the public did.

Eighty-seven percent of scientists said global warming is mostly due to human activity, while only half of the public did. The figures for scientists are slightly different than past academic studies because of wording of the question and the fact that AAAS members include many specialties, but they tell the same essential story, said Pew associate director Cary Funk.

What to do about climate change is another issue. Nearly two-thirds of scientists favored building more nuclear power plants, but only 45 percent of the public did. But more of the public favored offshore drilling for oil and fracking than scientists did.

More than four out of five scientists thought the growing world population will be a major problem, but just less than three out of five members of the public did.

Pew polled 2,002 adults in August and did an online survey of 3,748 AAAS members in the fall. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the public and 1.7 percentage points for the scientists.

Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS, said the gap between the way the public and scientists look at issue is a cause for concern.

"Science is about facts. Science is not about values," Leshner said. "Policies are made on facts and values and we want to make sure that the accurate, non-distorted facts are brought in to any kind of discussion."

The trouble, according to scientists, is that the public doesnt know the facts. The survey indicated that 84 percent of the scientists said it is a major problem that "the public does not know very much about science" and another 14 percent said it is a minor problem.

And 97 percent of the scientists criticized the educational system. Three-quarters of the scientists said not enough science and math education is a major problem and another 22 percent said it was a minor one.

"It's not about being smart or dumb," Leshner said. "It's about whether, in fact, you understand the source of the fact and what the facts are."

Critical thinking challenge: The American public and scientists don't seem to hold the same opinions. Why does this matter?

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Assigned 27 times

  • ErikaM3
    2/11/2015 - 10:22 a.m.

    I really like this story because its interesting how global warming is getting spread out around the world and how it started to work and how men are affecting global warming.

  • SantanaAntonio-DiB
    2/11/2015 - 10:46 a.m.

    So basically scientists see the world different than the average human due to the years of preperations they have they are more accurate than the average human I'm not classifying anybody but some people have a talent that someone else might have that is what makes us special and have the variaty we have in the world.

  • Andre690
    2/11/2015 - 11:13 a.m.

    It matters because if the public disagrees with the scientist the public will get angry because they would think the scientist keep giving false information. The public will start to riot and protest because their tired of getting false information. Also people who are conspiracy theorist will grow much larger just like now and start to speak out.

  • pabloc-DiB
    2/11/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public.
    Scientist know what is good for the people and what harms us from things in this world.

  • austinrg-DiB
    2/11/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    scientist see the world differently than the public does because science is about facts rather than value and scientist want to make sure that people understand the facts presented.

  • anayab3
    2/12/2015 - 10:19 a.m.

    critical thinking challenges: I believe the public and scientist don't seem to hold the same opinion on things because of the thing that they do. when you think about it, all scientist think about is just science, that is what there life revolves around so with that being said, I think that they are just more educated with things compared to just the public. I believe that scientist can know what going to happen in our world next quicker than we can know, just because this is just what they major in and study their whole life.

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    2/12/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    While it doesnt surprise me that the science community is slightly disconnected from the publics vision, i wonder what would be accomplished if their visions were more similar. More, or less?

  • dianaz-Che
    2/12/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    Scientists probably see the world differently because of all the knowledge they have about it that we might not have. I don't think overpopulation is a danger right now though.

  • 9RyanS
    2/15/2015 - 05:23 p.m.

    Date:February 11, 2015
    Date accessed: February 15, 2015
    Response type: Critical thinking challenge
    Article title: Scientists see the world differently than we do
    Critical thinking challenge: The American public and scientists don't seem to hold the same opinions. Why does this matter?

    This matters because it stirs up a whole lot of arguments and controversy. This also matters because our opinions may be totally wrong and not correct. This leads to misconception. I would much rather listen and believe scientists than people on the internet. That is why you cant believe everything you see and hear on the internet.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    2/16/2015 - 10:38 a.m.

    It's kind of funny how America decides to argue and complain with scientists when they hold the facts and research of everything health related! I'm sorry, but if you do not have he information behind certain things, do not open your mouth when scientists and researchers come out with new studies and information!

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