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 far 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. That is according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization.

Scientists are more certain that global warming is caused by man. They believe 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. That gap separates the opinions of the public and members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This is 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 ones.

"These are big and notable gaps," said Lee Rainie. He is 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. Only 37 percent of the public say it is safe. Fifty-seven percent say it is unsafe. And 68 percent of scientists said it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides. That's compared with only 28 percent of the general public.

Ninety-eight percent of scientists say humans evolved over time. Only 65 percent of the public think the same. The gap wasn't quite as large for opinions about vaccines. Eighty-six percent of the scientists favor mandatory childhood shots while 68 percent of the public did.

Eighty-seven percent of scientists said global warming is mostly due to human activity. But only half of the public did. The figures for scientists are slightly different than past academic studies. That is 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. More of the public favored offshore drilling for oil than scientists did.

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

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

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. It's plus or minus 1.7 percentage points for the scientists.

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

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COMMENTS (39)
  • bryanh719
    2/11/2015 - 11:03 a.m.

    I think that this matter because if the public and scientist don't share the same opinion that might cause a problem. For example if scientist say that they going to add more nuclear power plant and the public know. The public could go on a riot or do something to stop it. that why i think they should agree on something.

    • JEstrela915
      2/11/2015 - 02:46 p.m.

      Exactly! The Scientist Are Doing Dumber Stuff Everyday Why At More Nuclear Power Plants But You Were Just Complaining About Gas In The Air What Is The Point They Should Just Not Say Anything! But That's Just My Opinion ;)

  • DC1024Kaiser
    2/11/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    That scientist are thinking differently because all of them are thinking of different answers or finding new ways to prevent thinks. To me when I be a scientist I want to solve everything about the world like how to prevent global warming and many more that is my goal as a scientist.

  • benjaminsnyder
    2/11/2015 - 02:10 p.m.

    This article is related to science in that they are talking about scientists and how they see the world differently. This is how this article is related to science.

  • KathyM122
    2/11/2015 - 02:41 p.m.

    This article was mostly about percentages and data. I get how the public doesn't visually see things the same as scientist do, and it's because like the article said they don't have the proof to backup there story.

  • John0724-YYCA
    2/11/2015 - 09:13 p.m.

    Of course the scientists thinks the world differently because they look at the global warning and all those science stuff and they will think all these things and some of the things are true and not true. Like scientists thinks that evolution is real but I don't think that we come from monkeys because we share 99% of DNA with them that doesn't mean that we come from monkeys because we share 60$ of DNA with bananas but do we come from bananas. No we don't.

  • MaxG-4
    2/11/2015 - 11:07 p.m.

    This article is about the differences between the basic opinions of the general public and the scientific community. It spends the entire time throwing numbers out at the viewer to show the vastly different opinions on certain things that have received a lot of attention and people have spent time to prove and disprove. It tops it off with a conclusion leading up to a just a basically questioning future possibilities.

    It would be hard for me to say I liked this article. I know I would be lying to myself. It mostly seems like a, without offense meant to the author, and jumble of numbers with a slightly sloppy and weak conclusion. Look in this article. I think one, two, maybe three paragraphs didn't have fractions or percents. The only time it even sticks to the major point is once towards the end saying it could be a major or minor problem. All in all it was a good idea poorly done. Good try Mr. Borenstein, good try.

  • BeckettN-2
    2/11/2015 - 11:34 p.m.

    This article is about the gap in opinion between the public and scientists. Scientists believe this gap was created because "the public just doesn't know enough about science". I think its true, most don't know enough about science, but i also think that science is all speculation so you can never be absolutely sure.

  • anad-Koc
    2/11/2015 - 11:57 p.m.

    Science is something I will never understand. You can try to teach it to me different ways but I'll never get it. I don't understand how scientist see the world different than how we do. I believe in God and I think he's the reason we are here in earth.

  • MariaE1
    2/12/2015 - 08:57 a.m.

    I think it does matter because if the scientist & the American public do dot agree we wont be able to work together to make this a better place.The reason being is that part of the American public sees this as a minor problem & the other percentage sees it as a major problem but they don't do anything about it.

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