Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Study: American public doesn't trust scientists

H. L. Mencken was wrong:
The review, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows that while Americans view scientists as competent, they are not entirely trusted. This may be because they are not perceived to be friendly or warm.

In particular, Americans seem wary of researchers seeking grant funding and do not trust scientists pushing persuasive agendas. Instead, the public leans toward impartiality.
Gosh, I keep seeing these things that reinforce my faith in the basic wisdom of the American People.  But what do the researchers say is the solution?
"Scientists have earned the respect of Americans but not necessarily their trust," said lead author Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and professor of public affairs. "But this gap can be filled by showing concern for humanity and the environment. Rather than persuading, scientists may better serve citizens by discussing, teaching and sharing information to convey trustworthy intentions."
So a Psychologist and Public Affairs Professor says that the way to address mistrust caused by the perception of agenda-driven science and featherbedding is by pushing an environmentalist agenda and slick talking.  Riiiight.  Good idea.

Maybe the public's concern about the monomaniacal thirst for grant funding is right, and warps how science is done?  From an old post of mine, Make Big Money doing climate research from home:
Well, I don't know about the "work from home" part, and whether you need to stuff envelopes, but the money's sweet: $79B since 1989, just from the US Fed.Gov. Add in the fellow traveler Euro.Govs and you've maybe doubled that.

Note that's "B" as in "Billion". Skim a lot off the top for Department of Energy and other bureaucrats, and there's plenty of cold hard cash, as long as you toe the line
Or perhaps it's an awareness that scientists are not playing straight with the public?

This is Dr. Richard Muller, head of the Berkeley Earth Sciences department.  He explains precisely how the lead authors of the IPCC reports fiddled their data, and remarks that not only would this never be allowed to be published in any journal he would be willing to be published in but how he won't read their papers anymore (because he thinks they are untrustworthy).

Hey, don't be a Science Denier, Dr. Muller!  A little more focus on the environment and some better warm fuzzy PR spin will totes make this all better!

This was published in the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences, for crying out loud - that tells you just how deep the rot runs.  And just remember, people like Professor Fiske think they're smarter than you and me.  Nicer, too.  Professor Fiske, in future I'd like a higher caliber drivel from you, if you would be so kind.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your thesis. When we were growing up, scientists were gods!
Galileo and Einstein (for example) denied the popular agenda and lost much.
Then funding got in the way, and many others (it turns out) modified their findings to continue to get money.
Just like most other fallible humans.


OMMAG said...

Well done BP.

As I recall ... all of my science topics used to be prefaced with the history of the individuals who were progenitors of the field and the relevant major contributors over time. History of science was taught as being equal to the research and development of the knowledge.

What will be said of today's efforts to promote personal agendas for profit?

Matt W said...

The general public exercising more professional skepticism than the scientists that hold skepticism so dear? Shocking.

This "whoring" behavior is nothing new though, and it is not unique to the hard sciences. Politics, medicine, just to name a few, all have people who are passionate and actually care about the integrity work. They also have people who will do and say whatever will make them the most money.

It just so happens that climate science seems to have a higher percentage of "whores" than true scientists with integrity.

kx59 said...

The climate change b.s. destroyed my trust and admiration for scientists.
until proven otherwise, they are all snake oil salesmen until proven otherwise.
Adopt an environmentalist agenda?
Hooboy, there's some good advice.

kx59 said...

I purchased that second line from the U.S. Department of Redundancy Department.