It’s not a case of “shoot the messenger” – more like a case of “shoot the message,” instead.
That according to a new Pew Research Center study that concludes most people trust scientists but don’t share several basic beliefs most scientists have.
For example, 79% of adults say that science has made life easier for most people, and a majority are positive about science’s impact on quality of health care, food and the environment. Further, 54% say that U.S. scientific achievements are either the best in the world or above average.
“Americans recognize the accomplishments of scientists in key fields, and despite considerable dispute about the role of government in other realms, there is broad public support for government investment in scientific research,” says Cary Funk, associate director of research at Pew.
That said, there is a major disconnect between what scientists believe and what other U.S. adults believe, Funk adds.
“Citizens and scientists often see science-related issues through different sets of eyes,” she says. “There are large differences in their views across a host of issues.”
The most dramatic of these is over perceived safety of genetically modified organisms (GMO). While 88% of scientists think it is safe to eat GMOs, only 37% of U.S. adults do. That’s a 51-point gap. Other notable gaps in beliefs include:
- Favor use of animals in research – 42-point gap
- Safe to eat foods grown with pesticides – 40-point gap
- Climate change due mostly to human activity – 37-point gap
- Humans have evolved over time – 33-point gap
- Growing world population will be a major problem – 23-point gap
“One possible reason for the gap [is] when it comes to GM crops, two-thirds of the public say scientists do not have a clear understanding about the health effects,” Funk says.
The report is based on a pair of surveys the Pew Research Center conducts in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It compares views from the general public with AAAS scientists about major science topic ans the role of science in public policy. Click here to read the entire report.
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