Okay, so we can't be expected to keep up with scientists on everything—it's their job, after all, to go around science-in' it up (that's the clinical term. I looked it up.). But according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, the gap between what science has shown to be true and what the public believes is widening to a frightening degree.
Consider this: a third of "ordinary Americans believe that human beings have existed in their current form since the beginning of time." And scientists? 2%. Alright, that might be too contentious an example to start off with—let's try this one: a staggering half of the Americans surveyed agreed that people are responsible for climate change, and 11% believed there wasn't any such thing. That's in pretty stark contrast to nearly every single scientist who said that climate change is caused by man, primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.
And the real stunner here is just how different the public imagines the state of science to be, not just the end results:
According to the survey, about a third of Americans think there is lively scientific debate on both topics; in fact, there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution and there is little doubt that human activity is altering the chemistry of the atmosphere in ways that threaten global climate.
Woops. It's pretty clear there's a major disconnect between scientific findings and Americans' ability to either understand or accept them. And it's not because Americans are stupid. Perhaps it's due to the rather recent mass proliferation of media, capable of exhorting myriad views on myriad subjects and tangling opinion with fact in unprecedented ways. Or perhaps it's because science is somehow losing stock among Americans—and if this is the case, we've got to do everything we can to prevent it.
Specifically, we've got to stay educated—and we've got to know where science stands. It's one thing to have personal or spiritual reasons to disagree with a scientific fact, but to believe that there's robust debate over that fact—when there isn't—is another altogether. Climate change is perfect evidence of this—the vast, vast, vast majority of scientists have concurred that it's real, and it's happening right now. It's a scientific fact. We can't waste time believing that there's some sort of meandering, open-ended debate. There's not. So check out the science behind it—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a good place to start. And let's get to bringing ourselves up to speed with the scientists. I know what I'm doing for the rest of the weekend.
*There's a new Patriotism brewing in America, and it's got green written all over it: Patriotism 2.0.