Econintersect: Science holds an esteemed place in American society and it one of the areas that the public most strongly supports government involvement. But when it comes down to specific details the Pew Foundation has found some dramatic differences of opinion about science related issues. Some the areas of wide differences involve GM (genetically modified) foods, causes of climate change, uses of animals in research and desirable energy technologies.
Some areas of general agreement include positive opinions about space research, positive view of contributions of science to improving life, a negative opinion about the quality of primary and secondary STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and a degradation of opinion about global standing of U.S. scientific activity. Scientists have the opinion that limited knowledge about science among the public is a major problem. Scientists attribute this primarily to poor STEM education and lack of public interest.
Significant percentages of the public think that scientists are divided about the big bang creation of the universe (52%), about the cause of global warming being human activity (37%) and on the theory of evolution (29%). The public opinions about where scientists stand (climate change and evolution in particular) “tend to be associated with individual views on the issue“. On the question of humans causing climate change, for example, 87% of scientists said it was so, while 37% of the public said there was disagreement among scientists, only 13% below the 50% personal opinion held by the public.
For evolution, 35% of the public do not believe and 29% say scientists are divided, but actually 98% of scientists support evolution.
Opinions about what scientists think appear much more related to what an individual thinks than to the actual facts.
- Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society (Cary Funk and Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center, 29 January 2015)