A relationship in attitudes toward Global Warming & evolution?

By Razib Khan | October 24, 2010 1:29 am

In my post earlier in the week I mentioned the possible relationship between attitudes toward evolution and the causes and likelihood of Global Warming. I haven’t seen any survey data myself relating the two, so naturally I wanted to poke into the General Social Survey. Two variables of interest showed up, both from 2006:

1) GWSCI, “Understanding of causes of Global Warming by environmental scientists.” A five-point scale, from understanding “Very well” (1) to “Not at all” (5).

2) SCIAGRGW, “Extent of agreement among environmental scientists.” A five-point scale, from “Near complete agreement” (1) to “No agreement at all” (5).

I paired these up against EVOLVED, which is a simple True vs. False answer in relation the question as to whether “Human beings developed from animals.”

Tables below.

Each row in the following set of tables adds up to 100%. In other words in the first row 55% of Democrats think that environmental scientists understand the cause of global warming “Very well.”

Environmental scientists understand cause of global warming
Very well

Not at all
1 2 3 4 5
Democrat 55 24 14 4 3
Independent 44 21 28 2 5
Republican 39 21 29 6 5
Liberal 56 24 13 5 3
Moderate 51 21 25 1 2
Conservative 33 25 27 8 7
Evolution True 53 26 16 2 4
Evolution False 43 18 28 6 6
Extent of agreement on global warming among environmental scientists
Near complete agreement

No agreement at all
1 2 3 4 5
Democrat 17 36 36 5 6
Independent 19 27 38 8 8
Republican 11 26 41 14 8
Liberal 17 38 31 8 7
Moderate 13 29 44 7 7
Conservative 14 27 39 13 7
Evolution True 16 36 32 9 6
Evolution False 17 29 39 9 7

Now we’ll switch the columns, but again, the rows add up to 100%. So of those who think that environmental scientists understand the cause of global warming “Very well,” 55% accept that humans developed from animals.

Evolution is
Environmental scientists understand cause of global warming
Very well 55 45
2 58 42
3 36 64
4 28 72
Not at all 38 62
Evolution is
Extent of agreement on global warming among environmental scientists
Near complete agreement 50 48
2 56 44
3 46 54
4 52 48
No agreement at all 47 54

Finally, a set of regressions. Since the ones for Global Warming have a 1 to 5 scale I just used a linear regression, while for evolution I used logistic regression (since it’s a dichotomous response).

Beta p
POLVIEWS 0.158 0.01
PARTYID 0.087 0.144
AGE 0.053 0.293
GOD 0.114 0.058
BIBLE -0.028 0.654
WORDSUM -0.082 0.152
DEGREE -0.021 0.748
SEI -0.116 0.069
R-squared = 0.118
Beta p
POLVIEWS 0.085 0.185
PARTYID 0.062 0.325
AGE 0.032 0.557
GOD 0.035 0.558
BIBLE 0.095 0.156
WORDSUM 0.031 0.609
DEGREE -0.103 0.132
SEI -0.138 0.043
R-squared = 0.053
B p
POLVIEWS 0.158 0.003
PARTYID 0.075 0.03
AGE 0.016 0
GOD 0.549 0
BIBLE -1.144 0
WORDSUM -0.03 0.402
DEGREE -0.091 0.174
SEI -0.008 0.04
Pseudo R-squared = 0.255

Weird things happen when I try and relate the Global Warming variables to evolution. Since I gave you the names of the variables I invite you to replicate. I see some relationship in the 2006 GSS, but not a strong one. The dependence of attitudes toward evolution on religious views is pretty direct as expected. Not as clear with the Global Warming issues.

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  • http://lablemming.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Try relating GW to environmental or earth science education. I know lots of central-left ordinary folks who are skeptical simply because they hear the constant denial noise and don’t know how to frame questions in a way to discern science from spin.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-8765-Manchester-Science-Examiner Earl Wajenberg

    Just off the top of my head, although disbelief in evolution and disbelief in global warming are both “conservative” tendencies, they are from different kinds of conservatism. Evolution doubters are backing conservative theology; global warming doubters are backing political and economic conservatism. The two kinds of conservatism have a fair degree of overlap but are not identical and the overlap is shrinking lately.

  • James

    Wait a minute… what about respondents who, given all the hypothetical causes ranging from astronomical perturbations to cow farts, rated “Environmental scientists understand cause of global warming” as “Very well” and who, since most of the controversy is to what degree computer models of all the interactions among these causes are accurate, answer “No agreement at all” to the second question.

    I would imagine that there is a high average Wordsum score for this group.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    just an fyi, i don’t want to re-litigate GW in this space. please don’t talk about that, but addresss the GSS stuff. thanks. (this is to the people who left comments which i didn’t publish)

  • DK

    2006 is before Climategate and a lot of extra information made available to lay persons all over the place. I bet the results from 2010 would be different in that a larger percent of educated public believing in evolution would be skeptical about AGW.

  • http://brianforwater.org Brian Schmidt

    Not as strong a correlation as I’d expected. I wonder if the “Creation Care” movement among evangelicals has made enough progress to muck up the numbers somewhat.

    My pet theory is the increase in ties between the leadership of evolution and climate denial organizations is driven by the climate denial industry, trying to head off the development of the Creation Care movement.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i think the point about 2006 is probably important.

  • toto

    I also think that climate contrarianism is more linked to libertarian populism than to religious conservatism. So I tried to look for variable in the GSS that might correlate with “teapartism”.

    I found “EQWLTH” (SHOULD GOVT REDUCE INCOME DIFFERENCES). Running it against GWSCI, I kind of see a trend in the result, but nothing overwhelming. I don’t know how to copy-paste results in this textbox though :(

    Incidentally, I was surprised by the results of EQWLTH. Although the answers are roughly symmetrical, there is a clear imbalance towards redistribution. Americans aren’t hardcore live-and-let-die libertarians after all.

  • pconroy

    I see these questions as belonging to different domains – so they shouldn’t be correlated.

    1. Evolution skepticism track religiosity.

    2. Global Warming skepticism track understanding of Science – specifically Biology (Carbon cycle), Geography (Oceans, currents, deserts, mountains, rain forests), Astronomy (Sun spot activity) – and also Technology – specifically computer models, and how they are as fallible as the initial conditions or assumptions of the scientists that create them.

    So I’d imagine skeptical of #1 is linked to LOW wordsum scores, and that skepticism of #2 is linked to HIGH wordsum scores and scientific/technology knowledge.

  • toto

    pconroy: you mean, a bit like 9/11 skepticism tracks (self-evaluated) “understanding” of Engineering and Aeronautics? 😉

    Anyway, the GSS disagrees. WORDSUM seems to follow GWSCI. I guess there might be a confound with “liberalism”, though.

    But I agree with #8 that the results may be quite different now. Climate change seems to have become a political shibboleth among some groups, and that may not be reflected in earlier data.

  • pconroy

    9/11 skepticism tracks stupidity mostly – if referring to the Twin Towers themselves.

    Other buildings – Tower #7 IIRC – are documented as falling in exact the same pancake manner as the twin towers, but a few days later. This is usually seen as evidence of conspiracy, but to me this tower was just probably professionally demolished with explosives by the developer, Silverstein, as the building suffered structural damage.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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