Right science

By Razib Khan | November 12, 2013 4:19 am


John von Neumann

About a month back a researcher at Yale published survey results which showed that Tea Party members exhibited more science knowledge than the general public, somewhat to his chagrin. I wasn’t particularly surprised, because the knowledge of science as it relates to political ideology is somewhat complex. Often the right-leaning get lower marks because of strong reactions to questions perceived to be ideological. It’s a rather robust finding that the more intelligent are more ideological, so it is no surprise that a group like the Tea Party would do better on tests which measure underlying cognitive orientation.

This was brought back to my mind by a new piece in The Atlantic which had a “Slate-pitch” sort of title: The Republican Party Isn’t Really the Anti-Science Party. There was some comment on Creationism in the piece, so I wanted to review the data on this mostly ideologically freighted of the standard science questions asked of the public. To do this I used the General Social Survey. To limit demographic confounds I constrained the samples to non-Hispanic whites who responded 2006-2012 (“Selection Filter(s): Race1(1) Hispanic(1)”). Additionally, I partitioned the data into two classes, non-college and college-educated (“Degree(r:0-2;3-4)”). Then I looked at political party identification and ideology (“Partyid” and “Polviews(r:1-2;3;4;5;6-7)”).


Agree: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”
Strong Dem5688
Lean Dem6086
Lean Repub4456
Strong Repub2741
Slightly Liberal6183
Slightly Conserv.4765

As someone with a professional fixation upon evolution and a lean toward conservative political viewpoints, obviously these results are disturbing to me. But they are what they are. The typical run of the mill Ph.D. scientist disagrees with the Right here rather strongly. I think the attitude toward evolution specifically is a major symbolic marker which alienates scientists as a demographic from anything to do with Republicans or conservatism, and vice versa. Though there are presumably normative implication in evolutionary, the primary disagreement here is basically on very long established and orthodox science.


Comments (8)

  1. Thanks for keeping it real…

  2. AG

    We need people who can differentiate opinions vs facts. As you know, simple people lack the ability to tell the difference. To them, popular or authoritative opinions are truth.

  3. marcel proust

    “Ph.D. Scientist” – you are drawing on prior knowledge to refer here to this group, aren’t you? There’s nothing in these numbers that allows you to make inferences about them is there? I just want to be sure I am not missing something.


    • razibkhan

      i socialize with that sort. also, the opinions about evolution are well known. personal experience is that much of the alienation is cultural (it is universally assumed everyone in the room is a non-conservative when political discussions emerge).

  4. Riordan

    “It’s a rather robust finding that the more intelligent are more ideological…..”

    This is something I’ve heard many times and it seems very well supported. What I’m wondering about is if there’s any good explanation of why that maybe the case/causal mechanism behind it. Anyone got any links for that?

  5. svman

    Now compare nuclear power, organic food, GMO, etc.

  6. Odoacer

    Does anyone know how the people on the right views evolutionary psychology? Does it just get grouped in with evolution as a whole?

    I know from personal experience and reading sites like Slate and the Atlantic that many on the left really hate it.


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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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