March 1, 2008

Educate, educate, educate!!!

While the researchers were a little puzzled, they need not have been, if only they'd stopped to think for one second: ignorance is always far more dangerous than knowledge.

It would seem that those who are most educated about climate change, and have confidence in science, are less likely to be alert or alarmed by the prospect of climate change, and less likely to feel any personal responsibility.

It's the ignorant and the willfully stupid who will bring us to our knees.
"Perhaps ironically, and certainly contrary to the assumptions underlying the knowledge-deficit model, as well as the marketing of movies like Ice Age and An Inconvenient Truth, the effects of information on both concern for global warming and responsibility for it are exactly the opposite of what were expected. Directly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less responsible he or she feel for it; and indirectly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less concerned he or she is for it. These information effects, while striking, are consistent with the findings of Durant and Legge with respect to genetically modified foods, and with those of Evans and Durant with respect to embryo research.Thus, we contribute another parcel of evidence that the knowledge-deficit model is inadequate for understanding mass attitudes about scientific controversies.

It is worth emphasizing, as well, that the findings reported herein, and hence the generalizability of our conclusions, are limited to the United States. Recent research in comparative public opinion shows that, compared to the rest of the world, the United States has average knowledge levels about global warming, despite the fact that America is among the best-educated countries in the world.

It should be noted that the information effects reported in this article are limited to self-reported information. Objective measures of informedness about global warming and climate change might produce different effects. And indeed there is some scholarly evidence to suggest that this might be the case. In their models of mass assessments of the risks of genetically modified foods, Durant and Legge found that self-reported informedness and objective measures of informedness were almost entirely uncorrelated, and that their effects worked in opposite directions.

This research also has implications for the evolving relationship between scientists and the mass public. For despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming and climate change are real phenomena that create risks for the earth's future, among the mass public, the more confidence an individual has in scientists, the less responsible he or she tends to feel for global warming, and the less concerned he or she is about the problem. Perhaps this simply reflects an abundance of confidence that scientists can engineer a set of solutions to mitigate any harmful effects of global warming. But it can not be comforting to the researchers in the scientific community that the more trust people have in them as scientists, the less concerned they are about their findings."

Of course, it might also be that the more informed a person is, the less convinced they are that the climate is the product of humans using spray deodorants or eating too much meat, and the more informed a person is, the more they appreciate that their individual actions will never, can never, effect the aggregate, no matter how hard they try, no matter how green their little souls. In other words, this study might be showing that people can respect the scientific method, yet reject the findings if the logic doesn't resonate and the evidence doesn't add up on any perfectly common sense grounds. Why would that not be the case? Science is remarkably fallible, but it does beat divining the past or the future by reading chicken entrails or rubbing energized crystals around your belly button.

Personal Efficacy, the Information Environment, and Attitudes Toward Global Warming and Climate Change in the United States

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