What Makes Some Smart People so Skeptical of Science?

Is the world really flat? Some people believe so. And many scientists, psychologists and researchers lump them with others people who question other aspects of science that even other scientists contest (like global warming), as all being part of an ‘anti-enlightenment movement’. Is there a limit to being skeptical before it makes us poor thinkers??

You’re part of that ‘camp’ if you question human induced global warming as the most important factor in climate change, or that the problem is bigger than just carbon dioxide from humans, or those that question the safety of vaccination given that there are mercury derivatives in it and the link to autism developing after vaccines are given to some children…

But let’s not investigate any of that honestly, right? Instead, simply refer to those people as part of the ‘anti-enlightenment movement’.

They aren’t saying that people are not educated or intelligent. They’re saying that people who reject the scientific consensus on topics like climate change, vaccine safety and evolution are interested in science, it’s just that they act like lawyers and ‘cherry pick’ the facts to substantiate what they already believe to be true.

This is known as cognitive bias. Many people find one study that they latch onto in order to justify their position. This is absolutely true. Scientists are also guilty of the same thing through their ‘scientific consensus’ which can form the overall ideology in a particular field.

Last week I posted about the scientific community ignoring synthetic chemical impacts on global change. Fellow scientists were calling out the scientific community for failing to honestly address all the other factors that affect global change, because right now everyone seems to be blinded into a tunnel vision on carbon dioxide emissions and is ignoring the other serious problems we have in the world. The carbon tax is not going to solve a damn thing.

Matthew Hornsey of the University of Queensland and Troy Campbell of the University of Oregon did a study using surveys, experiments, observational studies and meta-analyses that they presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual convention on January 21st 2017. They want to find a way to make science more communicable and find out what was wrong with the current way science is being communicated. Their presentation was part of the symposium called “Rejection of Science: Fresh Perspectives on the Anti-Enlightenment Movement”.

The study does identify important psychological factors, like people’s personal identifications and attachment clouding an honest evaluation of information.

Dan Kahan, another author of the stufy from Yale University says “the deposition is to construe evidence in identity-congruent rather than truth-congruent ways, a state of disorientation that is pretty symmetric across the political spectrum.”

I’ve covered cognitive biases before, and I also have work on identity and attachment that prevents us from honestly evaluating the truth and reality. Yet, according to these people, recognizing other factors in global climate change and the fact that carbon dioxide isn’t the only issue, or that there is a serious issue with vaccines, puts me automatically into the category of someone who just wants to believe whatever they want to believe by cherry picking information. The reality is that I and others (yes, some are professional scientists not paid by anyone to do research, unlike these guys who have that vested interest and funding) are looking at all the information, while they are choosing to only present us with one particular aspects of the problem on this planet, which is carbon dioxide for them.

There is backfire effect that simply presenting facts or evidence isn’t enough to change someone’s mind. Researchers accurately conclude that you need to get to the root of someone’s unwillingness to accept the “scientific consensus” to find that target to introduce new ideas so that people can get on the same common ground.

I would argue that the “scientific consensus” doesn’t necessarily reflect an accurate representation of reality, as my previous post mentioned above demonstrates when the scientific community is being called out for its failure to recognize synthetic chemical impact on global change. A scientific consensus can also be a herd mentality groupthink based on the allure and aura of authority that influences people through the belief in “scientism”, and not honest science of looking at everything together.

If you want to get people to accept a truth in reality, you need to get down to the root of the psychological factors that are inhibiting their recognition of reality.

Go figure, that’s what my main work is trying to teach about: the removal of barriers to self-knowledge that will allow people to think better. I don’t usually talk about all the specifics of the events and things going on in the world. I talk about the root, which is consciousness.

If people understand more about psychology and develop more self-knowledge then they will be able to figure things out more effectively on their own. Focusing on all the effects, all the events, all the problems, without the ability to think properly or better, is not as effective as having a better capacity of thinking through understanding psychological barriers like logical fallacies and cognitive biases that prevent us from acknowledging truth. The way forward is to have everyone learn how to think for themselves so that they can determine truth in reality, without the biases that the scientists even fall for, yet think they are immune to.

Hornsey spoke to the LA Times about the importance of no longer ignoring the ‘anti-enlightenment movement’ because “anti-vaccination movements cost lives” he says, but “climate change skepticism slows the global response to the greatest social, economic and ecological threat of our time.”

I find it hilarious that they are rejecting evidence of vaccine harm, and other factors and global climate change through their bias that vaccines are just ‘safe’, and that carbon dioxide is causing global warming and is primarily a human created problem. What about their ‘anti-enlightenment’ thinking? Hornsey says that he grew up in a time of reason and evidence “to understand important issues, not fear, vested interests, tradition our faith.” Yet what is he doing when he has faith in the tunnel vision of the scientific community purveying what amounts to a tradition that needs to be upheld about global warming and carbon dioxide? And they are all paid to do research by vested interests, while some people do honest research for free and question their paid findings… hmmm….

I’m not trying to bash the scientists or psychologists too much. There is a lot of validity to what they say. However, if the scientific community wants to convey the message of the science better, then they should convey all of the science, and not act like lawyers themselves who ‘cherry pick’ the data, as they claim others are doing, yet not them.


Thank you for your time and attention! I appreciate the knowledge reaching more people. Take care. Peace.

One comment

  • silverpen

    “Smart” people aren’t smart, obviously. By what measure? I have only four words: You can’t fix stupid.

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