Fox New’s wonderful article “Global warming skeptics as knowledgeable about science as climate change believers, study says” has been spread all about the web as proof that indeed Climate Change Skeptics are really brilliant and not really as unbelievably idiotic as we thought. The problem is that the bold claim really isn’t backed up by the study or by the evidence.
First lets get this out of the way, from the most scientifically literate in our society, which some of us call scientists, one gets a clear idea that they may support anthropogenic climate change … overwhelmingly. 97-98% of experts who actully study the climate agree with the view of anthropogenic Climate Change. So this study was not about the really Scientifically informed, rather it was about the views among the general population.
The question we have to ask is what do we consider an acceptable level of Scientific literacy for having what would be called an informed opinion on climate change? The study cited by Fox tried to assess the participates level of scientific literacy with a 8 question quiz.
The most challenging science question on the quiz was, “How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? [one day, one month, one year]” (for those that don’t know the answer it’s one year or for nerds ≈365.24 days.)
Alright, call me elitist, but if we’re debating climate change science, I really hope the parties involved have more advanced scientific knowledge then something I bleeding learned in Kindergarten. Yes, I know that according to the study only 45% of those surveyed got the question right, but the fact that 55% of the population is completely scientifically illiterate does not mean that you’re in any way qualified to make any old pronouncement on science.
Now the actual premise of the paper was interesting, the idea that among, the less scientifically ignorant there were more polarized views then among those who think “the sun goes around the earth” (another brilliant question from the quiz), but was the mildly interesting premise really worth having to deal with the puffed up climate change deniers who now think they’re smarter then Einstein, Gödel, and Von Neumann put together? Thanks to Fox New, for massaging the egos of these poor sods.