This year’s political fiasco has driven many right-minded individuals to question the wisdom of the masses. It seems that there is a quiet majority of people in this country who make big decisions based on little or no factual information. This is especially frustrating for those who read and watch the news regularly and seek out unbiased information, because we can’t understand how so many members of the public can be so misinformed.
When I have conversations with my friends about this topic, I inevitably bring up the fact that this problem has been affecting scientific knowledge for decades. When it comes to the empirical unbiased understanding that we have about the world around us, there are a remarkable number of people who choose to put their heads in the sand and ignore the facts. This idea was made concrete to me when I recently found the results of a Pew Research Center survey comparing the views of scientists to the views of the general public. Side Note: The word “opinions” in this study bothers me because so many of these issues are already settled by research data. The scientists’ “opinions” are actually facts, while the public “opinions” are frequently based on misinformation. They should not be treated equally.
As you can see, the biggest gaps between what scientists believe and what the public believes are on the hot-button political issues of the day (anthropogenic climate change, genetically modified foods, etc.). In many cases, political organizations have staged massive propaganda campaigns to convince the public to believe things that are simply not true.
So, go ahead and wring your hands over the Trump Problem. At least you get to wake up after Election Day and enjoy the return of sanity. Those of us who are responsible for making the public more scientifically literate will be fighting for a long time to come.