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Belief in free market economics predicts rejection of science

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Jim InhofeA strong belief in a hands off approach to economics is tightly linked to the rejection of scientific facts such as climate change, according to research published in Psychological Science in late March.

“The conspiracist ideation that all of the world’s scientific academies have conspired together to create a hoax known as global warming has found traction in American mainstream politics,” Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia and his colleagues wrote in their study.

In particular, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has alleged that thousands of scientists working independently over decades are actually part of “the greatest hoax” to increase regulation on businesses and individuals.

The study of 1,377 people who visited climate change denial blogs found endorsement of laissez-faire free markets predicted the rejection of climate science and other established scientific facts, such as that HIV causes AIDS or that tobacco smoking causes lung cancer.

“The pivotal role of personal ideology in the rejection of climate science has been repeatedly demonstrated,” Lewandowsky and his colleagues explained. “We highlighted the magnitude of this effect among climate-science blog denizens, who have a strong interest in the issue, and we additionally showed that endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of two other well-established scientific facts.”

Those who rejected climate change appeared to be more accepting of conspiracy theories in general. Belief that the moon landing was actually staged on Earth, that the government allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur so they could invade the Middle East, and other conspiracy theories predicted rejection of climate change.

“This finding suggests that a general propensity to endorse any of a number of conspiracy theories predisposes people to reject entirely unrelated scientific facts,” Lewandowsky and his colleagues said.

The study was co-authored by Klaus Oberauer and Gilles E. Gignac.


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