Saturday, March 05, 2011

Confidence in the scientific community

GSS participants were asked about their confidence in the scientific community. Forty-three percent answered "a great deal," fifty percent said "only some," and 7 percent said "hardly any."

To identify predictors of confidence, I lumped the second and third answers into one low-confidence category, and conducted binary logistic regression analysis. Here is my list of predictors:

Logistic regression coefficients (sample size = 1,435)

Age .00
Female -.31*
Black -.57**
Hispanic .14
Education .09**
IQ .08*
Income .00
Church attendance -.05*
Conservatism -.09*

* statistically significant at the 95% confidence level, two tail test
**statistically signficant at the 99% confidence level, two-tail test

Keep in mind that these are net effects--the impact of each predictor after the influence of the other predictors has been removed.

Females, blacks, conservatives and religious people tend to have less faith in science than their counterparts.  By contrast, people who are smart and educated have more confidence.  Age, Hispanicity, and income do not matter. The strongest predictors are race and education. There is a large difference between blacks and whites. Adjusting for the other factors (e.g., IQ and education) blacks are still more skeptical of science. This might be due to their greater religious fundamentalism and fear of scientific abuse. Or the explanation might be as simple as greater suspicion of (white) institutions in general.


  1. If one could disaggregate by basis in controlled experimentation, the differences might be more interesting. After all Kenneth and Mamie Clark's experiment, despite plausibly being seen as a controlled experiment, was applied in Brown vs Board of Education in a profoundly uncontrolled manner by social scientists posing as supreme court judges, ie: the only controls to the experiment were historic populations and records of such. No control groups were to be tolerated. Indeed, such theocratic imposition of experimental treatments on unwilling human subjects, intolerant of any experimental control groups, is virtually the sine qua non of of the "social sciences".

  2. not a hacker3:16 PM

    Does it say anthing about their confidence in science that blacks are far less likely to spend money at GNC than whites?

  3. After learning of the paleo diet, I have very little confidence in "organized science".

  4. I am confident in the scientific community - confident that at least 98 percent of currently published work is dishonest, distorted or trivial, and can only be safely treated by ignoring it...

  5. Anonymous5:13 PM

    from tea party chain email:

    --------Forwarded Message--------

    From a chain email:

    Russell K. Nieli recently brought to light a new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford that shows that lower-income European Americans (poor whites) are the most discriminated against group of people in college admissions.

    Nieli writes: "When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed."

    Get that? Not African Americans, not Mestizo Americans --- but European Americans are the most discriminated against group in college admissions.

    This widespread discrimination against European Americans should be unsurprising. And immigration is making it worse, as more non-whites immigrate here their "disparate impact" status makes them prime affirmative action candidates.

    All other racial groups have powers lobbying on their behalf. Blacks have the NAACP, mestizos have La Raza, Asians have the 80-20 Initiative, Indians have USINPAC, etc. What do European Americans have?

    When other groups lobby on behalf of their ethnic interests and whites do nothing, whites are bound to receive the short end of the stick. And all the while this is taking place, many whites pursue the “ostrich strategy”. They stick their heads in the sand and wish it were otherwise.

    Time to take your heads out of the sand, white people.

  6. Anonymous8:08 PM

    I have relatively little confidence in science and am convinced too much pc and brown-nosing goes on for dollars for grants.

    I have even less faith in the reporting of "science."

    I am especially troubled by the unwillingness of many to share ideas and data from one field to the other.

  7. "Science" has to be disaggregated into its disciplines. Plainly, physics, chemistry and geology have earned a much higher reputation for reliability than biology or medicine, and any claims to reliability or even relevance by the social sciences is risible.

    When you do a survey of opinions about "science", people think you're talking about physics et al. You need to ask what they think about each discipline.

  8. Anonymous6:21 PM

    As an ex-scientist (now working as a consultant), I would say that most people are justified in their distrust of science. The dishonesty, corruption and cronyism in the scientific community these days is appalling.

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