Washington Post: When Should Voters March to the Beat of Scientists?

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Albert Einstein was pictured among other signs as people gathered in downtown L.A. for the March for Science on April 22, 2017. (Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Reprinted from The Washington Post by Ilya Somin on April 22, 2017.

“[Saturday’s] March for Science protests are at least in part motivated by concerns that the Trump Administration is ignoring scientific expertise,” writes Ilya Somin in The Washington Post. “The protesting scientists and their supporters hope to persuade the public to put more faith in the views of the scientific community and elect politicians who will do the same. This raises the question of the extent to which voter deference to scientists’ views is in fact a good idea. I wrote a detailed post about this very issue back in 2015. And it seems even more relevant today than back then:

“‘A recent Pew Research Center study shows that scientists and the general public disagree on a wide range of science-related public policy issues. For example, the survey finds that 87 percent of scientists, but only 37 percent of the general public believe that it is safe to eat genetically modified foods…. Relative to the public, scientists are much more supportive of nuclear power and the use of animals in scientific research, and much less supportive of offshore drilling. Also, some 87 percent of scientists believe that climate change is mostly due to human activity, a view shared by only 50 percent of the public…

“‘Given my research on political ignorance, it is tempting for me to conclude that the answer is almost always ‘yes.’ The majority of the public is often ignorant about basic facts about government and politics, and their scientific knowledge is also far from impressive. You don’t have to believe that scientists are always right about scientific issues to conclude that they are on average more likely to be right than generally ignorant voters are….

Washington Post 4/22

About Jeffrey Burman 3090 Articles
Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at jeffrey.s.burman.57@gmail.com.

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