Americans Don’t Believe Good News From Scientists

It’s probably because governments and corporations are always using “science” to try to make us buy into their latest propaganda. From Canada.com:

A newly released American study suggests the public often rejects the opinions of scientific experts.

Photo: Urcomunicacion (CC)

Photo: Urcomunicacion (CC)

The public tends not to trust scientists, says research from California – but there’s a twist. People are mainly reluctant to believe good news, it turns out – such as the message that a flu vaccine is safe. But the public is more likely to trust the researchers who frighten with bad news.

Overall, the study, published in a research journal called Public Understanding of Science, concludes that “scientists’ efforts to influence public opinion have a limited effect.”

The work is based on a public opinion survey of 1,475 Californians to assess whether people trust safety studies on offshore oil drilling. It predates this summer’s massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, but offshore oil drilling has been a hot political issue in California for years.

The analysis from professors at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that people tended to disregard much of what the safety studies found. The limited amount they did believe tended to be the parts that showed dangers were worse than they had feared.

The study suggests one reason why conspiracy theories spread so easily on the Internet: they’re often based on scary scenarios, such as the mind-control chemicals that governments are allegedly spraying from commercial airliners.

Last winter, Ottawa’s public health leaders met an unexpected hurdle: many people refused to trust the H1N1 vaccine’s safety despite reassurances from the medical establishment.

“People were dubious. There was a healthy dose of people who were concerned about the vaccination and didn’t have confidence in it,” said City of Ottawa Coun. Diane Deans, who chairs Ottawa’s protective services committee…

[continues at Canada.com]

, , , ,

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    OF COURSE NOT! We get great big announcements every day…but nothing big ever changes.

    Tell ya what…cure fucking cancer or aids so I don’t have to bury friends or family before their fucking time…I will be so impressed I’ll listen to scientists and cheer everytime they so much as peep.

    Until then…get used to me seeming a little fucking blasé when I hear that microprocessors doubled in size again so I can more easily keep multiple open pages on my browser while I read about all the shit the people I love are fucking dying of.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    OF COURSE NOT! We get great big announcements every day…but nothing big ever changes.

    Tell ya what…cure fucking cancer or aids so I don’t have to bury friends or family before their fucking time…I will be so impressed I’ll listen to scientists and cheer everytime they so much as peep.

    Until then…get used to me seeming a little fucking blasé when I hear that microprocessors doubled in size again so I can more easily keep multiple open pages on my browser while I read about all the shit the people I love are fucking dying of.

    • Psychognosis

      there is never money in the cure, so it won’t be used even if it is found.

    • Haystack

      Scientists, drug execs, and their loved ones die from those same diseases.

      • Hadrian999

        I don’t think that’s what he means,
        we are always hearing this news of some coming breakthrough or miracle cure,
        they never get here, so why keep listening…..the year 2000 was 10 damn years ago and i still don’t have my rocketcar that gets 200 miles to the gallon like we were getting told in the past, why don’t we believe
        good news from scientists……they don’t deliver on anything except the superficial.

        • Haystack

          I probably should have directed that at Psychognosis instead.

          I wouldn’t say “superficial” as much as “incremental.”–especially when it comes to something like cancer, which is a complex assortment of different diseases, and not likely to be solved by a single magic bullet.

          I hear you on the rocket car, though. We did well on computers, though. Remember when you were a kid, and people on TV would ask their computers questions; they’d bleep and chirp and print out an answer? That’s kind of what Google is.

  • Haystack

    It sounds less like they distrust scientists than some of organizations that sponsor them. This study looked at safety studies on offshore oil drilling — oil companies aren’t really known for their integrity. People have a pretty healthy skepticism of governments and pharmaceutical companies as well. We’re use to being lied to about the safety of things that are making other people rich/powerful.

    What this really points to is the need for good science education and reporting so that people are able to evaluate the quality of a body of research on its merits, rather than upon a gut-level distrust of the messenger.

  • Haystack

    It sounds less like they distrust scientists than some of organizations that sponsor them. This study looked at safety studies on offshore oil drilling — oil companies aren’t really known for their integrity. People have a pretty healthy skepticism of governments and pharmaceutical companies as well. We’re use to being lied to about the safety of things that are making other people rich/powerful.

    What this really points to is the need for good science education and reporting so that people are able to evaluate the quality of a body of research on its merits, rather than upon a gut-level distrust of the messenger.

  • Haystack

    It sounds less like they distrust scientists than some of organizations that sponsor them. This study looked at safety studies on offshore oil drilling — oil companies aren’t really known for their integrity. People have a pretty healthy skepticism of governments and pharmaceutical companies as well. We’re use to being lied to about the safety of things that are making other people rich/powerful.

    What this really points to is the need for good science education and reporting so that people are able to evaluate the quality of a body of research on its merits, rather than upon a gut-level distrust of the messenger.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      Amen…most people can’t spot a logical fallacy…or a numeric impossibility (percentages adding up past 100 +/- margin of error) or even weigh the probability of something by employing Occam’s Razor.

      Our science and logic skills are generally so weak that any hyped bunk comes down the line and its believed by those who want to believe it…and ignored or disbelieved entirely by the rest. One of the reasons I like Disinfo so much is that the users cull and post a wide cross section of unusual science articles (along with politics and pop culture etc). Basically, its a place where I can find those tiny jewels once in awhile that make me perk up with interest instead of shake my head in horror or snort with derision and disdain.

      We distrust media…and rightly so…because it isn’t about informing people accurately…its about serving an entertainment business agenda. The science we get is dumbed down, made more thrilling or less frightening, terrifying or neat…all depending on what the motive of the article/feature happens to be.

      Example: Large Hadron Collider…we all need to be taught how safe and amazing it is. I happen to largely agree with that sentiment…but thats not the point…the point is that the media focused on calming fears and accentuating research gains. North Korea build a missile that, on the occasions that it functions right, might potentially reach deeper into China or across the Sea of Japan…and all context is lost and the screams of hysteria about their powerful new weapons (outstripped by those of all Western and Eastern powers alike and generally laughed at in educated circles) will deafen us for months.

      The value of scientific breakthrough is one thing…the media worth is another…and I am damned sick of having the value of information decided for me and the angle from which its pitched chosen based on how people want me to be manipulated.

      Our entire emphasis is on immediate cash rewards…maybe if we actually had our heads in the clouds a little, we’d develop something that had more robust impact on us than the ability to tan without actual sunlight being involved.

  • Psychognosis

    there is never money in the cure, so it won’t be used even if it is found.

  • Psychognosis

    there is never money in the cure, so it won’t be used even if it is found.

  • Haystack

    Scientists, drug execs, and their loved ones die from those same diseases.

  • Haystack

    Scientists, drug execs, and their loved ones die from those same diseases.

  • Hadrian999

    I don’t think that’s what he means,
    we are always hearing this news of some coming breakthrough or miracle cure,
    they never get here, so why keep listening…..the year 2000 was 10 damn years ago and i still don’t have my rocketcar that gets 200 miles to the gallon like we were getting told in the past, why don’t we believe
    good news from scientists……they don’t deliver on anything except the superficial.

  • Hadrian999

    I don’t think that’s what he means,
    we are always hearing this news of some coming breakthrough or miracle cure,
    they never get here, so why keep listening…..the year 2000 was 10 damn years ago and i still don’t have my rocketcar that gets 200 miles to the gallon like we were getting told in the past, why don’t we believe
    good news from scientists……they don’t deliver on anything except the superficial.

  • Haystack

    I probably should have directed that at Psychognosis instead.

    I wouldn’t say “superficial” as much as “incremental.”–especially when it comes to something like cancer, which is a complex assortment of different diseases, and not likely to be solved by a single magic bullet.

    I hear you on the rocket car, though. We did well on computers, though. Remember when you were a kid, and people on TV would ask their computers questions; they’d bleep and chirp and print out an answer? That’s kind of what Google is.

  • Haystack

    I probably should have directed that at Psychognosis instead.

    I wouldn’t say “superficial” as much as “incremental.”–especially when it comes to something like cancer, which is a complex assortment of different diseases, and not likely to be solved by a single magic bullet.

    I hear you on the rocket car, though. We did well on computers, though. Remember when you were a kid, and people on TV would ask their computers questions; they’d bleep and chirp and print out an answer? That’s kind of what Google is.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Amen…most people can’t spot a logical fallacy…or a numeric impossibility (percentages adding up past 100 +/- margin of error) or even weigh the probability of something by employing Occam’s Razor.

    Our science and logic skills are generally so weak that any hyped bunk comes down the line and its believed by those who want to believe it…and ignored or disbelieved entirely by the rest. One of the reasons I like Disinfo so much is that the users cull and post a wide cross section of unusual science articles (along with politics and pop culture etc). Basically, its a place where I can find those tiny jewels once in awhile that make me perk up with interest instead of shake my head in horror or snort with derision and disdain.

    We distrust media…and rightly so…because it isn’t about informing people accurately…its about serving an entertainment business agenda. The science we get is dumbed down, made more thrilling or less frightening, terrifying or neat…all depending on what the motive of the article/feature happens to be.

    Example: Large Hadron Collider…we all need to be taught how safe and amazing it is. I happen to largely agree with that sentiment…but thats not the point…the point is that the media focused on calming fears and accentuating research gains. North Korea build a missile that, on the occasions that it functions right, might potentially reach deeper into China or across the Sea of Japan…and all context is lost and the screams of hysteria about their powerful new weapons (outstripped by those of all Western and Eastern powers alike and generally laughed at in educated circles) will deafen us for months.

    The value of scientific breakthrough is one thing…the media worth is another…and I am damned sick of having the value of information decided for me and the angle from which its pitched chosen based on how people want me to be manipulated.

    Our entire emphasis is on immediate cash rewards…maybe if we actually had our heads in the clouds a little, we’d develop something that had more robust impact on us than the ability to tan without actual sunlight being involved.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Amen…most people can’t spot a logical fallacy…or a numeric impossibility (percentages adding up past 100 +/- margin of error) or even weigh the probability of something by employing Occam’s Razor.

    Our science and logic skills are generally so weak that any hyped bunk comes down the line and its believed by those who want to believe it…and ignored or disbelieved entirely by the rest. One of the reasons I like Disinfo so much is that the users cull and post a wide cross section of unusual science articles (along with politics and pop culture etc). Basically, its a place where I can find those tiny jewels once in awhile that make me perk up with interest instead of shake my head in horror or snort with derision and disdain.

    We distrust media…and rightly so…because it isn’t about informing people accurately…its about serving an entertainment business agenda. The science we get is dumbed down, made more thrilling or less frightening, terrifying or neat…all depending on what the motive of the article/feature happens to be.

    Example: Large Hadron Collider…we all need to be taught how safe and amazing it is. I happen to largely agree with that sentiment…but thats not the point…the point is that the media focused on calming fears and accentuating research gains. North Korea build a missile that, on the occasions that it functions right, might potentially reach deeper into China or across the Sea of Japan…and all context is lost and the screams of hysteria about their powerful new weapons (outstripped by those of all Western and Eastern powers alike and generally laughed at in educated circles) will deafen us for months.

    The value of scientific breakthrough is one thing…the media worth is another…and I am damned sick of having the value of information decided for me and the angle from which its pitched chosen based on how people want me to be manipulated.

    Our entire emphasis is on immediate cash rewards…maybe if we actually had our heads in the clouds a little, we’d develop something that had more robust impact on us than the ability to tan without actual sunlight being involved.