Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sophisticated Science Denial

For those of you who aren't Young Earth Creationists (as about 0.1% of scientists and 46% of American adults are) or Flat Earthers (as essentially no scientists and 10% of American adults are), but still want to ignore consensus physics with lots of independent sources of high precision observational evidence to back it up, this more sophisticated form of science denial, that only rolls back scientific knowledge by about 120 years, may be for you.

As an aside, note that denying that space-time is non-Euclidian, a broad, theory independent observation, is a considerably stronger form of science denial than the mere scientific field of inquiry into whether General Relativity, as formulated by Einstein more than a century ago, is precisely the correct set of equations or is only a very close approximation of reality that is subtly wrong (e.g., because it is classical rather than quantum). The latter doesn't deny scientific evidence. It merely explores the full range of the possible within the constraints of what we know from experiments and scientific observations.

The percentage of the general adult public in the United States who understands that space-time itself is non-Euclidian is probably pretty low. My high, probably overoptimistic, estimate would be that 10-20% of American adults (i.e. about half of four year college graduates plus or minus) understand this fact. I make this estimate even though non-Euclidian geometry is part of the standard high school math curriculum for college bound students, and high school geometry textbooks often mention general relativity as one of the motivations for it. Spherical Earth theory and evolution are taught in K-12 education too, but the absence of scientific worldviews in those subjects is still pretty high. 

In this case, of course, the issue is mostly just lack of knowledge, rather than actual science denial. You can't deny science knowledge you never knew about in the first place. In the same vein, you can't deny the existence of quantum tunneling, or quantum entanglement, or quarks (concepts that are often first formally introduced in intermediate level undergraduate science courses), unless you've learned about these scientific discoveries in the first place and then rejected their validity.

See also, a new study on the percentage of Gen X members who believe in evolution at different ages. The study is: 

Jon D. Miller, et al., "The acceptance of evolution: A developmental view of Generation X in the United States." Public Understanding of Science (2024). DOI: 10.1177/09636625241234815

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