Why don't conservatives trust science?
Polarization in attitudes towards science is really a function of a dramatic change on the left.
There's a graph that's been making the rounds which demonstrates a rather remarkable polarization in the attitudes of Americans towards establishment science.
I've no real idea what the left is saying about it, if anything. I imagine it might be that the right has become something like this:
But if you look closely at the survey in question, the attitudes of right-leaning Americans haven't really changed all that much over the last five decades. There's an obvious downward trend in the trust given to the scientific community, but it's rather mild: from around 45% of conservatives having a great deal of confidence in the scientific community in the 70s to just over 30% in the 20s. There's clearly quite a bit of stochastic noise superimposed on that signal. Based on my eyeballed linear fit, the current nadir is probably more consistent with around 37% of the conservative population retaining a great deal of confidence, making the long-term drop less than 10%.
The real divergence isn't some huge change in the attitudes of Republican voters. It's on the other side, who hovered around 40% or so throughout most of the survey period before, well, this happened:
'Member when leftists were opposed to Monsanto and it's GMO terminator seeds? When they had no trust at all for Big Pharma and its poisonous pharmacopoeia, nor any trust for the captured regulatory agencies that rubber-stamped whatever patented snake oil Big Pharma had lined up for their next get rich quick scheme? When it was liberal mommy bloggers agitating about how their kids' autism had been acquired at the pointy tip of an MMR needle?
Pepperidge Farms remembers.
What a difference a few years makes.
Polemics in the regime media aside, it's not that rightists have become suddenly, dramatically anti-science. Skepticism of the scientific community has certainly increased, but that's because large parts of it have become transparently ideologically subverted. On top of the climatological doom-saying of the last couple decades that never seems to materialize, we've got biologists insisting that men can give birth, we've got physicists insisting that the hard sciences need to be decolonized in order to eliminate implicit white supremacy, and we've got mathematicians arguing that two and two can be five.
To say nothing of the obvious corruption of the biomedical sciences, which has been with us for a long time: editors of top medical journals have been remarking for many, many years that the peer review process in that field is completely broken, because everyone who knows what they're talking about is also up to their eyeballs in financial conflicts of interest. Hell, when I was in grad school I attended a talk by a visiting philosopher of science who provided a quantitative demonstration based on an extensive analysis of patent data that essentially all truly novel medical treatments originated in not-for-profit university labs, with the contributions of Big Pharma being limited to the molecular equivalent of changing the type of screws used to build a widget so they could file a new patent (and cease manufacturing the original once it was no longer so profitable). The take-away was that the outrageous prices charged by Big Pharma for their wares, which they justified on the basis that research is expensive, man, was just so much marketing chaff (as are the clinical studies they publish). That talk was received entirely without controversy. Just a few years ago.
Good luck with that today.
In any case, the truth of things is something more like this:
Liberals have become converts to the religion of SCIENCE!™, which argues that it is the one true religion because, unlike all the other religions that demand followers accept things on faith, science tests all truth by holding all propositions up to continuous criticism, such that no proposition is ever fully accepted as true, and therefore, because this is the best way to determine the truth, you have to accept whatever the SCIENCE!™ says on faith. Or something.
The sharp spike in liberal trust in the scientific establishment is not a sign that science has suddenly gotten reliable. It's an indication of ideological fervour amongst people that understand full well that they've appropriated an institution and can now use it as a shillelegh with which to belabour the craniums of their foes.
Meanwhile those of us who understand what science is - a continuously evolving body of conditionally held knowledge, together with a set of techniques developed to gather and interrogate knowledge, with both knowledge and techniques as eternally valid targets of critique - simply don't get taken in. We're rolling our eyes at the SCIENCE!™ cultists as we get on with actually doing science, we're running rings around them when it comes to dissecting their nonsense, and in the process we're draining the prestige out of their captured institutions.
The slight drop in right-wing trust for the scientific establishment is exactly what you'd expect from a population possessed of a robust skepticism, which has been calibrated by the awareness that the institutions are in the control of their enemies in the Culture Gotterdammerung. Trust in institutional science should never be higher than about 50% or so, because frankly, anything and everything they say could be wrong. All honest scientists will admit this: don't just trust us, see for yourself.
The slight drop in trust amongst conservatives is a healthy, even measured reaction to the circumstance of the institution falling under the sway of the zampolit.
It's the meteoric ascent of uncritical, automatic belief on the left that's the terrifying anomaly.