Science in America Is Under Attack from Both the Right and the Left
Updated: Sep 28
Scientists are not highly trusted in the US. According to a poll carried out by the Pew Research Center in December 2021, only 29 percent of adult Americans say they have a "great deal" of trust that scientists generally act in the public's best interests.
Trust in science varies dramatically by political partisanship. In that same poll, only 13% of respondents who vote, or lean, Republican, expressed a "great deal" of trust in scientists, compared to 43 percent of those who vote or lean Democrat.
The sources of right-wing suspicion towards science have been explored in depth. According to one study in the Fall 2022 issue of Daedalus, for example, conservatives mistrust science because it is associated with government attempts to regulate the marketplace - think climate change policy. Skepticism towards science, the authors argue, "is mostly collateral damage, a spillover from carefully orchestrated conservative distrust of government."
Others argue that conservative skepticism of science stems from the under-representation of Republicans among the ranks of scientists themselves. Thus, when scientists wind up recommending policies that the government advocates, Republicans believe that "mainstream science is corrupted by ideology and amounts to no more than politics by another name." Republicans have become "alienated from a mainstream scientific community that by and large doesn’t share their political beliefs."
There is deep mistrust of science from the far reaches of the political left, howeve,r including many in mainstream academic positions. Today, the New York Times published a piece chronicling the attempt of a prominent group of scientists to publish an academic article arguing that scientific efforts should try, as much possible, to purge themselves of ideological or partisan belief.
Multiple mainstream journals rejected the piece, which could only appear in a minor publication called The Journal of Controversial Ideas.
You'd have to read the New York Times piece, and then the article itself, to learn the ins and outs of the debate. Basically, however, the authors said that scientific truth was separate from the sociological (race, class, gender) identity of the scientists.
That argument, one set of reviewers said, was "hurtful."
This country's culture wars leave no stone unturned.