Do liberals, like conservatives, reject scientific facts?


I hate to begin a paper with, “Everybody knows”; it sort of buries your lead. Nevertheless: “Everybody knows” that conservatives are generally biased against the theory of evolution and all that it entails, and, especially, the scientific fact of anthropogenic climate change. Anyone who refuses to believe in descent with modification, the vast age of the earth, and climate change is definitively wrong. Indeed, the right wing is so wrong on climate change that the American Conservative magazine ran an article decrying the facts that climate change is real and that the obvious solutions are contrary to the conservative agenda. Indeed, the Pew Research Center reports that only about one-quarter of Republicans accept the reality of climate change, irrespective of education. Democrats’ acceptance of climate change, by contrast, increases with education.

Studies by Peter Ditto and by Anthony Washburn and Linda Skitka suggest that liberals and conservatives are about equally unwilling to listen to evidence that contradicts their beliefs and engage equally in motivated reasoning.

Do liberals, then, have similar biases, where you might be tempted to say that they were flatly wrong? That is harder to say. The science journalist Chris Mooney says no. The 2015 Pew Report, Americans, Politics, and Science Issues, shows declining support for building nuclear power plants with increasing identification as a liberal – even though, according to the Times, here, nuclear power is the only currently available technology that can generate electricity continuously at a large enough scale to combat climate change. Indeed, again according to the Pew Report, Republicans are closer to the position of a survey of AAAS members, 65 % of whom favor building nuclear power plants. The same is true of fracking; the more liberal, the more likely to oppose fracking. On the other hand, the Pew Report finds no significant differences of opinion between liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans regarding the safety of genetically modified foods.

Nuclear power plants and fracking have their drawbacks, fracking probably more so when it is deployed near homes and schools. We cannot say that someone who opposes nuclear power plants is definitively wrong in the way that someone who denies anthropogenic global warming is definitively wrong. Another area, which I admit is somewhat fraught, is the question of whether intelligence is heritable (or, more precisely, whether differences of intelligence may be inherited).

Salt stalactite


Photograph by Alan Rice.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Salt stalactite
Salt stalactite hanging from a piece of equipment at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA. The stalactite is about 10 cm long.



Today being Valentine’s Day and all that, I thought I would link to an article, Chocolate is a Valentine’s best friend, by Carol O’Meara of the Colorado State University Extension Service. The article was printed in today’s Boulder Daily Camera.

As an official and, if I may say so, unrepentant chocoholic, I was somewhat surprised by Ms. O’Meara’s statement that the average per-capita consumption of chocolate in the United States is 5.5 kg/y. If I ate one of these

And it is good for you too!

every day for 1 y, that would come to somewhat over 3 kg. I do not eat one every day (though I get some chocolate from other sources, such as Matt’s Orgasmic Brownies), and I cannot imagine eating perhaps twice as much as I do now. Still, I do not know who Sandra J. Dykes was, but I have to agree with her: Love, Shmove. I’d rather have chocolate.

Darwin Day


NCSE reminds us (by way of Facebook) that today is Darwin Day.