As if misinformation and careless reporting weren’t enough, science must contend with bipartisan science bias. Yes, it exists on both sides of the aisle. The anti-science criticism is appropriate for both liberals and conservatives, according to a study by Ohio State University.
The Scope of Bipartisan Science Bias
Researchers found that both groups engage in anti-science bias if something treads on their political beliefs. The subject varies, but the anti-science bias exists just the same. Liberals reject nuclear energy despite the economic benefits and the support of scientists. Though the study didn’t address it, the same bias applies to GMO, which are safe according to the AMA, AASA, WHO, and the Royal Academy, to name a few.
On the conservative side, evolution and climate change struck similar discords. Of course, the media stokes the fire, creating its own kind of bias. For example, you’d think ant-vaxxers were more prevalent in society, but thankfully are not. And not everyone engages in vigilantism a lá Greenpeace. The media just likes to push our buttons.
The Harm of Motivated Reasoning
This attachment of political views and science is a dangerous component of bipartisan science bias. Emotions become the driving force in the decision-making process. We are losing our ability to view science rationally and unbiased. Everyone loves a good story, but I blame popular media for fanning the flames.
Psychologists call this kind of thinking motivated reasoning. With emotions in play, individuals can justify just about anything. They filter science with a sieve of misinformation, letting the good information flow away. It’s a horrible riff on throwing the baby away with the bathwater.
Because it would be one thing if we were talking about football strategies, but we’re also talking about big issues with grave consequences like fracking, climate change, and food security. (Yes, GMOs are an essential part of the latter.) While we need to consider the stakeholders’ positions, we also have to act with the best knowledge, namely, science—even if we don’t like what it tells us.
The popular media has its selfish motivations for acting as it does. People, however, often forget one of the most basic tenets underlying all science. Until next time.