Ronald Bailey: Why Do People Believe Scientifically Untrue Things?


Science fights - Dreamstime image
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You hear a lot about the politicization of science, but the real problem is the moralization of science. New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt has made a compelling case that moral differences drive partisan debates over scientific issues. Dan Kahan and others at the Yale Cultural Cognition Project have identified cultural differences that bias how people assimilate information. Together, Haidt and Kahan's research suggests that what you believe about a scientific debate signals to like-minded people that you are on their side and are therefore a good and trustworthy person. Unfortunately, this means that the factual accuracy of beliefs is somewhat incidental to the process of moral signaling. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey tries to separate the is from the ought in several current science policy fights.