Do you believe in global warming?
Over the past few months, polls show that fewer Americans say they believe humans are making the planet dangerously warmer, despite a raft of scientific reports that say otherwise.
This puzzles many climate scientists — but not some social scientists, whose research suggests that facts may not be as important as one's beliefs.
Take, for example, a recent debate about climate change on West Virginia public radio.
"It's a hoax," said coal company CEO Don Blankenship, "because clearly anyone that says that they know what the temperature of the Earth is going to be in 2020 or 2030 needs to be put in an asylum because they don't."
On the other side of the debate was environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr.
"Ninety-eight percent of the research climatologists in the world say that global warming is real, that its impacts are going to be catastrophic," he argued. "There are 2 percent who disagree with that. I have a choice of believing the 98 percent or the 2 percent."
To social scientist and lawyer Don Braman, it's not surprising that two people can disagree so strongly over science. Braman is on the faculty at George Washington University and part of The Cultural Cognition Project, a group of scholars who study how cultural values shape public perceptions and policy beliefs.
"People tend to conform their factual beliefs to ones that are consistent with their cultural outlook, their world view," Braman says.
The Cultural Cognition Project has conducted several experiments to back that up.
Article continues: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124008307