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« Cognitive Illiberalism Lecture at Penn State Dickinson School of Law (slides) | Main | Some data on education, religiosity, ideology, and science comprehension »

Lecture on Science of Science Communication at Penn State (lecture slides)

Gave talk today at Penn State. Slides here.

Lecture was sponsored by Penn State Institutes on Energy and the Environment, which is the central component of a larger set of programs in the University that that reflect Penn State's commitment to contributing to its share to the good of integrating the practice of science and science-informed policymaking with the science of science communication.

Seems like people took a lot of interest in the finding that members of the Tea Party are not meaningfully different from the population as a whole in science comprension.  I'll say more about this topic -- and about the nature of the responses -- tomorrow.

But for now, here is some evidence showing that individuals whose outlooks are characterized by the cultural cognition worldviews all display practically equivalent levels of science comprehension too (there are differences but like those between Liberals and Conservatives & between Tea Party members and nonmembers, they are trivial from a practical standpoint).

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Reader Comments (5)

Most who comment on the Tea Party have no idea who they are and who they represent. My view of the Tea Party is that they are a direct decent of the older groups who supported Andy Jackson, known as Jacksonians. Personally, I think I fall closer to being a Jefersonian, but I stand with Jacksonians in holding Wilsonians and hamiltonians in poor regard.

I think the paper by Walter Mead is a must read for anyone who wants to get a feel for what I believe better represents the Tea Party.

From The National Interest No. 58, Winter 1999/2000.

The National Interest Archives
Fall 1985 to Present

The Jacksonian Tradition
by Walter Russell Mead

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

Dr. Kahan,

You're Oct. 15th article seems to have gone viral along with the notion amongst Tea Party adherents that this is proof that they comprise the most scientifically literate political demographic group. My Tea Party sister is already citing your 'scientific proof'!

This strikes me as just one more 'Science Communication Problem' with one certain consequence. My sister will be citing this 'proof' for years to come.

I eagerly await your next article. Thanks for the amusement!



October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWilson


Yes, I noticed the commotion.

And the irony... Glad to learn someone else did. I'm sure the most "science comprehending" t-party members were the ones most likely, too, to form the comically self-serving misunderstanding that you are referring to. That stands to reason b/c, after all, members of the tea-party are apparently just like everyone else. (The lecture referred to in the main post featured studies showing that biased assessments of empirical evidence increase in proportion to numeracy & science literacy.)

There are a lot of people who identify as tea-party. If we assume whatever sort of reflective sensibilitiy it is that makes members of different cultural groups recognize this disturbing tendency among their own number occurs with the same frequency among t-party members as everyone else -- why not assume that? they are normal in science comprehension, after all -- then likely there are 2 or 3 such individuals in the U.S. Maybe they will point out the problem to those in their group & urge them to reflect on it.

In doing so, she can expect what she says to be warped by the same dynamics that she is trying to help her friends overcome. But if she believes that the antidote to the denigration of reason associated with a polluted science communication environment is to be found in appealing to the reason that members of culturally diverse groups all share, she'll shrug her shoulders & keep trying.


October 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

"If we assume whatever sort of reflective sensibilitiy it is that makes members of different cultural groups recognize this disturbing tendency among their own number occurs with the same frequency among t-party members as everyone else -- why not assume that? they are normal in science comprehension, after all -- then likely there are 2 or 3 such individuals in the U.S."

More than that, surely? Unless you mean to say there are only ten to fifteen liberals in the US who would realise the same? What are the odds that so many of them should have congregated here? :-)

I do sympathise! You evidently hadn't realised how unusual and newsworthy it would be for people to see an actual liberal university professor to say something non-insulting about Tea Party members! They're just giddy with the novelty! I hear you got mentioned on the national media!

Seriously, the main misunderstanding I saw was that a lot of them looked at your bit about expecting a small negative correlation and being surprised as more of a 'Road to Damascus' moment than it really was. They assumed that you was your more typically partisan 'lefty academic', for who the deep intellectual inferiority of right-wingers is an article of faith. They didn't realise that you already knew right-wingers were human beings too. I thought they were surprisingly gentle with you about that - if I'd been told you'd been linked on Rush, saying how you still held "very negative" assessments of their politics and morals, I'd have expected quite a bit more hostility. (Same with Joshua in comments linking them to Stormfront...) They managed to surprise me, too. :-)

Anyway, thanks for the amusement, and I hope you haven't lost all your liberal friends as a result.

October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV


Maybe I am sensing more hostility in the TP reaction than you? But at this point, it is hard for all of us not to see what we expect to see.

Be assured, I will lose no Liberal friends. Any "liberal" who resents the post is, by definition, neither a "Liberal" nor a "friend" of mine.

October 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

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