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« MAPKIA! "answer" episode 1: The interaction effect of religion & science comprehension on perceptions of climate change risk | Main | Don't select on the dependent variable in studying the science communication problem »

MAPKIA! episode 1: religiosity, science comprehension & climate change

Example MAPKIA winner's prize (actual prize may differ)Okay, to leverage the unbelievable popularity of  "WSMD? JA!,"  the popular -entertainment division of CCP is introducing a new game feature for the blog: "Make a prediction, know it all!," or "MAPKIA!"!

Here's how the game works:

I, the host, will identify an empirical question -- or perhaps a set of related questions -- that can be answered with CCP data.  Then, you, the players, will make predictions and explain the basis for them.  The answer will then be posted the next day.  The first contestant who makes the right prediction will win a really cool CCP prize (possibly a synbio ipad, if they are in stock, but maybe a "Bumblebee, first drone!" or some other cool thing), so long as the prediction rests on a cogent theoretical foundation.  (Cogency will be judged, of course, by a panel of experts.)  

Ready?  Okay, here's the question:

What influence do religiosity and science comprehension have on (or relationship do they have with) climate change risk perceptions? 

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Reader Comments (10)


November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

how are you defining religiosity?

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Also...are there two questions there - or should we assume from the wording of your question that religiosity amd science comprehension have the same influence?

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

so far no one is winning.

@Paul: Zilch could be a *great* answer. But why is this your hypothesis? Why might someone form a different one? i.e., where's the interesting part-- the cogent theory?

@Joshua: For 1st question, One answer is that of course I'm defining it the way I have in the 731 previous posts in which I've reported data in which religiosity is a predictor (e.g., here ).. Another answer is -- as a latent disposition that reflects the centrality of one or another dimension of religious experience to one's identity. For 2d question, I don't know; make whatever assumptions are necessary to make an interesting hypothesis

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

As for religiosity - I'd have to say "it depends."


PRINCETON, NJ -- Very religious white Americans are more than twice as likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, while nonreligious whites are significantly more likely to identify with the Democratic Party. This relationship between religion and partisanship is also evident to a lesser degree among Asians and Hispanics, but does not occur among blacks, who are strongly likely to identify themselves as Democrats regardless of how religious they are.


So, given that religiosity seems to be associated among whites in the US with ID as a Republican, and given that being a Republican is associated with views on climate change, I'd say that while there is probably not evidence of a direct "influence," there is, nonetheless, a "relationship" between religiosity and views on climate change for whites in the US. (Your question is a bit confusing for me because it seems to use the two terms, "influence" and "relationship" interchangeably, and I don't think of the two terms as interchangeable).

But even there, the association might be mediated (or moderated) by other factors. For example, I'd guess that religiosity is less strongly associated with views on climate change in NYC than in Oklahoma. So in still another sense I think that the question is a bit misleading. For some,religiosity and views on climate change are both influenced by another factor - group identification. Looking for some direct, presumably causal, relationship between religiosity and views on climate change is a bit of a red herring?

As for science "comprehension," I don't think I can offer any conjecture unless you define what you mean by that. Do you mean how well someone does on one of those "science literacy" tests? If so, haven't you already posted data on that question?

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


By "influence"/"relationship," I mean to be vague. *You tell me* -- and the 14 billion other readers of the blog -- what sort of connection their might be between the 3 things & why you expect to see that. INcluded in that are whatever conjectures *you* have on the causal relationships, including spurious, mediated & moderated ones.

It is *impossible* to observe any causal relationship ever.

It is *impossible* to observe directly any interesting mechanism or process.

But it *is* possible to observe *all kinds* of shit that are either consistent or inconsistent with causation & w/ interesting mechanisms or processes.

Under these circumstances, how much you get to know depends entirely on the fertility of your imagination & the reliability of your powers of observation & reason

November 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

I think that when trying to observe for what is or isn't consistent with causation, it is important to include a discussion of possible causal mechanisms.

I see no plausible mechanism that would drive an association between religiosity in a general sense, or scientific comprehension (with the caveat that I'm still not sure what that means) and views on climate change.

I do see a plausible mechanism that would drive a causal connection between group identification and views on climate change. And I can certainly see how religiosity or scientific literacy might mediate the causal relationship between group identification and views on climate change.

Among some people, I could see a relationship existing between religiosity and views on climate change. For example, we certainly know that there are some people, of a particular group identification, who dismiss the possibility of climate change and who argue against that possibility because they believe that only god could affect the natural working of a global (climate) system. Others with "a latent disposition that reflects the centrality of one or another dimension of religious experience to [their] identity," see the connection between their religiosity and their views on climate change in a very different manner.

So the causal relationship is between group identification and views on climate change, with religiosity as a moderator, for some people. But with others, I'd guess there is likely no moderator effect of religiosity on the relationship between group identity and views on climate change.

As for scientific comprehension... If that is measured in a way that also reflects exposure to mainstream scientific knowledge, then there is likely to be some relationship, for some people and not others. For example, belief that ACO2 is causing the climate to change is likely extremely low among remote communities living in the Amazon rain forest. But I would guess that those members of that group who have a science education are more likely to see ACO2 as affecting our climate. As such, could we show that their beliefs about climate change are associated with "science comprehension?"

What about here in the US? Well, what mechanism would explain a causality between science comprehension and views on climate change? I can't think of any, at least certainly when compared to the much stronger influence of group identification. And you often write about how "scientific literacy" doesn't track with views on climate change, so why would "scientific comprehension" be different? Although, for some people in the US also, I can see where scientific comprehension would moderate the relationship between group identification and views on climate change.

I'm not trying to be obstinate - although I guess it might see that way - and there is no doubt that my ability to answer your question is hampered by significant limitations on the fertility of my imagination & the reliability of my powers of observation & reason. And I really, really want one of those prizes, but when I try to answer your question I just keep coming back to the perspective that it is too vague of a question for me to figure out an answer.

So as sad as it will leave me, I guess I'll just have to watch as someone with a more fertile imagination and more reliable powers of observation and reason walks off with the booty.

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

If I could start with the second. Scientific comprehension will correspond to the intensity and confidence of one's opinion. The greater the comprehension, the greater the confidence that the risk is high or the risk is low.

Religiosity is a useful predictor of political affiliation which reliably predicts climate risk perception (right wing low risk, left wing high risk). However, Black Americans tend to have very high risk aversion and high religiosity in general and I don't think religiosity is a predictor of political affiliation in the same way it is with the general population.

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

@Joshua-- don't worry about being obstinate. I'm trying to leave whether relationships are "causal" or "spurious," "direct" or "mediated" etc. up to you.

If I were doing this again, I'd say: Imagine that you have data on a person's religiosity & science comprehension. Would having those affect your prediction of his or her climate change risk perception? If so, how? & why?

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

I think you are right to rephrase your question. Both science and religion end up with a circularity at their respective centers. Science relies upon the scientific method while religion ends up with a created deity.

The crucial difference is that science relies upon observations that can be replicated. Religion relies on faith, which cannot be replicated because the experience of faith is individual. Doctrine may exist; but it cannot be tested and replicated except through an intellectual process and not through observation.

Religion practices moral norms intended to increase the chances of salvation. Political conservatives are distinguished from political liberals in terms of how they use the powers of the state. Conservatives today seek to use the powers of the state to insure common moral norms while liberals use the powers of the state to insure the well-being of the state's subjects.

Evangelical Christianity, when viewing global warming, brings to the discussion the concept of the Apocalypse as well as the insignificance of Man. In this respect, their religiosity drives their world view. That is why, at best, they approach the discussion in terms of "climate change" rather than "global warming."

"Climate change" can be the result of many causes, such as an impending Apocalypse where "global warming" is the conclusion science draws when it concludes from observation that what is occurring is manmade.

March 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

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