Sunday, February 19, 2012

Teaching Climate Change II - What effect?

So I've yet to return to this topic after my first opening post, but eventually I'll get back there.  This evening, I came across an article on the USA today website that basically says that politicians drive what Americans think about climate change.  The article is based on a sociological study that looked at various public opinion polls over the last decade on climate science, and then tried to test to see what kinds of things might have caused any shifts in the polls.  The disturbing conclusion of the study is that science journals, science bloggers, science educators, or anything else science related, has little impact on what the U.S. public thinks about climate science.  Instead, the things that drives U.S. public opinion about climate science are the words of politicians.

Sorry I made you shudder there.

It really has me wondering if I should even bother continuing this series of blog postings.  Seriously.  Not that I ever expected to have any sort of national sway with what I write here, but it does seem to minimize the importance of science education on all sorts of levels.  Yikes.  I'll of course keep pressing on & keep believing that being a science educator is a pretty important and good cause to dedicate one's life work to, because I think its the right thing to do, but I guess it makes one wonder how much effect one's work is really going to accomplish.

I'm not so sure what to think about this study (is it valid? biased? carefully done?), but unfortunately my gut is telling me that the conclusion is probably true.  I think a lot of folks have their political associations, and let those societal associations drive a lot of their thinking.  Maybe I should change "their" to "our" and include myself.... Our culture, our surroundings, the messages we get every day, from all the inputs, all the signals, all the noise, it's all in many ways telling us what's right & wrong, what's good & bad, what should be or should not be, what's normal, what's acceptable, and even what's reasonable.  And I tend to think that we humans are pretty highly influenced by those surroundings.

One has to wonder if the same is also true for other issues - how often do we let our opinions on a subject be essentially determined by political affiliation?  Instead of saying you're a Democrat because you're pro-choice, for example, maybe it's the other way around - maybe you're pro-choice because you're a Democrat.  or vice-versa, maybe you're pro-life because you're a Republican, and not the other way around.  I can't imagine anyone would be likely to agree with that, but my social-psychology friends have blown my mind a few times in the past with things I'd have never thought were true.  That is to say, that maybe we take on the values of the group we self-identify with, without even realizing that's what we're doing.  That's a pretty scary thought.  I do doubt it applies really strongly to people who've learned the art of critical thinking, but if you're an educator you know that a whole lot of folks don't do that whole critical thinking thing terribly well.  I bet this is more important in our society that people might initially assume.  And here I am blabbing on about psychology, as if I know something... sheesh...

Glad to be a moderate independent voter.  That means something here, right?  I can only hope.