Dr. Fauci said anti-science bias in America is ‘inconceivable’ and ‘not understandable’. Can anti-science in America be explained by Capitalist interests?
Source: Hans R
Fauci’s observation does not entirely capture the complex reality of (mis)trust in science and scientists in the USA. Broadly speaking, most Americans do not distrust science, or scientists. However, there are noteworthy differences in attitudes toward practitioners versus researchers, toward different topics (e.g. climate change), toward the role of scientists in policy making, and according to political affiliation.
Also take a gander at the results of recent Pew Research Center surveys:
• Trust and Mistrust in Americans’ Views of Scientific Experts: More Americans have confidence in scientists, but there are political divides over the role of scientific experts in policy issues (August 2019)
• Democrats and Republicans differ over role and value of scientists in policy debates (August 2019)
• Key findings about Americans’ confidence in science and their views on scientists’ role in society (February 2020)
On the topic of the coronavirus pandemic, see this recent report by the Pew Research Center: “Trust in Medical Scientists Has Grown in U.S., but Mainly Among Democrats: About six-in-ten believe social distancing measures are helping a lot to slow the spread of coronavirus in the nation”.
In terms of avoiding oversimplification and taking a more critical perspective on the issue, see for example Griffin’s 2015 essay “Why do science issues seem to divide us along party lines?” which discusses the matter of values and culture;
Having a more complete understanding of when and why liberals and conservatives trust science helps avoid oversimplifications. It’s an important stopgap using oversimplified assumptions to denigrate those who disagree with us politically.
None of this is to suggest that the anti-science viewpoints exhibited by Republican politicians on issues such as climate change should be ignored. Nor is it an argument that since “both sides” can fall for anti-science rhetoric, it can be waved away.
Rather, these findings indicate that, in theory, it’s possible liberals and conservatives could work together to encourage politicians to base policy recommendations on sound science, at least on some issues.
This topic is as old as america. It’s not just moneyed interest, it’s been around the whole time. Check out Richard Hofstadter ‘s Anti Intellectualism in American Life. Book is 60 years old. Wiki for the book gives a very quick overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism_in_American_Life Also I’d say Democracy in America, if you want go back to some really early views, touches on this throughout book. It’s not exactly ‘anti science’, that tocqueville dealt with, but you can elaborate. Anti science is an expression of previous commitments. Both of these books grapple with that.
This is not my thing, but I have heard a bit about it.
“Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway is a popular book arguing that this is in large part true. It compares climate denialism with earlier scientific “controversies” that have largely blossomed out of corporate opposition, like the harmfulness of smoking.
Philip Mirowski has talked about this more generally (I cannot for the life of me remember where) with the concept of “agnotology” from Robert N. Proctor, who has a book, “Cancer Wars,” that involves talking about corporate lobbying efforts to downplay harmful effects of various things.
But there are people arguing that it’s more than this than just the corporate opposition to business-hurting science, at least when it comes to climate change, like Jean-Daniel Collomb in the paper “The Ideology of Climate Change Denial in the United States.” From the abstract, the other two claimed places that climate denialism stems from are “the strong ideological commitment of small-government conservatives and libertarians to laissez-faire and their strong opposition to regulation” and “the defence of the American way of life, defined by high consumption and ever-expanding material prosperity.”
These definitely don’t talk about anti-science sentiments in general, but it’s a good starting point to look at some of the biggest targets of anti-science sentiments like these.
Well, it’s not either or. If corporations have exacerbated anti science bias they were tapping into a general distrust of experts and institutions that already exists.
I think a lot of that sort of distrust springs up naturally in more rural areas. The urban areas don’t really respect or understand them, and they don’t really respect or understand the values coming out of urban areas.
And a lot of values that make sense when you live in a city surrounded by millions of others don’t make sense in the country. Why are they talking about trans rights? You don’t know any trans people. Why do they want to take away guns? The nearest police station is 30 minutes from your house, how would you defend yourself without one? Climate change? Just sounds like an excuse for the government to fuck with what you’re doing on your farm. You’re fine without the government, thank you.
Etc. etc. It’s important to realize the cities and the countries live in different worlds.
Well, the American Dream and American way of life are, I would say, not the same thing. I would also wager that the American Dream is heavily based on capitalist ideology itself, so that would be a reversal of causes, although I could easily see the two reinforcing each other.
In any case, the paper says that the defense of the American way of life (defined by materialist/capitalist tendencies) is just one reason for anti-science attitudes, among others which do separately include anti-science business propaganda.