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A poll finds an erosion of Canadians’ faith in science

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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A poll indicates that Canadians’ faith in science may be eroding.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos polling firm on behalf of the multinational 3M company, showed that nearly half of those questioned consider scientists to be elitist and that a large number of respondents ignore scientific findings that are inconsistent with their personal convictions.

“Although skeptics of science make up a minority of Canadians, their numbers are growing,” said Richard Chartrand of 3M Canada. This trend is worrying because it shows that mistrust is on the rise. ”

This Canadian data is from a global survey conducted between July and September 2018 among more than 14,000 people. This is the second year that 3M has conducted this survey.

There are definitely some misconceptions [qui circulent à propos du fonctionnement de la science]. But you can’t blame people. There is a thicket of misinformation.

At a time when climate change and the loss of wildlife are putting science at the top of the public agenda, the survey says 32% of respondents question it. The number of skeptics reached 25% the previous year.

“He went from one in four to one in three,” Chartrand said. “It’s hard for us to understand why.”

Study results were contradictory. Despite growing suspicion, nine out of 10 respondents said they still trust the search results.

Nearly half of them – 44% – said they considered scholars “elitist”. About a third felt that scholars were affected by the government’s agenda. Another third believe that science is influenced by corporate interests.

And 30% said they only believe in science that matches their personal beliefs.

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Deep misunderstanding

Other surveys echo 3M-Ipsos’ opinion.

A 2017 survey by Léger for the Ontario Science Center found that 29% of respondents believed that because scientific theories can be questioned, they cannot be trusted. Another question found that 43% of respondents believe science is a matter of opinion.

“It’s frustrating, but not very surprising,” said John Smol, an environmental expert at Queen’s University who has written on the topic. There is a real gap between what scientists do and general perception. ”

Mr. Smol worries Canadians don’t understand how science works – it’s the data that matters, not beliefs.

“There are definitely some misconceptions,” he said. “You can’t blame them. There’s a forest of disinformation.”

For a more understandable science

It’s not the public’s fault, says Stephen Johnston, chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta.

“We have to make an effort to communicate in understandable terms,” ​​he said.

“In science, there was an ethic once upon a time that the fewer people who understand what you have been doing, the better your work will change.”

Mr. Smol agrees.

“We have a real responsibility to make [science] Can reach. We still do a relatively poor job of translating data – which are typically taxpayers – and relaying it to the public. ”

The survey shows that there is a curiosity about science. Almost all respondents believe that scientific findings should be shared in easy-to-understand language and 88% want to know more about science.

“I look at these results and think they are very positive,” said Mr. Johnston. People understand that knowledge is essential. There is an insatiable appetite for science. ”

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Chartrand added that the bridge between the audience and the laboratory should be sealed.

There is a clear message in this poll. ”

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