Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

Andrew Bolt: Smarter folk are more likely to be (climate change) sceptics

In Responses to the media, Science on October 6, 2011 at 11:40 PM

This article was originally posted at

It’s hard to ignore the heated (pardon the pun) debate regarding climate change. Whether it’s the impact humans are having on our climate (if any), whether our climate is actually changing at all, or whether the consequences (again, if any) are positive or negative overall, certain sections of the Australian media are adamant there is very, very good reason to doubt the actual experts.

While there do appear to be very clear ideological and political disparities between those of us that accept the evidence that humans are indeed causing our climate to change for the worse and at greater speed than ever before in recorded history, and those that call themselves climate sceptics, today I learned of one more important difference.

Smarter folk are more likely to be sceptics.

Shocking I know, but that was just the title of the ‘research‘ that then went on to say that

The less you know about science, the more likely you are to believe man is warming the planet dangerously.

Now I’m no scientist, and it’s hard to gauge how much I ‘know about science’ compared to the next person, but in this case the next person is Andrew Bolt, prolific media contributor with regular columns in five Australian newspapers, a heavily trafficked blog as well as duties as a talk-back radio pundit, television personality and star of the Bolt Report and, like myself, a non-scientist. Still if the above claim is true, then I guess this means that Andrew Bolt is smarter and more scientifically literate than almost every single scientist currently walking the earth!

Yet we don’t have to be scientists to read other peoples research, and Andrew has provided an abstract to back up the claim he obviously made on purely scientific grounds.

 The conventional explanation for controversy over climate change emphasizes impediments to public understanding: Limited popular knowledge of science, the inability of ordinary citizens to assess technical information, and the resulting widespread use of unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. A large survey of U.S. adults (N = 1540) found little support for this account. On the whole, the most scientifically literate and numerate subjects were slightly less likely, not more, to see climate change as a serious threat than the least scientifically literate and numerate ones.

Now if you’re thinking that doesn’t look like an entire abstract you’re right! Andrew must of been in a rush and forgot to paste the remainder which reads:

 More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization: Respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and those predisposed by their values to credit such evidence more concerned, as science literacy and numeracy increased. We suggest that this evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: The individual level, which is characterized by citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk perceptions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this, “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.

 To me this doesn’t at all indicate that “smarter folk are more likely to be sceptics”, but then I also believe man is warming the planet dangerously so what would I know, I’m not only no scientist, but more importantly I’m no Andrew Bolt.


Jayson D Cooke


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