Science can be hard to believe, writes Joel Achenbach in National Geographic. Its findings can often go against what common sense seems to be telling you — does it really feel like the Earth is spinning on its axis and traveling around the sun, he asks.
Even if people accept such scientific facts, Achenbach notes that they often subconsciously hold onto their naive beliefs, and they still influence how people interpret the world. For instance, many people rely on personal experiences and those of friends and family, rather than statistics to make decisions.
Additionally, Achenbach writes that people often use scientific knowledge to buttress a worldview they already hold, rather than the other way round. He notes that a Yale University study found that the stronger someone's views on climate change, at either end, the more scientifically literate that person was. He further notes that how people view certain scientific issues like climate changes now also identifies them with certain groups.
And people, he says, are motivated more by emotion and fitting in than by being rational.
"We're all in high school. We've never left high school," Marcia McNutt, the editor of Science, tells him. "People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science."