Why do many Republicans distrust scientists?

As Todd Akin stirs up a storm over his ‘legitimate rape’ remark we ask why many Republicans’ have issues with science.

…it does seem that many in the party have a problem accepting scientific orthodoxy. All the main contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, excluding Jon Huntsman, rejected the notion that climate change is a result of human activity.

And Charles Darwin is not a popular figure among some sections of the party, with many rejecting evolution and arguing that intelligent design or creationism should be taught in schools.

There has also been wide-scale opposition to stem cell research among Republican legislators with prominent American scientists having to move abroad to continue their research.

“[The Christian conservatives] would rather believe something absurd than face the consequences of their political positions… Akin wants a woman to carry the product of rape to full term and not to have access to abortion…he doesn’t want to believe that he believes in such a hideous thing.”- Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post

…another former Republican presidential candidate, said: “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put America’s economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just nonsense… The fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on our country, is not good economics, and I would suggest to you is not necessarily good science. Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.

“What percentage of Americans actually understand climate science well enough to make informed decisions about how credible it is or not…in this sort of situation I don’t think people are making decisions based on science [but] based on something else.” – Barry Bickmore, a geochemist

So, why do many Republicans distrust scientists?


A researcher at the University of North Carolina who analysed responses between 1974 and 2010 of the annual survey that is carried out in the US found the following:

  • the trust in science remained stable among those who self-identified as moderates and liberals
  • there were changes for those who self-identified themselves as conservatives and frequent church-goers
  • the period of study began with the highest trust in science and ended with the lowest between 1974-2010, when belief in science among conservatives dropped by more than 25 per cent

the changes could not be attributed to falling levels of education – distrust of science rose particularly among the better-educated. 

(Ron’s note:  this surprised the heck out of me But then the article continued, stating that the reason for this suspension of belief in science is due to religioius beliefs held by those on the right.)

Ronald Numbers, a history of science professor noted that Todd Akin’s comments about female reproductive health and “legitimate rape” shows that “Since Richard Nixon’s southern strategy a lot of the Republicans are conservative Christians, and Todd Akin is a member of an ultra-conservative Presbyterian church, not part of the mainstream Presbyterian church…so that’s (Akin’s remarks] not really surprising.”

“[The Christian conservatives] would rather believe something absurd than face the consequences of their political positions….

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