Many of you are already aware of today’s topic, because we found it on the Drudge Report. A limited scan indicates that most science-oriented blogs have ignored it, but this is the sort of thing that intrigues us — although it may upset a few of you. The story appears on the Politico website; their headline is Eureka! Tea partiers know science. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
A finding in a study on the relationship between science literacy and political ideology surprised the Yale professor behind it: Tea party members know more science than non-tea partiers.
They start with the shocking news, right up front. The details are interesting:
Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.
That doesn’t surprise anyone — not even your Curmudgeon. Let’s read on:
However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.
That certainly is surprising — indeed, it would be impossible if the whole tea party movement were comprised of people like the examples we’ve posted about — for example, Kelly Kohls, the creationist nutritionist who runs her local Tea Party organization, and who has been trying to get her school board (of which she was President until recently), to teach creationism. Aside from her, we all know of other Tea Party-backed candidates who have been intellectual shipwrecks and political disasters. Nevertheless, in spite of the all but universal perception that extremist whackos are the Tea Party norm, that stereotype doesn’t hold true. We continue:
Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him. “I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.
That’s entirely understandable, and we applaud Kahan for publishing his findings, notwithstanding his embarrassment. By the way, here’s his page at the Yale Law School: Dan M. Kahan. Impressive résumé. And here’s his blog article. We’ll give you one more excerpt from Politico, and this too says a lot about Professor Kahan’s intellectual integrity:
“But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the tea party,” he continued. “All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the ‘paper’ (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused Internet sites like Huffington Post and POLITICO). I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly, I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.”
The article has attracted over 4,000 comments! One of the earliest — by “TexazEric” — provides some information that may explain the professor’s seemingly anomalous findings:
There are really only 3 major platforms of the Tea Party. 1) Return to the Constitutional enumerated powers for the Federal government with all other issues being relegated to the states and the people. 2) Rein in Federal spending with common sense solutions and fiscal responsibility and 3) Repeal the PPACA so that individual liberty is returned to the people.
What’s PPACA? You may know it as “Obamacare,” but it’s official name is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Is that comment accurate? According to Wikipedia’s article on the Tea Party movement, it’s decentralized, with no “formal structure or hierarchy,” so there can be local variations. We’ve heard about some of those. However, they say:
The Tea Party has generally sought to avoid placing too much emphasis on traditional conservative social issues. National Tea Party organizations, such as the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, have expressed concern that engaging in social issues would be divisive. Instead, they have sought to have activists focus their efforts away from social issues and focus on economic and limited government issues.
It would seem that people attracted to the Tea Party’s principal issues are more science literate than the rest of the population. At least that’s a likely interpretation of Professor Kahan’s findings. Are you surprised, dear reader?
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