Advertisement

Climatic Change

, Volume 121, Issue 4, pp 595–608 | Cite as

Conservative Protestantism and skepticism of scientists studying climate change

  • John H. EvansEmail author
  • Justin Feng
Article

Abstract

Politicians who proclaim both their skepticism about global warming and their conservative religious credentials leave the impression that conservative Protestants may be more skeptical about scientists’ claims regarding global warming than others. The history of the relationship between conservative Protestantism and science on issues such as evolution also suggests that there may be increased skepticism. Analyzing the 2006 and 2010 General Social Survey, we find no evidence that conservative Protestantism leads respondents to have less belief in the conclusiveness of climate scientists’ claims. However, a second type of skepticism of climate scientists is an unwillingness to follow scientists’ public policy recommendations. We find that conservative Protestantism does lead to being less likely to want environmental scientists to influence the public policy debate about what to do about climate change. Existing sociological research on the relationship between religion and science suggests that this stance is due to a long-standing social/moral competition between conservative Protestantism and science.

Keywords

Global Warming Public Sphere Religious Tradition General Social Survey Climate Scientist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Naomi Oreskes and Michael Evans for comments on an earlier draft of the paper. The second author was supported by NSF IGERT Grant #0903551.

References

  1. Ahlstrom S (1972) A Religious History of the American People. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  2. Corbett J, Durfee J (2004) Testing public (Un)certainty of science: media representations of global warming. Sci Commun 26(2):129–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Davis P, Kenyon DH (1989) Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins. Haughton Publishing, DallasGoogle Scholar
  4. Discovery Institute (n.d.) The Wedge. Retrieved October 1, 2013 from http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf
  5. Ellison CG, Musick MA (1995) Conservative Protestantism and public opinion toward science. Rev Relig Res 36(3):245–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Evans JH (2010) Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Evans JH (2011) Epistemological and moral conflict between religion and science. J Sci Study Relig 50(4):707–727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Evans JH (2013) The growing social and moral conflict between conservative Protestantism and science. J Sci Study Relig 52(2):368–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Evans JH, Evans MS (2008) Religion and science: beyond the epistemological conflict narrative. Ann Rev Soc 34:87–105Google Scholar
  10. Evans MS, Evans John H (2010) Arguing Against Darwinism: Religion, Science and Public Morality. In: Turner B (ed) The New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion. Blackwell, New York, pp 286–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gauchat G (2012) Politicization of science in the public sphere: a study of public trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010. Am Sociol Rev 77(2):167–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Greeley A, Hout M (2006) The Truth About Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hamilton L (2009) Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects. Clim Chang 104:231–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hamilton L, Keim B (2009) Regional variation in perceptions about climate change. Int J Climatol 29:2348–2352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Harris SJ (2002) Roman Catholicism Since Trent. In: Ferngren GB (ed) Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 247–260Google Scholar
  16. Jacques P, Dunlap R, Freeman M (2008) The organisation of denial: conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism. Environ Polit 173(3):349–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kellstedt P, Zahran S, Vedlitz A (2008) Personal efficacy, the information environment, and attitudes toward global warming and climate change in the United States. Risk Anal 28(1):113–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Konisky D, Milyo J, Richardson L (2008) Environmental policy attitudes: issues, geographical scale, and political trust. Soc Sci Q 89(5):1066–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Krosnick J, Holbrook A, Lowe L, Visser P (2000) The impact of the fall 1997 debate about global warming on public opinion. Public Underst Sci 9:239–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Krosnick J, Holbrook A, Lowe L, Visser P (2006) The origins and consequences of democratic citizens’ policy agendas: a study of popular concern about global warming. Clim Chang 77:7–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leiserowitz A (2006) Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: the role of affect, imagery, and values. Clim Chang 77:45–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Leiserowitz A (2010) Day after tomorrow: study of climate change risk perception. Environ Sci Pol Sustain Dev 46(9):22–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Li Y, Johnson E, Zayal L (2011) Local warming: daily temperature change influences belief in global warming. Psychol Sci 22:454–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCammack B (2007) Hot damned America: evangelicalism and the climate change policy debate. Am Q 59(3):645–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McCright A (2010) The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Popul Environ 32(1):66–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McCright A, Dunlap R (2000) Challenging global warming as a social problem: an analysis of the conservative movement’s counter claims. Soc Probl 47(4):499–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McCright A, Dunlap R (2010) Anti-reflexivity: the American conservative movement’s sucess in undermining climate science and policy. Theory Cult Soc 27:100–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCright A, Dunlap R (2011a) Cool dudes: the denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Glob Environ Chang 21:1163–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McCright A, Dunlap R (2011b) The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American Public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociol Q 52:155–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nisbet M, Mooney C (2007) Framing science. Science 316:56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Noll MA (2002) Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. In: Ferngren GB, Ferngren GB (eds) Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 261–276Google Scholar
  32. Numbers R (1992) The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  33. Numbers RL (2007) Science and Christianity in Pulpit and Pew. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smith C (1998) American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith TW, Marsden PV, Hout M, Kim J (2010) General Social Surveys, 1972–2010. [Machine-Readable Data File]. Principal Investigator, Tom W. Smith; Co-Principal Investigators, Peter V. Marsden and Michael Hout, NORC Ed. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, Producer, 2005; Storrs, CT: The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut, Distributor. 1 Data File (55,087 Logical Records) and 1 Codebook (3,610 pp)Google Scholar
  36. Steensland B, Park JZ, Regnerus MD, Robinson LD, Bradford Wilcox W, Woodberry RD (2000) The measure of American religion: toward improving the state of the art. Soc Forces 79(1):291–318Google Scholar
  37. Toumey CP (1994) God’s Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World. Rutgers University Press, New BrunswickGoogle Scholar
  38. Whitmarsh L (2011) Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: dimensions, determinants and change over time. Glob Environ Chang 21:690–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wilkinson KK (2010) Climate’s Salvation? Why and how American evangelicals are engaging with climate change. Environment 52(2):47–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

Personalised recommendations