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Conservative Protestantism and skepticism of scientists studying climate change

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It is possible that some respondents understand “environmental scientists” to be “environmentalist scientists.” This would evoke a negative evaluation from political and social conservatives. If this is happening, the controls for ideological and political conservatism in the models should blunt the effect and allow evaluation of the actual relationships we are interested in.

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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.

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Correspondence to John H. Evans.

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Evans, J.H., Feng, J. Conservative Protestantism and skepticism of scientists studying climate change. Climatic Change 121, 595–608 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0946-6

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Keywords

  • Global Warming
  • Public Sphere
  • Religious Tradition
  • General Social Survey
  • Climate Scientist