Public’s two minds on scientists: We like them, fear them

biochem lab

(UC Berkeley photo by Elena Zhukova)

According to recent polling, being a scientist is among the most prestigious occupations in the U.S. But as the 2016 presidential campaign starkly reveals, impressions of the profession are decidedly mixed.

“Donald Trump calls global warming a ‘hoax,'” notes UC Berkeley psychology prof Tania Lombrozo. “Cruz describes it as ‘the perfect pseudoscientific theory‘ to expand government control. And Marco Rubio accuses ‘these scientists‘ of misrepresenting the data.”

Lombrozo cites recent research findings showing that “while scientists are largely trusted (and liked), they are also viewed as somewhat inhuman and obsessed enough with the pursuit of knowledge that they are perceived as capable of immoral conduct and can be potentially dangerous.”

How is it that scientists are regarded so favorably on some measures, so unfavorably on others? Read Lombrozo’s commentary on the NPR blog “13.7 cosmos & culture.”