U.S. poll shows big gap between scientists’ and public’s opinion

A new U.S. opinion poll shows wide differences in what scientists think and what the general public thinks. Some of these issues currently are being discussed in Costa Rica.

For example, the poll, conducted by Pew Research Center, shows that 37 percent of the public believes that genetically modified foods are safe, compared to 88 percent of scientists,  a 51-point gap. The scientists involved are members of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, which cooperated with the survey.

The Costa Rican legislature is considering a bill that would make a ban on growing genetically modified crops nationwide. Environmental activists are pushing the measure that already has been passed by many municipal councils. The ban has drawn support from some professors at the Universidad de Costa Rica. One testified at a committee hearing.

The survey also showed that 28 percent of the public believes that food grown with pesticides is safe, while 68 percent of the scientists do, a 40-point gap.

An overwhelming percentage of scientists, 98 percent, reported that they believe, as Pew put it, “humans and other living things have evolved over time.” But just 65 percent of the public believes this, which basically is another way of defining evolution.

Evolution has not been an issue in Costa Rica, but an incredible handful of Republican U.S. presidential candidates express doubts about what today is established scientific fact. U.S. news sites report that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback and Colorado politician Tom Tancredo, all candidates, said they do not believe in evolution.

Michele Bachmann, a candidate in 2012, said that intelligent design should be taught in public schools, said the news reports. She said that reasonable doubt exists on both sides. Intelligent design really is creationism, the idea that God created the world and humans as reported in the biblical Book of Genesis.

The term has been used since the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed teaching creationism in U.S. schools.

Rick Santorum, who nearly was the Republican presidential cgenetics020215andidate in 2012, is a firm believer in intelligent design. In 2001 as a U.S. senator, he proposed a bill that would have required the teaching of intelligent design in U.S. public schools.

John Boehner, now the powerful speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, also is a proponent of intelligent design.

The Pew study also reveals that 50 percent of the public believes climate change is due to human activity, compared to 87 percent of the scientists, a 37-percentage point gap, according to a summary from Pew.

Lee Rainie, a co-author of the report and Pew Research Center director of Internet, science and technology research, said in  release that “Science issues are increasingly civic issues. They are at the center of what defines culture and society and how people live their lives.”

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