Why doesn’t the public accept the science? This is the so-called Hard Question in the science-communication sciences.
The paradigm is straightforward enough:
A scientist and a non-scientist meet. This is a teaching moment: the non-scientist is ‘exposed’ to science. We logically expect this to translate (or ‘convert’) to an increase in his or her acceptance of the science.
But it doesn’t always happen.
We’ve studied hundreds of unsuccessful exposures—’failures to convert’ [FTC]—and asked participants what went wrong with the rapport between scientist and citizen.
The single biggest rapport-breaker?
Time and time again, scientists find the public arrogant.
Unless and until ordinary people show some humility and deference, the scientists will have little interest in helping them.
Nowhere is arrogance more of a turn-off than in the climate debate. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone complained, “Just because they’re climate scientists, it doesn’t mean they’re smarter than us.”
Yes it does. And until the general public gets over its self-importance, the scientists are just going to keep switching off.