Despite extensive efforts at public science education, polling over the past 30 years has consistently shown that about 40 to 45% of Americans believe that humans were supernaturally created in the past 10,000 years (1). A natural interpretation of this finding is that U.S. science education is failing to reach nearly half of the population, and that widespread belief in recent human origins reflects basic scientific illiteracy. However, the reality is more complex (2): Many of those who reject evolutionary theory are aware of the scientific consensus on the subject, and such rejection is not always associated with low scientific literacy. Similar results have been found for beliefs regarding anthropogenic climate change (3). On page 321 of this issue, Friedkin et al. (4) provide a key step toward understanding this phenomenon by introducing a simple family of models for social influence among individuals with multiple, interdependent beliefs.
Why I know but don’t believe
Carter T. Butts
Science 21 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6310, pp. 286-287