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More Americans Believe in Angels than Global Warming

Charlie's Angels OriginalI’m not sure whether to be amused or frightened by this juxtaposition of polls by Blake Hounshell:

Percentage of Americans who believe in angels: 55

Percentage of Americans who believe in evolution: 39

Percentage of Americans who believe in anthropogenic global warming: 36

Percentage of Americans who believe in ghosts: 34

Percentage of Americans who believe in UFOs: 34

In fairness, four different polls — taken at different times and using different sampling methodologies — are linked here, making the comparisons imperfect.  But it’s fascinating that superstitious beliefs are outperforming hard science — either despite or because of twelve years of required indoctrination of the latter.  I’m not sure what to make of it.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. This suggests that democracies may not be able to solve certain sorts of problems.

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  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I have never seen or read anything that would make one believe no angels, ghosts, ufo’s exist. Evolution is an engine developed by Harley Davidson. Good motor. Mann made global warming is another matter. I read a good portion of those those purloined emails. Science and the disappearance of raw data does not a believer make. By the way. If “f”ing snowed in Sacramento. It is currently 28 degrees. The percentage of CO2 has increased minutely, since 2000, why is it cold? Lying bastiges should be in jail, the cork soaker’s.

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  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    John, what would you suggest? Maybe a state which was not so representative? Something on the lines of Germany in the late 30′s or more like the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1989. Both failed states. There are some problems that are only problems in the minds of those who would control others. I have about 5,000 7.62 x 39 reasons why I will resist control I do not consent to. Come to think of it. What a wonderful means to cut down on CO2 emitters.

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  4. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by drjjoyner: More Americans Believe in Angels than Global Warming. And it ain’t even close. http://bit.ly/58cYyZ

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  5. Franklin says:

    This suggests that democracies may not be able to solve certain sorts of problems.

    Amen.

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  6. Franklin says:

    Percentage of Americans who believe in evolution: 39

    BTW, I’m too lazy to look up how this question was posed, but by itself, this proves that 61% of people are too stupid to vote. It’s an easily observed phenomenon that genetic material changes in a population of organisms over successive generations. Ergo, evolution is real.

    Now whether it has resulted in every living thing we see around us is a totally different question.

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  7. John, what would you suggest?

    I think that we are at a phase where mass communications have undermined expertise. Sturgeon’s Law was always true in general, but I think there used to be isolated locales where the rule could be broken. I mean, compare the process of going to a library, and the quality of sources you find there, with a google search.

    It’s not just the net though. Post “fairness doctrine” TV has succumbed to Sturgeon’s Law as well.

    I can suggest that we be more descriminating, but I’m not sure I really expect it to happen.

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  8. Nothing to do with the fairness doctrine, but on TV:

    The fact that “ghost hunter” TV shows survive is all you need to know about our ability as a society to reason.

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  9. Boyd says:

    James, are you implying that anthropogenic global warming is hard science? If so, I think your own faith is outpacing your scientific reasoning.

    But then again, you’re a political “scientist,” so I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. :p

    That being said, more telling on the evolution question is that only 25% of Americans specifically don’t believe in evolution. A huge chunk, 36%, say they don’t know, which isn’t an unreasonable position to take for someone who hasn’t studied the science in-depth. Hell, my own “belief” in evolution is just that: belief. I couldn’t even begin to prove it.

    Which just opens up a whole new can of worms in addressing the character of a belief. Some things which we believe can’t be proved (religious theology being the most prominent one), and other things we believe because we believe that others have proved them scientifically, but we can’t prove them ourselves.

    By the way, I put AGW in the first category, and I put AGW proponents in the same camp as “creation scientists.”

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  10. JKB says:

    Ah, the product of 70 years of Progressive takeover of education.

    I think that we are at a phase where mass communications have undermined expertise.

    So true. No longer can you get by with a PhD and a good line of BS. Seems with the worldwide internet, that you can run a line for so long but eventually those “non-experts” will use logic and reasoning to demonstrate your folly. Of course, it may require a hack to get access to the “experts” super-secret, mine-mine-all-mine, datasets.

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  11. [...] [Many] More Americans Believe in Angels than Global Warming. Both climate change and evolution edge out ghosts and UFOs by only a few [...]

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  12. PD Shaw says:

    To paraphrase Clarke’s law, any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.

    I do wonder whether there are very many people with enough understanding of the climate science to say one way or the other. Certainly, many have more of an experiential basis to believe in ghosts (unexplained phenomena in one’s life).

    (BTW/ The big number is 60% of Americans don’t believe global warming poses a serious threat in their lifetime)

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  13. How many of you skeptics here put in structured study on climate, seriously, and how many are just hooking up with other untutored critics on the internets?

    If you haven’t seriously studied, and have only found other untutored souls who will agree with you, then you are demonstrating the networked depreciation of knowledge.

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  14. JVB says:

    Believe we have a duty to protect our environment…need to be good stewards of our planet. DO NOT BELIEVE a word the government or any other study connected to the government has to say on the issue. You don’t need ‘studies’ to understand we need to conserve…recycle…and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels..DUH! Gore did NOT invent conservation, nor is he deserving of awards and prizes for HOOKING US UP. The government is on the take for all it can get in this climate change issue. THAT I WHOLE HEARTEDLY BELIEVE. There is nothing to be trusted in what our government is PUSHING/PLOTTING/MANIPULATING/CONSPIRING/COOKING/MANDATING when THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE ARE SUSPICIOUS OF IT.

    Get the politicians out of it…and it will be accomplished with out so much as a blip on radar screen.

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  15. JVB says:

    No one NEEDS to have invested time in STRUCTURED STUDIES ON CLIMATE BLAH BLAH BLAH to understand we have a serious issue with simply trusting the government. You can have so many degrees in this area your given name is Fahrenheit but to suggest you simply MUST have certified knowledge in the area before you can weigh in on the issue of mistrust…really puts you somewhere on the spectrum for autism…Asperger’s comes to mind. Yeah…kind of insulting, huh?

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  16. Steve Verdon says:

    Now whether it has resulted in every living thing we see around us is a totally different question.

    No that IS the question. Given life Darwin’s theory says we should see the plethora of living things we see. The different question is whether or not life formed naturally or super-naturally.

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  17. I didn’t actually say “certified” JVB, I said “structured.” It is possible to do structured self-study, to be an autodidact, but it is harder. It requires you to constantly question yourself, since you have no mid-terms, on what you don’t yet know.

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  18. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    John, do you read? If so, read the email between the trusted scientists who modified data to meet their desired conclusions. I particularly like the one where they try to hide the Medieval Warming Period, and minimize the fact CO2 levels have risen yet global temperature has fallen since 2000. It snowed in Sacramento. AWG my arse.

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  19. Franklin says:

    Given life Darwin’s theory says we should see the plethora of living things we see.

    Perhaps I’m being too semantic here, but the question should be, “do you believe in the theory of evolution?” which is what you are saying, which is that evolution leads to the plethora of living things. But evolution, as defined in the field of biology, is undeniable.

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  20. Franklin says:

    It snowed in Sacramento.

    Just so you know, you demonstrate yourself to be a complete idiot when you say things like this. One unusual local weather event has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with global climate where temperature is averaged over months or years. I don’t know whether the AGW science is good or not, but at least I know I can’t decide by sticking my wet thumb up in the air.

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  21. Steve Verdon says:

    Franklin,

    I still disagree. Evolution shows that organisms change over time. Speciation events have been observed and are thus facts. Evolution is a fact and it shows that we get new living organisms over time.

    Now, how that works in detail and so forth is what the theory sets out to describe. Now the theory, I would argue, is always wrong…at least at some level or in some detail. However, that does not negate the facts that are observed nor does it mean the theory is useless. Because when the theory is found to be lacking in one area work then commences to “fix” the theory. The result is that what ever “replaces” the old flawed theory will explain everything the old theory did, and some of what it didn’t (this is somewhat simplified).

    In fact, you could say that theories evolve too. Hell, genetic algorithms are finding all kinds of aplications outside of biology. For example some High Frequency Trades on the stock markets use genetic algorithms to “learn” to (try and) keep making profits as the market conditions change. They are also used in other areas and produce surprising results in terms of arriving at solutions.

    Even the creationists have evolved. They’ve gone from the mere bible thumpers who insist on biblical inerrancy to the creation scientists, to the intelligent design creationists. Each generation has become more subtle than the previous, and I’d say devious. Trying to get an ID creationist to admit to previous beliefs (young earth, God is the designer, etc.) is often difficult.

    Evolutionary theory has made in-roads into economics as well. Evolutionary strategies for how people come to learn and adapt their own stratgies in economic situations have done well.

    Yet despite all this you still have people denying it. I find that most intriguing if at times frustrating.

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  22. Steve Verdon says:

    Just so you know, you demonstrate yourself to be a complete idiot when you say things like this. One unusual local weather event has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with global climate where temperature is averaged over months or years.

    Sauce for the goose Franklin, Gore has done the same thing. I want to say he did it with hurricanes and wild fires. Note, I agree with you: local weather observations is not a refutation of global predictions.

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  23. UlyssesUnbound says:

    Point:

    It snowed in Sacramento.

    Ooooh good point! One day of odd weather disproves all peer-reviewed research to the contrary.

    Counterpoint:

    In late November in Indiana it was 75 degrees. Therefore global warming is real, since this is all it takes for you to make a well-informed decision. I’ll just assume I’ve changed your opinion entirely since a day of odd weather is all the evidence you need.

    Keep up the parody!

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  24. Wayne says:

    I have issues with many who treat science as a religion and not a methodology. If their Pope Al Gore says so, it must be true. Raw data being misused or destroyed, no big deal, their “belief” is beyond question.

    Also if they are so confident about Manmade Global Warming then why the changes in terminology to cloud the issue? Now they use “climate change” and “anthropogenic global warming” to cloud the issue. One can believe in climate change without believing it is significantly manmade. However if you say you believe in climate change but not the manmade part, you are still consider by many from both sides to support the manmade part. Clouding the issue.

    Which leads into the poll questions and presumptions, believing in UFO’s is consider by most as believing in space aliens’ spacecraft and what not. Believing in evolution is by most considered the same as believing that the current theories are correct, 99.9% correct by many. Those presumptions are not true.

    Then again what does truth have to do with most of this B.S. Nothing because for most it is a religious belief. It is nearly pointless to argue against someone’s religious beliefs.

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  25. Steve Verdon says:

    Here is one link Franklin,

    Last year we had a lot of hurricanes. Last year, Japan set an all-time record for typhoons: ten, the previous record was seven. Last year the science textbooks had to be re-written. They said, “It’s impossible to have a hurricane in the south Atlantic.” We had the first one last year, in Brazil. We had an all-time record last year for tornadoes in the United States, 1,717 – largely because hurricanes spawned tornadoes. Last year we had record temperatures in many cities. This year 200 cities in the Western United States broke all-time records. Reno, 39 days consecutively above 100 degrees.

    The last one is just what you observed. Local weather patterns. Gore is being stupid here.

    This one also makes him look stupid as well, but for different reasons,

    When I first went to Congress 32 years ago, I listened to experts testify that if oil ever got to $35 a barrel, then renewable sources of energy would become competitive. Well, today, the price of oil is over $135 per barrel.

    Just due to changes in the CPI we’d expect $35 32 years ago to be worth around $125 today. Is $10 a big difference? I don’t know, but it sure isn’t the $100 he is implying.

    Here is a link for the wild fire claim.

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  26. Wayne says:

    Damn Steve now you went and gave me hope. As I recall you and me went back and forth on the Theory of Evolution but I for the most part agree with you above statement. I will chalk our previous discussion as debating the details or one or most likely both of us falling into the heat of debate.

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  27. PD Shaw says:

    The evolution poll above is a poor one since it forces an either/or scenario when polls have traditionally found that people fall into one of three categories: (1) creationists, (2) naturalistic evolution, or (3) theistic evolution. I think that’s why there were a lot of undecideds.

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  28. Steve Verdon says:

    Looks like Gore is full of it in regards to South Atlantic Tropical Cyclones as well. Granted they are rare, but its not like the first one happened in the time he referenced: 2004. In fact, according to the wikipedia link, while popular belief was that it was impossible the Miami National Hurricane Center was stating the exact opposite, that it was possible and they needed to prepare. And according to this site at ASU, the hurricane record started in 1966 so there might have been others.

    Whoops.

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  29. LMiner says:

    James: I have to disagree with you on the hard science issue stated.
    This is from a non scientist average Joe, but all science is theory that must be proved and must be repeatable with accurate data, data must take into account all known factors that may skew data. From my stand point I have not seen data that takes into account some of these now known factors. (At least what I have been able to come across) Some of the known factors that need to be accounted for are:
    1. Accuracy of temperature data from 150 years ago up until about 40 years ago.
    2. Temperature data skewed by urban sprawl recently due to thermal mass of buildings, concrete, asphalt, and heat loss from buildings close to where temperature readings are taken.
    3. Natural variance due to ocean currents.
    4. Sun spot activity and the solar winds.
    5. Where the earths axis is in its natural wobble.
    These are just some of the things I could think of at the moment. Number 2 reminds me of the 70’s when I installed a programmable thermostat that the government said we should all install, but after two months I through away since it cost more to heat the house. After which I started to think why did it cost more after installing it. (Duh it was taking more energy to reheat the thermal mass of the house) But I digress
    For you quality control geeks would you use data that was skewed by a brownout, power failure, HVAC problem inside the plant or an abnormally high humidity caused by factors beyond your control? I think not. Because it would skew your six-sigma model.
    But then you would not through away the data, because it would be helpful in trying to remedy those problems in the future and you now know how these things will affect your processes.
    Hard science is never hard science James once scientist thought that the atom only consisted of protons, electrons, and neutrons. For years this was considered hard science but now has been proved wrong and what we know now will be probably proved wrong in the future. Science constantly evolves so how can it be considered hard science. When we do not know what we do not know.
    Sorry for the long post but thank you for letting me rant on.

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  30. Wayne says:

    Lminer
    True enough but you wouldn’t disregard data simply because it didn’t fit your theory. If there was known contaminate that is one thing. Testing for contaminates would is wise. Simply assuming there was one because the data doesn’t say what you wanted it to is another story altogether.

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  31. John, do you read? If so, read the email between the trusted scientists who modified data to meet their desired conclusions.

    Most human organizations recognize the human ability to fail, and have systems and procedures to compensate.

    Saying you can’t trust scientists because one cheated is a little like saying a bad priest proves there is no god, or crooked cop proves there should be no laws.

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  32. BTW, I hope you notice that science-supporters have no problem with you catching cheats. Good job, carry on.

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  33. TangoMan says:

    Steve,

    Yet despite all this you still have people denying it. I find that most intriguing if at times frustrating.

    Many people deny evolution because when they hear reference to evolution, like in the poll, they, as laymen, likely focus on the question of origins. That’s the big enchilada for most people. We’re dealing with imprecision in terms.

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  34. PD Shaw says:

    I blame Darwin Fish.

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  35. Grewgills says:

    Steve,
    Your comment reminded me of this article by Asimov on misunderstanding scientific advances that I think explains at least some of the polls disappointing results re evolution.

    Wayne,

    Raw data being misused or destroyed

    The raw data was not destroyed. What was lost/destroyed was a compilation of data from other sources. The raw data is still held by those sources and is/has been used by other researchers.

    Also if they are so confident about Manmade Global Warming then why the changes in terminology to cloud the issue? Now they use “climate change” and “anthropogenic global warming” to cloud the issue.

    Anthropogenic=manmade and climate change accounts for the variety of effects that increasing average global temperatures can cause (some areas are projected to have lower temps, rainfall is also affected, etc).

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  36. I think I’ve discovered the problem: apparently a substantial portion of the human race evolved to be f***ing idiots.

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  37. pylon says:

    Now they use “climate change” and “anthropogenic global warming” to cloud the issue.

    What does IPCC stand for? And when was that name given?

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  38. [...] via More Americans Believe in Angels than Global Warming. [...]

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