Social origins of scientific deviance.
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Tom, Joshua C.
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Scientific communities enjoy nearly unchallenged authority on matters related to the natural world; however, there are instances where significant portions of the population hold beliefs contrary to the scientific consensus. These beliefs have generally been studied as the product of scientific illiteracy. This project reframes the issue as one of social deviance from the consensus of scientific communities. Using young-earth creationism and global warming skepticism as case studies, I introduce consensus perception to the study of scientific deviance and explore its utility. Having an improper perception of a scientific consensus on an issue turns out to be one of the most important factors in predicting scientifically deviant beliefs. Still, a significant number of individuals who properly understand the scientific consensus can refuse to accept this consensus on issues which are religiously or political controversial, suggesting that education alone does not determine scientific deviance.