General, Research, Technology

Why do opponents of scientific knowledge think they know the most?

Surely each of us at least once in a lifetimeI heard from friends that GMOs are poison, and the stars and planets in some mystical way influence the events in your life. It would seem that everyone believes what he wants, but the nature of the anti-scientific view of the world is more complicated than it might seem at first glance. In a study published in 2019, a team of scientists from the University of Colorado, the University of Washington and the University of Pensinval found that staunch opponents of genetically modified foods "demonstrate a lack of understanding of how much they know." In other words, such people do not have sufficient knowledge about genetics and products, but they judge them as if they were experts. This effect, of course, resembles the "Dunning-Kruger effect", according to which the less competent a person is in something, the smarter he considers himself. But what is hidden behind the confidence of the incompetent in their own rightness?

People with extreme anti-scientific views know less but think they know more than everyone else.

Who is confident in their own rightness?

In 1999, Professor David Dunning ofCornell University and his graduate student Justin Krueger first learned that people who do not understand some issues are in a quandary. Interestingly, this predicament consists of two parts: firstly, such people often behave stupidly due to lack of knowledge, and secondly, lack of knowledge prevents them from understanding what exactly they are doing wrong. Simply put, ignorant people are too ignorant to realize their own ignorance.

At the end of 2019, a research team of threedifferent US universities decided to survey more than two thousand adult Americans and Europeans about what they think about genetically modified foods. The subjects were also asked how much they thought they knew about GMO foods, and were asked to answer 15 true and false claims about GMOs to test how much knowledge the subjects actually had. Let me note that the main purpose of the study, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, was to study an unusual human phenomenon: people, as a rule, are not able to objectively assess their own competence and knowledge.

The origins of the fear of GMOs lie in a lack of scientific knowledge in genetics and biology.

This is interesting: Editing the genome. Greatest good or absolute evil?

Interestingly, in four studies,Previously conducted in three countries - the United States, France and Germany - scientists found that radical opponents of genetically modified foods "demonstrate a lack of understanding of how much they really know." It turned out that in fact they know very little, but they believe that they know almost everything. "The less people know," the authors of the scientific work conclude, "the more they resist scientific consensus."

Moreover, people are absolutely confident inself-righteousness, more than others need education, but - as luck would have it - the least inclined to be open to new information and new experience. Thus, the problem raised in the study is similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect. As the English actor and comedian John Cleese once said: “If you are very, very stupid, how do you know that you are very, very stupid? You have to be smart enough to understand how stupid you are. " But what happens when incompetent people are unwilling to admit they have flaws?

Read even more fascinating articles about strange (and not so) behavior of humans and animals on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There are regularly published articles that are not on the site!

Where do radical views come from?

According to study lead author PhilipFernbach of the University of Colorado, radical anti-scientific views are often combined with a lack of understanding of the complexity of the subject. People who do not know much think that on the contrary they know a lot - it is this confidence that is the basis for such views. At the same time, the harm of GMO products is nothing more than a myth, and genetic engineering today is one of the most important technologies that really radically changes the world and can potentially bring enormous benefits to people.

In the course of the work, Fernbach and his colleagues alsofound that the more radical the subjects were, the less they knew about science and genetics. At the same time, their assessment of their own competence and confidence in their own knowledge was very different from the real one.

People often suffer from the "illusion of knowledge, believing that they understand everything - from the arrangement of ordinary household items to complex social policies," the authors of the scientific work write.

In the work, the researchers also studied otherissues including gene therapy to correct genetic disorders and denial of anthropogenic climate change. Surprisingly, they found the same effects (as GMOs) for gene therapy, but with climate change denial, the picture is different. As a result of the results obtained, Fernbach hypothesized that the topic of climate change has become so politicized that people (regardless of their own knowledge) listen to what the leaders of their political party have to say.

Note that there is no data for Russia in this study, but you can read what Russians think about GMOs here.