To him it’s all real simple:
It happens because some people reject expert information when it goes against their personal values
For its part, the American public is in the grip of a sullen, almost paranoid, narcissism about science and experts. This is not a function of education; the anti-vaccine movement, for example, is actually concentrated among parents with more education than their poorer counterparts. Indeed, ignorance has become hip, with some Americans now wearing their rejection of expert advice as a badge of cultural sophistication. (Consider the number of otherwise intelligent people who advocate consuming raw milk, for example, against the advice of a horrified medical community.)
Instead, the public rejection of science is an extension of our politics, which in turn have become an expression of our constant outrage about everything that offends our deepest beliefs about ourselves. As social scientist David Dunning has put it: “Some of our most stubborn misbeliefs arise not from primitive childlike intuitions or careless category errors, but from the very values and philosophies that define who we are as individuals.” When those misbeliefs are challenged, laypeople take it not as correction but as a direct attack on their identity. More.
Nichols needs to get out more. The public is becoming well aware of the currently unfixed peer review mess. And of the huge number of science fads inflicted on us, often via public policy, that turned out to be poorly sourced: See, for example, the skinny on salt, veggie oil,, skim milk, whole foods. Nutrition science is nearly baseless but it rules.
Health science is the way most people interact with science and in many areas, it is running neck and neck with the office rumor mill for credibility. Today, we should believe what makes sense to us and nothing more. Naturally, one would like things to be better but wishing doesn’t make it so.
Incidentally, who does Scientific American think its audience is? Smug folk who congratulate themselves to their superiority to the Great Unwashed who, thanks to the internet, are finally starting to put it all together… ?
* Blinkers Award? Oscars, without the envelope goofups
Note: “Tom Nichols teaches at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School. He is the author of “The Death of Expertise” (Oxford, 2017). The views expressed are his own.”
See also: Peer review “unscientific”: Tough words from editor of Nature