Thursday, 15 May 2014

There Aren't Hats - Science by Public Opinion

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, recently had a wonderful segment on his show, in which he explained that the outcomes of science aren't really based on public opinion, and that if climate debate were truly representative, you'd have 3 people against the hypothesis, and 97 in favour:

It's great, and lulzy. As it happens, public opinion on the science of climate change in Australia is far removed from the consensus that exists in the scientific world:

Via Skeptic Science
I was curious to see if this is a phenomenon that extends past the world of climate, and into the examples Oliver cites of facts that public opinion don't really have a major impact on:

- Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?
- Do owls exist?
- Are there hats?

Tricky questions indeed. I created a Google Drive survey, which fires the last question at respondents. I was also curious to replicate a particular feature of public opinion, which is the fact that if you repeat an assertion enough, it becomes more true.

The survey's still open, and you can submit as many responses as you like. At the time of writing, there are a total of 73 'Yes' responses, and a 140 'No's. The jury's in - hats do not exist.

These results vindicate those groups who tout the 'consensus gap' as a victory:

Mmmm, lol indeed. If we're to adopt their attitude of scientific vindication through public opinion, then we can say that there are no hats.

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