How the two mindsets obtain the news or reports may further contribute to a disagreement on the meaning of science. According to Pew Research Center (2021), about 86% of American adults get news from a smartphone, computer, or tablet “sometimes” or “often.” When using a digital platform, about 69% of U.S. adults are likely to get their news from websites or apps “sometimes” or “often,” except for Gen Z (42% for those aged 18–29), who turn to social media for their news.
The results of the Grunfeld and Belger study indicate that members of Gen Z belong to Mindset 2 more often than they belong to Mindset 1. They select their trusted authority and then form attitudes and share them with friends, family, and followers using social media. Those thoughts and sentiments are further shared with others in their own respective social networks.
It is important to note that users of social media generally follow other users with the same attitudes and beliefs that they have on a topic. The final opinions that people form are an amalgamation of all of the factors that make them who they are—what they read, think, see, believe, and feel. They are influenced by their emotions, those factors beyond what they read. Thus, one group may define science strictly as the results of studies or experiments on a topic, but another group may define science as the interpretation of their trusted authority, who may be a contributor on the social media platform to which they subscribe. For example, about 67% of Gen Z and 71% of Millennials have expressed the opinion on social media that climate should be top priority to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations, a significantly higher percentage than the Baby Boomers and older people (57%). Gen Z (76%) and Millennials (81%) also shared posts on social media stating that the U.S. should prioritize alternative energy development. Because Gen Z and the Millennials comprise the largest segments of the U.S. population, they are the arbiters of the major preferences in the U.S. Future consumer behavior seems to be formed through social media.
Is Science Still Dependable?
Science is “some claim or line of reasoning or piece of research” that is “done in a way that is intended to imply some kind of merit or special kind of reliability,” according to What Is this Thing Called Science? Scientific studies use scientific procedures and methodologies, then present a discussion of the results. Conclusions are written, and the entire report is reviewed and published. It is through this scientific process of sharing experiments or scientific studies with the community that the reliability, or repeatability, of the studies is determined and confirmed. Challenge studies may result and, often, additional questions are raised and answered. This is a normal occurrence because scientific information is not infallible.
Scientific information may change with technology, available information, and even interpretation by experts. It is through science that knowledge is improved. We must continue the discourse even in the presence of difficult discord. Disagreement with the information presented by those who subscribe to beliefs or behavior different from ours is not necessarily misinformation or lies. Science will help determine the credibility of these seemingly opposing ideas or thoughts.
Science is dependable. But we need to be committed to continuing an intelligent discussion of our differences in order to improve our knowledge—about anything.