If you do, your distrust may have its roots in your early years - what ideas you were exposed to and from whom. So say Yale psychologists Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg. For those who may not wish to read the detailed article, I will summarize here the findings along with some of my own observations.
According to Bloom and Weisberg, resistance to science may stem from several different areas - prevalent religious and political beliefs in the child's social circle, lack of first hand experience of certain phenomena, intuitive (and wrong) take on how things work in the physical world and innate cynicism. Examples:
Political and religious teachings of elders and those whom we trust can influence how we evaluate science. Global warming and evolution are two debates over which Americans are starkly divided for political and religious reasons. Both phenomena require long periods of time to arrive at their present day outcomes and both are difficult to reproduce in the test tube within a short time. One might be tempted to classify the opposition to them as the lack of first hand experience. Not quite. We believe in a lot of things we cannot see or whose presence we cannot verify using our normal physical faculties. Yet most people irrespective of their religion or politics, accept the reality of germs, electricity and atoms without ever obtaining positive proof of their existence. There is no active religious or political camp which questions the disease causing nature of pathogens, utility of electricity as a source of energy or the structure of the atom. For that matter children and adults alike, accept without question faraway geographical (that there is a continent of Antarctica) and historical (that there was an Abraham Lincoln) facts because there is no controversy surrounding them. On the other hand, the truth about global warming and evolution is in contention because there are competing narratives rooted in religion and politics to explain (or dismiss) both. Scientists are no longer persecuted or burnt at the stake for their heretical claims but heated debates still rage when science challenges deeply held religious beliefs or flies in the face of political expediency.
What we personally experience trumps our class room and book learning when it comes to our understanding and predicting physical phenomena. What we learn in theory is often counterintuitive to what we feel and science education alone does not make us immune to making unscientific decisions. Consider the diagram below of two possible trajectories of a ball exiting a curved pipe.
Laws of physics tell us that the ball will move in a "straight" line after it leaves the curved pipe (figure A). But even after knowing that, a large number of college undergraduates picked figure B where the ball continues in a circular path. They instinctively and erroneously applied the "Aristotelian common sense" of object movement, ignoring the correct laws of motion they had read in science books. However, if the ball is replaced with water, a scenario which most have observed in their backyard while playing with the lawn hose, they correctly predicted a straight path for the exiting water.
Despite the explosion of scientific knowledge in the last century and a half where space travel is routine and NASA's photographs from outer space are commonly available in most elementary schools, some still believe in a flat earth and a Geo-centric solar system. The reason for such dogged obscurantism is partly religious and partly due to "instinctive" reaction to what seems counterintuitive to the naked eye. A spherical and revolving / rotating earth just doesn't feel right to some folks. They continue to ask : Why don't the people on the other side fall off? Why don't I feel the earth move? Why do I see the sun rise, set and cross the sky?
Another reason why we resist science is our skepticism about situations where the outcome is either suspect or in dispute, as also our cynicism towards grandiose claims. This cynicism is on the whole a good thing because scientists have personal biases too and we should not fall prey to false dogmas just because they are "scientific." The recent spate of FDA approved drugs being recalled from the market (not just newly approved ones), industrial accidents and pollution, corporations pushing genetically altered food and other scientific developments whose value is clearly questionable, raise our suspicions about science. Are children skeptical too? "Yes", say Bloom and Weisberg: "... when five year-olds hear about a competition whose outcome was unclear, they are more likely to believe a character who claimed that he had lost the race (a statement that goes against his self-interest) than a character who claimed that he had won the race (a statement that goes with his self-interest). In a limited sense, then, they are capable of cynicism."
Then there is the bias of the public against scientists themselves. Even though individual scientists live among us and lead mundane lives, as a group they tend to conjure up the image of ... well, clever "conjurers," somewhat like the alchemists of yore. But most important among the factors that influence our acceptance of or resistance to scientific knowledge depends on whom we listen to in our early years. If the teacher has one explanation for how animals and people came to inhabit the earth and our parents and pastor have another, which version we believe depends to some extent on whom we trust more. However, I don't agree with the authors that this influence is always easy to predict or that it lasts a life time. Most children (unless they have been methodically indoctrinated), even in their pre-teen years are sophisticated enough to weigh two sides of a story and make up their own minds. If they choose to believe their science teacher and not their parents, it doesn't necessarily mean that their overall trust in dad and mom will diminish. Children understand that adults are not infallible and can make mistakes. They also learn early enough that different adults (parents, coach, teacher, counselor, doctor) bring their own areas of expertise to the table. Kids therefore can make judgements regarding which adult to trust in a particular situation.
As an erstwhile science teacher, I cannot stress enough the importance of training school teachers rigorously. Science teachers should be interesting, convincing and receptive to their pupils' curiosities and inquiries. The effort must start from elementary school itself. Waiting until high school and college may be too late. We should remember that teachers are not just the repositories of dry, seemingly irrelevant and monotonous facts but they are also in competition with other societal forces outside the classroom for the trust of their students.