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Abstract

While science is traditionally regarded as an enterprise based on evidence, objectivity, and empirical data, its image in the eyes of the general population depends largely on trust. Most nonscientists do not have the expertise to understand specialized scientific evidence. Without the ability to engage with scientific knowledge firsthand, individuals may reject scientific claims based on their trust or distrust of science, especially if that claim contradicts their thinking. Therefore, interpretations of science and its role as a credible decision- making cue vary among individuals. Th e objectives of this research were to evaluate levels of scientism, or public trust in science, in Indiana residents and to develop and test an empirical model to identify the factors predictive of this trust. Indiana residents were found to have high levels of scientism, with nearly 90% of respondents agreeing that they would be willing to accept new ideas if provided with sufficient scientific proof. Among the explanatory variables assessed, institutional trust and interest in science/technology had a significant positive association with scientism, while religiosity had a negative association. Respondents who identified as male were also associated with higher levels of trust in science. Th e model explained 23.2% of the variance, leaving over three- quarters of the variance unexplained. These findings demonstrate that trust in science can be explained not by one particular factor but rather by a complex range of underlying attributes. Results also indicate that dialogue with religious publics and building and maintaining credibility are important dimensions to consider in effective science communication and engagement.

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