I've been meaning for a few days to comment on a paper that Razib mentioned at Gene Expression. The paper is about why some scientific notions are accepted by the public (germs, electricity, a round earth, helio-centric astronomy) whereas others are rejected (evolution, global warming, etc.) Now of course in practice there will be non-cognitive issues. So the conflict between individual's religion and evolution will have an effect. And of course while heliocentric astronomy is accepted, according to some scary poll results I've seen folks are far more ignorant than one might suppose about the orbit of the earth. Still there is a problem when scientific theories are non-intuitive in the sense of not lining up with the common sorts of experience human communities encounter.
The paper is "Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science" and unfortunately is behind a pay-wall. But Razib has a big excerpt at his discussion.
The conclusions, as Razib notes is that resistance to scientific information is exacerbated in societies "where nonscientific ideologies have the advantages of being both grounded in common sense and transmitted by trustworthy sources." This lines up with my experience in teaching Freshmen in college. I should note as an interesting anecdote that there was a study done years ago getting physics sophomores to draw the path of a falling body that had some initial velocity takes. Surprisingly most got it wrong going by the kinds of intuitions they'd developed over the previous 18 - 20 years. Biased by things like falling road runner chasing coyotes and Hollywood car chases. If physics students don't get these things right why expect regular people to?
Unfortunately, I haven't studied physics since a high school A.P. class. Won't a falling object continue along its original direction and "arc" downward as the force of gravity affects it, with the object eventually going straight down when the air resistance has negated the original trajectory? I'm curious what students said--does Wile E. go straight out, pause, and then fall straight down?
Also, regarding the human-to-pig brain transplant, how should one think about, say, desire for food? If there were a human-to-human brain transplant and the destiny body had had, say, a food allergy, is it stupid to think that the allergy would carry continue or reemerge with a new brain?
I don't recall the details, but 70% didn't draw a parabola. I think some were ellipses, a few Wile E. Coyote tracks, and a few others.