Now someone has done some empirical research into the debates themselves.
Fixing the communications failure : Article : Nature:
Our research suggests that this form of 'protective cognition' is a major cause of political conflict over the credibility of scientific data on climate change and other environmental risks. People with individualistic values, who prize personal initiative, and those with hierarchical values, who respect authority, tend to dismiss evidence of environmental risks, because the widespread acceptance of such evidence would lead to restrictions on commerce and industry, activities they admire. By contrast, people who subscribe to more egalitarian and communitarian values are suspicious of commerce and industry, which they see as sources of unjust disparity. They are thus more inclined to believe that such activities pose unacceptable risks and should be restricted. Such differences, we have found, explain disagreements in environmental-risk perceptions more completely than differences in gender, race, income, education level, political ideology, personality type or any other individual characteristic
At first sight it struck me as a prize-winning statement of the obvious, and I marvelled at the way people spend money on researching things that everyone knows anyway.
On second thoughts, however, it seems that there is more to it than that. Postmodernists have been saying for years that "science", even empirical science, is largely a matter of cultural perception. Now here are people using empirical methods to prove it.
Is this the death knell of modernity?