I am not sure why science has such a bad stigma amongst US teenagers.

I'm guessing that most people these days have little or no idea of the difference between "good" science (or just science) and "junk" science. Clearly lawyers have erased the difference between "possible" and "probable" and the courts have done nothing to restore it. Lawyers on each side have their "experts" who say what they are paid to say. Often this can result in two people using "science" to support completely opposing views.

Science detractors such as the Creationists have also deliberately obfuscated the difference between hypotheses and theory. A hypothesis is akin to a guess (albeit an educated one) about how something works. A hypothesis must be tested and retested. Once the hypothesis has been proven to be representative of reality, once it has been verified to the point that it would be unreasonable to doubt its accuracy, only then does it get elevated to theory. Saying that something is "only a theory" should not be derogatory. Unfortunately, those who wish to deny reality to further their own agendas often resort to "it's only a theory", "further study is needed" or "there is still no consensus." This last one is often trotted out even when 99.9% of scientists are in agreement. The remaining 0.1% often have financial ties to those who would benefit most from denying the obvious.

Another problem is that of the false dichotomy. I don't wish to pick on Creationists again (actually, I do) but they excel at this. They argue that either science is correct of the bible is. Clearly they can't both be correct, however, they could both be wrong. On one side we have all the evidence ever collected by direct observation over several hundred years supported by theories that have been proven correct through their use as predictive tools. On the other side we have a book written by primitive people who knew nothing about how the universe works.

Clearly this situation is not going to improve in the short term. Science is not about finding "evidence" to support what you already believe. It's a process to discover how the universe works, whether or not that agrees with how you believe (or want it) to work. I can't go more than a few months without hearing some newscaster start a story with "a new study shows...". Usually they are announcing preliminary results from incomplete studies and frequently the preliminary results indicate the exact opposite of what the last "new study" showed. If they must report things like that they should start with "preliminary and as yet unsubstantiated results from a new study suggest that...".

So many papers are published each month that it is impossible for more than a very small fraction of them to be peer-reviewed. There are also hundreds of journals that will publish any piece of crap research paper as long as the researcher forks over the money up front. One recent online article recounts how one person who was repeatedly pestered by on of these journals that he submitted a paper (which was accepted as long as he was willing to pay) for publication. The paper consisted solely of the text Get me off your f**king mailing list

So is it any wonder people have such a jaded view of science when they are continuously bombarded by mega-crap (hello Dr. Oz) masquerading as science and talking heads (hello Fox Network) who have relabeled education and intelligence as elitist.

By definition science cannot be gospel.

Of course it isn't. Gospel isn't open to discussion and that's part of the problem. Those who are slaves to religious dogma are free to attack science willy-nilly but somehow when we question the religious texts we are called intolerant. It's funny how when someone starts professing their faith that is considered OK but when I start espousing atheist views that it considered rude.

the scientific community is still actively debating stuff yet many members of the public believe whichever hypotheses they happen to have heard of.

But only if it doesn't conflict with what they already believe.

commented: Good points as usual RJ +0

Usually they are announcing preliminary results from incomplete studies and frequently the preliminary results indicate the exact opposite of what the last "new study" showed. If they must report things like that they should start with "preliminary and as yet unsubstantiated results from a new study suggest that...".

Unfortunately that isn't always the problem. Often the new study they are reporting on is complete and has been published, but that doesn't mean it's conclusions are correct (see: http://xkcd.com/882/). There is still more steps in the scientific process after that: replication (repeat the finding in a different populations and by a different research groups), and prediction testing (use the reported finding to make a prediction and test it). Both of those steps generally happen after the publication of the first study.