The rise of anti-intellectualism and a disdain for facts is "the greatest threat to our civilisation" according to a highly-respected British professor.

English physicist Professor Brian Cox, who is in New Zealand for a science show, told NZ Herald Focus that anti-vaxxers, climate change sceptics and other groups which discredited science were the biggest danger to civilisation.

"When people ask me what are the great threats to civilisation, it's true that very unlikely things like asteroid impacts, there are those threats out there in the universe, but really I think the biggest threat to our civilisation at the moment is the disconnect in democratic societies between facts or data.. and the understanding of our electorates."

Cox says there is a "mistrust" of scientific modelling when it comes to predicting future trends but "it's the best we can do."


"What troubles me is that there is a reaction against this way of thinking, which is essentially the enlightenment and science and if you get a reaction against that then it becomes very difficult for sensible policy to be made."