Sociologist John Evans talks about his research on evangelical attitudes toward science. Writing for the LA Times, he says:
I recently conducted survey research comparing the most conservative of Protestants â those who identify with a conservative Protestant denomination, attend church regularly and take the Bible literally, or about 11% of the population in my analysis â with those who do not participate in any religion. The conservative Protestants are equally likely to understand scientific methods, to know scientific facts and to claim knowledge of science. They are as likely as the nonreligious to have majored in science or to have a scientific occupation. While other studies have shown that the elite scientists who work at the 20 top research universities are less religious than the public, it appears that the vast majority of people with workaday scientific occupations are like their neighbors, religiously speaking â¦
There are, of course, a few fact claims in which conservative Protestant theology and science differ, such as the origins of humans and the universe. Here we find that typical conservative Protestants are likely to believe the teaching of their religion on the issue and not the scientific claim.
We could complain that they are being inconsistent in believing the scientific method some of the time but not always. Yet social science research has long shown that people typically are not very consistent. The people who are more consistent are those who are punished for inconsistency: philosophers, media pundits, political activists and politicians. [Note, though, that media pundits are not punished for inconsistency. -JR] â¦
The greatest conflict between fundamentalists, evangelicals and science is not over facts but over values. While scientists like to say that their work is value-free, that is not how the public views it, and conservative Protestants especially have homed in on the moral message of science. William Jennings Bryan, famed defender of the creationist perspective at the Scopes "monkey trial," was not just opposed to evolution for contradicting the Bible but also concerned that the underlying philosophy of Darwinism had ruined the morals of German youth and had caused World War I.
The situation today is not that different: Contemporary "intelligent design" advocates, for example, are deeply worried that the teaching of evolution has a negative effect on children's values.
The same research that shows fundamentalists generally believe in science's ability to gather facts about the world also shows that they do not want scientists to lead the public debate on issues concerning morality.
Is it still futile then? Can the two "sides" never agree?
No, it isn't futile. Understanding what concerns the "other side" would help. â¦
To move forward, we, as a country, need to lower the political conflict. Yes, the views found in fundamentalist churches are not exactly the same as those at the National Science Foundation. But we would see less of the polarizing "we real Americans" rhetoric from the religious right if its members were not ridiculed as know-nothings. Conservative Protestants are not fundamentally opposed to all science.
These points largely echo those I've made on this blog for years, though there are places I'd quibble. Evangelicals value science and technology, surely, but their view of science is a cod-Baconian science, not so much 19th century as 17th, and wrong even from Bacon's perspective. A love of technology and adherence to an outdated and restrictive inductive mode of inquiry is not love of science, and it is in that gap which one can find the "fundamental opposition to science."
But Evans is right that this sort of research can guide us towards better ways to engage people around science. Knowing that evangelicals treat science as what we can touch and influence directly does indeed suggest that climate change communication should focus on direct measurements, not on models, and the same for evolution. (The trick, of course, is that the really interesting parts of climate science or evolutionary sciences involve taking direct measurements and making model-based, testable extrapolations.)
I'm especially intrigued by the finding that evangelicals are as likely as nonreligious folks to major in science and that both groups perform comparably on science literacy tests. Elaine Howard Ecklund's survey of scientists at elite universities found almost no evangelicals, so clearly there's something keeping evangelicals from continuing in science past college, and that's worth exploring in more detail. Do they apply for grad school in equal numbers? If not, why not, and if so, why do they so rarely become professors?
It's conceivable that the flawed concept of science which evangelicals often hold becomes an obstacle to advanced scientific study. But I'd like to think that a science major will have had to confront that issue before graduating. If not, it suggests a flaw in college-level science education.
Part of the dropoff is surely explained by the correlation of evangelical belief and conservative political ideology. For various social reasons, conservatives don't choose to pursue advanced degrees as often as liberals do, and evangelicals are often conservatives, so the same forces will apply. But that's not a big enough effect to explain the magnitude of this shift.
Why, if evolution is true, do its proponents hold so much hostility to religious beliefs that have formed the cultural infrastructure that helped our species survive? If religion is a lie -- and certainly, all of them cannot be true -- it has been a successful lie in Darwinian terms. It has helped sustained the survivors. Why, at the moment our knowlege of ecology has grown and we had gained a respect for cultural diversity, do we want to upset the balance that has served us so well for millions (it is claimed) of years?
Indeed, if evolution is true, why do it's proponents need to resort to the force of the state to compel people to be indoctinated in it? Is it so fragile that we must surrender our liberty and freedom of conscience to it to keep it from failing? How did evolution attain a status once claimed by religious tyrants who seek to advance their truth by forced conversion?
Why not just make the best case for Darwin to those willing to listen and leave it at that? Why not privatize education so no person is being forced to have his children indoctrinated in an alien faith or paying to force someone else's children?
It would certainly reduce the level of hostility.
My own research (with slightly different groupings) is consistent with Evans' findings, but it shows that conservatives are less likely to trust what scientists say about specific issues (e.g., climate change). However, we used a data set which did not include questions about things like food safety and medicine. My guess is that it would sho that less conservative people, including the non-religious, are less likely to trust what scientists have to say about those issues.
We are all human and our reasoning, in general, filtered.
Jack posts classic Creationist projection here.
The truth is that Creationists "resort to the force of the state" to fulfill their aims. Anti-evolution laws and "equal time" laws have a long history in this country.
Everybody knows why that's the case: Creationists as a whole aren't interested in the nitty-gritty of real scientific investigation. Instead, Creationists are eager to preserve their beliefs for their children, and to convert others wherever possible.
Rubble fails to read ... "Why not privatize education so no person is being forced to have his children indoctrinated in an alien faith or paying to force someone else's children?"
What about that is so difficult to understand? Getting the state out of education denies coercive power to Darwinists, Creationists and every other "ist".
And again, what makes evolution so special that it trumps the right of parents -- Creationist or not -- "to preserve their beliefs for their children, and to convert others wherever possible." That's what our species has been doing for millions (or so it is claimed) of years. The successful transmission of culture from one generation to the next and the transfer of ideas that lead to cultural conversion are part of what gurantees success and increases the chances of influencing the gene pool and the course of evolution.
How is it that evolution, which has been operating unrecognized for millions (so I'm told) of years on populations that successfully held to all kinds of religious beliefs, suddenly -- post-Darwin -- becomes the rationale for squelching those religious beliefs. Certainly a stronger case can be made for the vast number of our ancestors having successfully survived because of the contribution of their religious beliefs than because of a belief in Darwinism.
A scientific outlook is not required for scientific literacy. If Darwin were transported to the 21st century, he might do mediocre on some tests of scientific literacy, due to his ignorance of science details developed in the last century and half. He would not, for example, know what a gene was.
But he quickly would fix that. A scientific outlook is tougher to acquire, when one's religion rules against it. And it's why science graduate schools are pretty good at filtering out fundamentalists.
Jack Golan writes:
Why, if evolution is true, do its proponents hold so much hostility to religious beliefs that have formed the cultural infrastructure that helped our species survive? If religion is a lie -- and certainly, all of them cannot be true -- it has been a successful lie in Darwinian terms.
Evolution is not a moral or political view that has proponents. It is a scientific theory. It does not imply any moral or political goal. Those who read it as such are confused.
"Evolution is not a moral or political view that has proponents. It is a scientific theory. It does not imply any moral or political goal. Those who read it as such are confused."
The use of state coercion to force people to submit their children for indoctrination in evolution or to take their money to do so IS a moral and political issue. There are slews of "proponents" lobbying the state to use its coersive power on behalf of promoting evolution.
So, how is it that a scientific theory has been elevated to a justification for trampling on people's liberties?
The use of state coercion to force people to submit their children for indoctrination in evolution or to take their money to do so IS a moral and political issue.
Absolutely. For a couple of centuries, a core tenet of western democracy has been the provision of public education, including language skills, math, and science. If you read the Texas Declaration of Independence, for example, one of the complaints it makes against Mexico was the government's failure to provide public education. What a liberal that Sam Houston was!
But that doesn't mean that grammar, calculus, or Newtonian mechanics carry any particular political view. They were taught also in the Soviet Union. The cause you're looking for is the other way around: western democracy requires and encourages public education, including science, of which evolution happens to be part.
Jack: Why do you get upset that evolution is taught in schools, but do not get upset when children are taught that pi is approximately 3.14 or that grasshoppers have six legs?
Jack Golan: "The use of state coercion to force people to submit their children for indoctrination in evolution or to take their money to do so IS a moral and political issue."
And while we're at it, let's throw out that awful indoctrination of "chemistry" and "astronomy" to make room for a fair and balanced classroom less including alchemy and astrology.
Richard Simons asks: "Jack: Why do you get upset that evolution is taught in schools, but do not get upset when children are taught that pi is approximately 3.14 or that grasshoppers have six legs?"
I haven't said I'm upset evolution is taught in schools - I'm curious how evolution has been elevated to the point that the rights of those who reject the theory, often for religious reasons, can be so easily trampled. They are forced to pay for the theory's propagation and must submit their children for indoctrination in it (or bear the added cost of private schooling).
I've suggested "separation of school and state" as the remedy. After all, the modern nation state and public education are recent inventions -- humans have been evolving for millions (as I understand it) of years without either of those institutions. Neither is necessary to educate the next generation and both are responsible for fueling the ongoing conflict.
I don't understand how a process that has been going on for millions (or so I am told) of years without anyone being aware of it can, once discovered, be used by some to coerce the others. (Of course religions have been doing this forever - someone gets a new revelation of the divine that has supposedly been there all the time waiting to be discovered and then uses the revelation as justification for persecuting non-believers. Darwin's disciples are, at times, very religious).
Further, it's odd that religious belief has played such a long role in the success of our human ancestors and accounts, in part, for why any of us are here, and yet the overwhelming majority of the proponents of Darwin's theory seem intent on discrediting and dismissing it. Even if it's a lie -- and the different religions with their competing claims cannot all be true -- it's been a successful lie. Again, evolution's proponents often sound like they want to replace the Old Faith with the New Faith.
"And while we're at it, let's throw out that awful indoctrination of "chemistry" and "astronomy" to make room for a fair and balanced classroom less including alchemy and astrology."
What's the matter? Afraid of a little Darwinian competition? Stateless education may indeed produce schools that teach chemistry and astronomy and others that counter with alchemy and astrology? Don't you believe the fittest will survive? I do? And I don't believe it will take millions of years.
Hint - if evolution is true, humans evolved with a capacity (that borders on necessity) for religious belief. Darwinists hoping to dislodge the notion of God are standing in opposition to evolution itself. And they're trying to sell the idea of almost indetectible change over millions of years to people who are praying for a good parking space in the next 30 seconds. Tough sell! That's probably why the proponents have had to resort to statist coercion.
Indeed, if mathematics is true, why do it's proponents need to resort to the force of the state to compel people to be indoctinated in it? Is it so fragile that we must surrender our liberty and freedom of conscience to it to keep it from failing? How did mathematics attain a status once claimed by religious tyrants who seek to advance their truth by forced ignorance?
What makes mathematics so special that it trumps the right of parents -- Creationist or not -- "to keep their children innumerate, and render others innumerate wherever possible."?
Poe's law wins again.
Jack Golan writes:
After all, the modern nation state and public education are recent inventions...
Yes, the political values and features that form the package we call "western democracy" are indeed a recent invention. Those include not just public education, but universal suffrage, abolition of slavery, and freedom of speech and religion. But do you really consider its relative newness an argument against western democracy?
I don't understand how a process that has been going on for millions (or so I am told) of years without anyone being aware of it can, once discovered, be used by some to coerce the others.
Evolution has nothing to do with the politics you dislike. The coercion that dismays you is part of western democracy, which yes, provides public education, and yes, taxes its citizens for that purpose. Writing and algebra no less than evolution. I suppose someone whose religion taught that pi exactly equaled 3 could complain that they didn't see why a limit "process .. can, once discovered, be used by some to coerce the others." But it's not the irrationality of pi that is coercing taxes from those who want to preach it is an integer. It's the desire of those who favor democracy to have a next generation of citizens that has a modicum of knowledge about the world.
Now, yeah, there is a tension between that requirement of democracy and religious traditions that oppose it. The compromise in our culture is that public schools will teach science, and the preachers are free to rail against it. Parents may even withdraw their children from public school, if they oppose science so much. But we're not going to destroy the public school system just because some religious folks view it as evil.
"If you read the Texas Declaration of Independence, for example, one of the complaints it makes against Mexico was the government's failure to provide public education. What a liberal that Sam Houston was!"
Sam also blasted Mexico for trampling religious liberty: "It denies us the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a national religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God." [substitute the NEA's secularism for Mexico's Catholic church and Sam will sound like a modern evangelical tea partier].
There's nothing sacred about public education, and given it's sorry current state I'm surprised it has any defenders left (other than those feeding on its tit). The history of U.S. public education shows its role was, until the last 50 years or so, to inculcate Christian values (and often, Christian doctrinal beliefs). The development of private Catholic schools in the U.S. was in direct response to the overwhelming Protestant influence in the public schools.
The myth of public education holds only so long as there is a shared consensus - that's long gone. There's no agreement on evolution, sexuality or even what constitutes a good education. Time for a divorce - instead of burning ourselves out with this argument and spending all our assets trying to force the other side to our point of view, dissolve the marriage between school and state ... for the sake of the kids.
"We're not going to destroy the public school system just because some religious folks view it as evil."
Hehehehehehehehe ... the public school system is self-destructing quite well without any help from religious folks. Can extinction be long coming? Almost enough to make me a Darwinist.
...the public school system is self-destructing quite well without any help from religious folks.
The funny thing is that those who hated public schools said that fifty years ago. And they will say it fifty years from now. And fifty years after that. Hating education, they hate history and data and anything resembling analysis, and make their prognostications entirely from ideology.
"The funny thing is that those who hated public schools said that fifty years ago. And they will say it fifty years from now. And fifty years after that. Hating education, they hate history and data and anything resembling analysis, and make their prognostications entirely from ideology."
People, who are paying out-of-pocket to provide private schooling for their children, after having paid the dhimmi tax to fund a failed system that attacks their values with their own dime, manifestly do not hate education. They crave it and are willing to sacrifice for it.
Regarding prognostications ... Hey, teachers! How're those test scores? People in your state want to pay more taxes for more of the same? What did the housing collapse do to the tax base that supports your district? How's that job security? How's the pension fund doing? Is your campus safe? How about your classroom?
People, who are paying out-of-pocket to provide private schooling for their children, after having paid the dhimmi tax to fund a failed system that attacks their values with their own dime, manifestly do not hate education.
Those whose complaint is evolution, or who throw around silly insults like "dhimmi" with regard to ours, do hate education.
Regarding prognostications ... Hey, teachers! How're those test scores?
On most measures, not as bad as you want to think. A few west European nations do better. Ones with better public education systems. The ones you likely would berate as more socialist. Here's a measure for you to consider: Every liberal democracy today has a system of public education. Every one. No liberal democracy has cast it aside. None.
"Every liberal democracy today has a system of public education. Every one. No liberal democracy has cast it aside. None."
Of course they haven't "cast it aside." Control of education is a source of social power - why would we expect them to voluntarily cast power aside? Or the tax dollars they control? Or the power to officially declare what is worthy and not worthy of being taught the next generation. And we haven't even gotten to unions that raise hell any time cuts are proposed.
But that doesn't mean it can't collapse of it's own weight. Europe's banks are on the verge of tanking and if they do, it will spread here. What's that do to your bloated government-school budgets? Liberal democracies are drowning in their own debt. Their public education systems will not escape deep pain.
Darwin help them.
Liberal democracies are drowning in their own debt.
Western democracies have survived worse economic crises. True, there is not guarantee they will survive this one. So if your theory is that liberal democracy is doomed, what do you think will replace it? Some kind of theocracy? I'll admit, there are plenty of past examples of that. Though the arc of the modern world hasn't been toward that.
There is a mismatch between theocracy and scientific advance. Of course, nothing guarantees scientific advance will continue. We might sink into another dark age. But I see little reason to anticipate that. And less, to work in the hope of it.
Theocracy? Anticipating a dark age? Straw men!
And to think the public school system was vulnerable to destruction "just because some religious folks view it as evil."
You're the one predicting the collapse of liberal democracies.
I'm just asking what you think will take their place?
They are as likely as the nonreligious to have majored in science or to have a scientific occupation.
I'd be interested to know if the distribution of their chosen fields differs significantly from the nonreligious.
I do not understand which ills the creobots believe will be visited on society if evolution is more widely accepted.
The only thing it says really is that we are descended in a long line from little mammals that looked rather like shrews, which were descended from reptiles, which were descended from fish, which goes all the way back to our last universal common ancestor, a prokaryotic, probably RNA-based life form. Fungi are our distant cousins, plants even more so, and bacteria most. Furthermore, it says that traits considered adaptive generally follow into the next generation because traits considered unadaptive tend to not go into the next generation because individuals with those traits are less likely to reproduce successfully.
I have no idea how this concept translates to the downfall of society unless there is a hidden assumption about human nature here, which assumption I am pretty sure is fundamentally untrue. I have no idea why they didn't choose something else to not believe, like the value of pi.
I do not believe religion puts people on the straight and narrow. Conversely I think it accentuates the worst side of human behavior, the side that is divisive and creates boundaries between people where none exist and visits injustices on them because their depraved imaginary friend said so.
I suspect Golan is beating around the bush as to his real objections to the concept of evolution and is merely dressing them up in 'oh, but religion worked for millions of years!' - yeah, it worked as a way to fearfully put people in line, to marginalize women and minorities, to damage healthy sex lives, etc. etc. What is he so afraid of that scientific fact does not trump blind, idiotic faith in his head?
I mean - referencing Josh's last post - what are you people afraid of?
Feminism? 'Oh noes women have equal rights and control over their fertility, which has been shown to increase general human development and decrease poverty among other things! Oh gosh we can't go ascribing agency and rights to a fully-grown and developed member of Homo sapiens, she's got a vagina! But we sure as heck can get uppity about a non-sentient ball of stem cells that has the same moral agency as a pancake-shaped placozoan, which it is basically functionally equivalent to in a biological sense! If it's female and has reached puberty though we don't give a crap!'
Humanism? 'Oh noes scientifically-based reasoning and a general positive regard for humanity!'
Religious freedom? 'Oh noes people with opinions different from ours!' (Oh, by the way, that 'cults' bit on that tree of stupid? Christianity is just as much a cult as any other religion. They're all cults, just with varying degrees of practice.)
Homosexuality? 'Oh noes consenting adults who threaten our obsolete, unscientific, oppressive concepts of gender!'
Porn? 'Oh noes adults doing perfectly reasonable things with their free time and having a full and enjoyable sex life!'
Hard rock? 'Oh noes, music that doesn't suck!'
Sex education? 'Oh noes, a lack of pregnant teenagers!'
Genetic engineering? 'Oh noes, improvement of our daily lives!'
I don't think it's inaccurate to call evangelicals masochists.
This is not about science vs. religion A, B or C.
DNA is writing. All language use requires a conscious mind to pick and place letters to convey a message. There is a necessary being by standard scientific reasoning to the best explanation of data.
Shall we not forget bigotry and get on with what will make us strong enough for the common challenges ahead?
They are as likely as the nonreligious to have majored in science or to have a scientific occupation.
Doctor, dentist, engineer and TV weather 'personality' might all be characterized (and I suspect are) as "scientific occupations" in Evans' study (anyone got the coordinates for that study or, better, a copy?) but they're hardly the same as someone actually _doing_ science as their job.
And, as our host points out, the impoverished view of science that Evans gives evangelicals credit for as understanding science is one that hasn't really obtained for centuries, if ever. All in all, it looks to me like a bit of sleight of hand.
Why, Jack? Because ethics shouldn't be so frail that it hinges on an exact belief in the mere preamble to a book that is already ethically inconsistent.
Evans's study confirms what I've long suspected: that fundamentalists actually know that evolution is true, but they believe God commands them not to admit it. They believe in a spiritual "Truth" which is separate from, and contradictory to, the real truth. This is the same thing the Cathars believed, for which the Christian Crusaders hunted down and killed every last one of them. If that's representative of what your Jesus wants, then you and your entire Creationist mission is hellbound.
Everything we've ever discovered about life on earth agrees with evolution, often in many ways at once. There is no cause for scientific doubt.
There is, however, doubt of a different kind. Doubt about the philosophical claim that evolution denies God. Despite the best efforts of the Dominion, in both its Christian and Atheist guises, more and more people are realizing that evolution is a fact, and that for a faith to be worth anything at all it must acknowledge facts.
> Why, if evolution is true, do its proponents hold so much hostility to religious beliefs that have formed the cultural infrastructure that helped our species survive?
Why, if religion is only a cultural infrastructure that helped our species survive, do so many of those religious adherents have so much hostility to the fact of evolution?
> If religion is a lie -- and certainly, all of them cannot be true -- it has been a successful lie in Darwinian terms
Overgrown nasal hair and baldness is not useful, but in your false appreciation of Darwinian evolution, they're "successful".
Likewise the adams apple, which enables humans to choke to death would under your apprehension be a Darwinian "success".
I hope these two examples have shown you that just because they survived (and Christianity has only survived ~2000 years, nothing to the time our adams apple), this doesn't make them successful.
And what survival result do you think we get from "Some sky daddy made the earth in 7 days"? None, would be my assessment.
> Indeed, if evolution is true, why do it's proponents need to resort to the force of the state to compel people to be indoctinated in it?
For the same reason we indoctrinate people into the idea that washing your hands helps reduce infection, that adding two and three gives you five, that Apple begins with "A".
We call it "Education". And we prefer to teach the useful truth in education.
PS if the hostility would reduce if people weren't "Forced" into the doctrine of evolution, then how can the hostility be coming from those who WANT to be "indoctrinated" by Darwinian evolution? Surely only those who DON'T want to be, but are anyway, would be the ones with the hostility issues.
So why did you start with asking why "do its proponents hold so much hostility to religious beliefs"?
Apparently you believe the canard that evolution and religion are incompatible. Actually, it's quite common for religious people like me to accept evolution. People have an ability that no other species has; we can ask and answer questions about reality and put these thoughts into forms that others can receive. And the messages we send to each other are not much constrained by our survival. This ability, which the religious call a "mind" or "soul", sets us apart from nature. We need not submit to the instinct to do only what's advantageous. We have a more powerful goal, which you apparently haven't heard of -- it's called honesty. Evolution was just a theory in Darwin's time. But since then, many different kinds of investigations have repeatedly proven it to be a fact. There will probably never be a consensus on what this means philosophically, but that's no excuse for lying and ignoring the evidence.
"Apparently you believe the canard that evolution and religion are incompatible. Actually, it's quite common for religious people like me to accept evolution"
Oh, yeah, nobody has said that *religious people* and evolution are incompatible.
Just that religion is incompatible with evolution.
In a religion where god made man as a specific act fully formed, then that religion dies when the people following that religion say "Oh, yes, well, of COURSE evolution exists".
These people then make a new one that has the Bible as a rhetorical story for stone-age people. But that religion then has problems with the fact that the book it is based on is now a fiction.
The religious people can accept their faith AND evolution.
The religion the adhere to can't.