Of course it’s not surprising that smarter people are more likely to believe in evolution, but the difference is pretty extraordinary. Only 15% of people with Wordsum 10 disbelieve in evolution (although it’s a pretty small sample size), while a whopping 57% of people with Wordum 6 (which is the average score) disbelieve in evolution.
You can see the full data over at his place. So does this mean that acceptance of evolution is due to close examination of the issues on the part of the intelligent? I really don’t think so. All the data I’ve seen that suggests that very few people truly understand evolution in any way that suggests a close examination of the issues. I think the most plausible hypothesis is that smart people trust what other smart people say and believe. Scientists, and specifically biologists, are assumed to know something about the world. If you work hard you shall know and master the material; that’s what smart people have found in their own lives. In contrast the stupid have struggled even when they invest more time into academic pursuits. Why should they trust the smart? While it is true that they benefit from the technology and science which the smart produce, that’s at a further remove then if they themselves had their own intellectual successes.
…And unlike the social sciences and the humanities, the idea that the ID movement is somehow, someday going to capture a dominant position analogous to the postmodernists/deconstructionists who have wrecked nearly every English department in higher education strikes me as fanciful, if not ludicrous. It seems to me that having the consensus position persistently challenged, even if by a supposedly fringe ideology, is a healthy thing, just as the ideological challenge of Marxism/Communism compelled America to reacquire and sharpen its own understanding of its founding principles after decades of desuetude and rejection (by liberals). It seems to me the attitude should be “bring it on,” not “shut it down.”
This is all in response John Derbyshire’s broadsides aimed at the new Ben Stein Creationist film. As I told John the response shed light on the stance which many Creationist apologists take in terms of promoting the value of controversy and dispute within the sciences. On a generic level they are certainly correct. But on a specific level they contradict the spirit of science, if not the letter of its practice. Here’s Paul Krugman attacking critics of positivist economics:
A strong desire to make economics less like a science and more like literary criticism is a surprisingly common attribute of anti-academic writers on the subject. For example, in a recent collection of essays (Foundations of Research in Economics: How do Economists do Economics?, edited by Steven G. Medema and Warren Samuels), James K. Galbraith, a constant critic of the profession (and a frequent contributor to the American Prospect), urges economists to emulate “vibrant humanities faculties” in which “departments develop viciously opinionated, inbred, sometimes bitter and tyrannical but definitely exciting intellectual climates.” Economics, in short, would be a better field if the MIT economics department were more like the Yale English department during its deconstructionist heyday.
I don’t think most outside the economics profession are wholly convinced by the claims of the practitioners of its scientific status. But, it is clear that that is what they aspire to, to move beyond circular controversy and attain the status of a field characterized by intellectual progress. The natural sciences which economics wishes to emulate do seem to fit into a Whiggish model, more or less. Science stands upon the shoulders of controversies resolved. Dispute is in the service of progress. The debates which Creationists wish to resubmit into the record are debates which have been resolved for 150 years! Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and they clearly have not provided any such evidence. Steve Hayward’s response by using an analogy to the ideology of Marxism is apposite, as it illustrates his fixation on normative concerns. Ultimately the battle which Creationists wish to fight over evolution is one of values, not facts. And that is why critics of the Creationists will often grant that their ideas do deserve some airing…in a social studies course!