Respectful Insolence

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Failes
    November 30, 2007

    Well, whenever evolution fights in a realm that demands factual evidence, either science or a courtroom, it does great, while cdesign propentists fail spectacularly.

    So really, evolution just needs better P.R., and scientific literacy classes for all.

  2. #2 Ian Paul Freeley
    November 30, 2007

    Of course it’s a losing battle, but that’s no reason not to fight it. Go rent a Frank Miller inspired movie (Sin City, 300, Batman Begins) and see how cool it can be to fight a losing battle.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    November 30, 2007

    Well, of course you shouldn’t believe in Darwin. He’s just a fairy tale designed to increase tourism in Kent.

    Shakespeare never existed either. All his works were written by Sir Francis Drake.

  4. #4 vlad
    November 30, 2007

    They need to add questions about level of education before I get worried. Given that in 2003 (http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf) less than 30% of adults had a bachelor’s degree the number are better then I expected. If a large portion of college educated people started believing in creation over Darwin I’d be worried.

  5. #5 Moopheus
    November 30, 2007

    “What is perhaps surprising is that substantial minorities in America apparently believe in ghosts, UFOs, witches, astrology and reincarnation.”

    I guess living in the UK he wouldn’t necessarily be aware of what’s filling up our cable TV networks and bookstores, but this shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone in the US.

  6. #6 neutral observer
    November 30, 2007

    Bob O’H

    Drake?! Drake!!!!

    I laugh in the face of your Plymouthism!

    Hoe! Hoe! Hoe!

  7. #7 Mike O'Risal
    November 30, 2007

    Then again, look at the numbers and note that about the same percentage of Americans believe in Creationism that believe in astrology. It’s worth noting as well that both of those numbers match fairly well to the percentage that still believe that George Bush is doing a good job as president.

    Doesn’t that speak volumes about how closely all three delusions are linked? I wonder if it’s all the same people who hold them.

  8. #8 Alyssa Goldberg
    November 30, 2007

    Yes, I think we are losing the battle here. There is an anti-science/anti-intellectual atmosphere that has pervaded since at least Reagan (at least that is when I started to notice it), where citing your academic credentials often confers LESS credibility to your argument than relating some anecdote about your neighbor’s Uncle Pete. Not to get off the subject, but it is this dismissal of expert advice and opinion that allowed the American public to be convinced that invading Iraq would be a swell idea. Those of us who disagreed were chided (chided!!) for living in the “reality-based community.”

    We rationalists have a joke during the annual flu-shot season:

    If you believe in evolution, form a line to the right for this year’s flu-shot. If you don’t believe in evolution, form a line to the left for last year’s flu-shot.

  9. #9 Andrew Dodds
    November 30, 2007

    Ian –

    How many Spartans were still alive at the end of ‘300’ again?

  10. #10 DLC
    November 30, 2007

    from the article:

    What is perhaps surprising is that substantial minorities in America apparently believe in ghosts, UFOs, witches, astrology and reincarnation.

    not to be cynical, but — these beliefs are different from Creationism in what way ?

  11. #11 AttemptingReason
    November 30, 2007

    Dang, those numbers are depressing. I wonder what the wording on the study was?

  12. #12 pough
    November 30, 2007

    @Andrew – The real question is, how many Spartans were totally awesome throughout ‘300’?

  13. #13 Thony C.
    November 30, 2007

    It is the latest survey to highlight America’s deep level of religiosity

    The article has a serious typographical error it should have read; America’s deep level of stupidity.

  14. #14 Dunc
    November 30, 2007

    I guess living in the UK he wouldn’t necessarily be aware of what’s filling up our cable TV networks and bookstores

    Unfortunately, we suffer all the same crap over here, just 6 months to a year later.

  15. #15 MattXIV
    November 30, 2007

    Whether we’re winning or losing doesn’t depend on any specific number, but on the direction. Let’s look at some longitudinal points picked up from google:

    11/07 Harris: 42% (the article Orac links to)
    6/07 Gallup 53%
    4/07 Gallup 49%
    3/07 Newsweek 43%
    11/06 CBS40%
    10/05 CBS 45%
    11/04 CBS 40%
    2/01 Gallup 49%
    8/99 Gallup
    11/97 Gallup 49%
    6/93 Gallup 46%
    11/91 Gallup 49%
    ??/82 Gallup 47%

    So it’s more or less holding in the 40%s since at least the early ’90s and probably the early ’80s. Some of the deviation is almost cetainly due to differences in question formulation and the later phone polling will display some sample bias due to declining land line use due to subsitution with cell phones.

  16. #16 John Conway
    November 30, 2007

    But has creationism gained ground? Or has evolution lost ground? Those are the critical questions. All this polls seem to be asking slightly different questions, and do not reveal any sort of trend that I can see.

  17. #17 MattXIV
    November 30, 2007

    John,

    The poll numbers have stayed pretty steady over the last 25 years or so, consistently showing belief in evolution to be in the 40%s. I have a commment that’s sitting in the spam filter (probably due to excessive linkiness) that has a pretty good sampling of polling data from the last 16 years in particular.

  18. #18 Coin
    November 30, 2007

    not to be cynical, but — these beliefs are different from Creationism in what way ?

    To my knowledge, there are not any organized campaigns to have UFOs, witchcraft, astrology or reincarnation taught in the public schools.

    …would be the primary difference that comes to mind.

  19. #19 wolfwalker
    November 30, 2007

    I agree with AttemptingReason: I want to see how the poll questions were phrased. I recall a poll a year or two ago that tried to survey opinions on evolution and creationism but succeeded only in proving that a lot of people don’t understand either concept very clearly.

    There is an anti-science/anti-intellectual atmosphere that has pervaded since at least Reagan (at least that is when I started to notice it), where citing your academic credentials often confers LESS credibility to your argument than relating some anecdote about your neighbor’s Uncle Pete.

    It goes back a bit further than Reagan, I think. The roots of it lie in the late 1960s, when scientists did a very stupid thing and started using their scientific credentials as support for their political ideas. Pow, automatic dismissal of science from anybody who disagreed with the said political ideas.

  20. #20 Michael Suttkus, II
    November 30, 2007

    It goes back *much* further than that. The US was founded by people who were rejecting the “educated” religions of their day, to fall back on more simplistic doctrines. “Book learning” has been distrusted for well over two centuries. Indeed, the very existance of the phrase shows a distaste for the educated. The foolish, bumbling “person educated beyond their capacity” is a standard stock character. Educated people who actually do something useful really aren’t (with the exception of a brief time in the early twentieth century from about the 1920’s until the 1950’s, when the Noble Scientist occured fairly often).

    There are organized campaigns to get UFOs, alt-medicine, astrology, etc. into schools, but other than the alt-med types and, to a very limited extent, the Amerind creationists, none have had any great success. This is largely a matter of money, I expect. The UFO nuts do not have deep pockets and the astrologers aren’t really fanatical enough, I suspect.

  21. #21 Mithrandir
    December 1, 2007

    It goes back a bit further than Reagan, I think. The roots of it lie in the late 1960s, when scientists did a very stupid thing and started using their scientific credentials as support for their political ideas. Pow, automatic dismissal of science from anybody who disagreed with the said political ideas.

    I’m curious about this one, since I wasn’t born in the 1960s. To what incidents do you refer here?

  22. #22 gex
    December 1, 2007

    Ironically, the religious outbreed us.

  23. #23 Prometheus
    December 2, 2007

    While I can’t think of an example of scientists using their credentials to support political agendas in the 1960’s (as Wolfwalker suggests), the problem is certainly present now.

    I completely support scientists getting involved in politics, but I fear that they risk their credibility when they try to use their “authority” as scientists to convince people to support a particular political party or agenda.

    Politics is – at its heart – an adversarial system. There are winners and losers and the “goal” is – increasingly – to “win” rather than to do what is best for the constituency.

    Science is – at its heart – the search for truth. There may be scientists who “win” acclaim and fame and scientists who “lose” by having their theories disproven, but the goal is to find out more about the Universe we live in. When a scientist makes a discovery, we all “win” because we now all know just a little bit more.

    When scientists ally themselves with a political party or agenda, they risk having their research tied to that party or agenda. When that happens, it is all too easy for the “opposing view” to ally itself politically to the opposing party. Thus, scientific discussion becomes politically polarized and the two “sides” of the scientific debate are granted equal status.

    Therein lies a hazard of the “evolution vs creation” problem. The “creationists” have allied themselves with a conservative faction in US politics, one that is largely – but not exclusively – Republican.

    It is tempting to put our support behind the opposing party, in the hopes that creationism will flounder when it loses its political allies, but this would be a disaster. Think of what has happened with the issue of global warming; a scientific discussion has become politicized, with each “side” supported (largely) by opposing political parties.

    This has not only polarized scientific positions, it has given one side far more status than its data would warrant. The same could happen to evolution. In fact, that is exactly what creationism proponents are trying to do – to make the issue one of politics (in which all views are equally valid) rather than one of science.

    Prometheus

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