Mike the Mad Biologist

Conservatives, Education, and Creationism

By way of John Sides, we come across this analysis of some data from the General Social Survey:

evolutionxideology-thumb-475x272-378

(the five categories of educational status are, from left to right: didn’t graduate from high school, high school graduate, some college, college graduate, post-graduate degree)

While connecting the dots in a line is a little misleading (there’s no reason to think that a college graduate is twice as educated as a high school graduate), there are two interesting things here:

1) Conservatives with a lot of education rank the same as liberals with a high school education. If supporters of evolution were cunning–and evil–we could use that. Snootiness works.

2) Increasing educational achievement among liberals has a significant effect, while it’s minimal among conservatives.

Sides, looking at these data along with global warming opinions, concludes:

One explanation for this is familiar to any reader of John Zaller’s The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion: when political elites take contrasting positions on issues, those positions will be reflected in their fellow partisans in the public, at least among those who are paying enough attention to politics to receive these elite messages.

But I’m not convinced, regarding evolution, that’s what’s happening here. Digby describes the opinions of some conservative pundits on evolution, a fair number of whom are creationists, and what’s striking is how little they know about the subject. I wonder if well-educated anti-evolution conservatives are taking their cues from the theopolitical right, which is not elitist*, at least on social issues. Whether this is political expedience or sincerely held belief (not that I care either way) I leave open.

After all, David Koch has given millions of dollars to further the study of human evolution, which to a creationist, is perfidy. And there’s no big money interests behind creationism–that seems to be a popular movement**.

This seems like the tail wagging the dog.

*Authoritarian, yes. But not traditional Toryism.

**Not that there aren’t people financially exploiting creationists, but they’re not exactly a large corporate interest.

Comments

  1. #1 Corey
    March 18, 2011

    Have you seen the documentary Jesus Camp? Children being homeschooled by their moron parents has to be a significant factor in this.

  2. #2 abb3w
    March 18, 2011

    Looking back at some old posts by Razib in GNXP, there’s a confounding effect at work. Those who adhere to Biblical Inerrancy – regardless of political identification – become increasingly likely to reject evolution as education increases; and political conservatives are more likely than liberals to take an Inerrant view.

    Of course, education may have some impact on how those raised changed their views, either about the Bible or about Politics.

  3. #3 greatbear
    March 18, 2011

    I think what we’re seeing is that conservatives tend to be more fixed in their opinions. Exposure to new information is simply less likely to cause them to change their opinions.

  4. #4 Onkel Bob
    March 18, 2011

    I think what we’re seeing is that conservatives tend to be more fixed in their opinions. Exposure to new information is simply less likely to cause them to change their opinions.

    Especially if that new information comes from a quadrant they dislike, and is contrary to their established position. Conservative, by definition, is one who sticks to the tried and true eh?

  5. #5 orjin krem
    March 18, 2011

    I think what we’re seeing is that conservatives tend to be more fixed in their opinions. Exposure to new information is simply less likely to cause them to change their opinions.

  6. #6 scott
    March 19, 2011

    David Koch had an agenda in promoting evolution. It ad to with promoting climate change denialism, Here is PZ Myers post from awhile back:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/10/so_thats_why_koch_funded_a_maj.php

    As far as your hypothesis that the cart is pulling the horse, well I’m not entirely convinced. It seems that religion and conservatism go hand in hand. If your religious your more likely to be a conservative. Of course its not a blanket case. I know they are a lot of liberals that call themselves religious, but the scales do seem to tip one way. So if your religious your more likely to be conservative and say goddidit if you’re ever surveyed.

  7. #7 Orjin krem
    March 19, 2011

    So if your religious your more likely to be conservative and say goddidit if you’re ever surveyed.

  8. #8 person
    March 22, 2011

    The brainwashing that has taken place in the name of science will take generations to undue and progress will be hindered due to the simple-minded biologist who replace scientific method with political idealism. Go pray to whatever theory is the flavor of the week and cling to your fancy drawings and entertaining mythology. Leave science alone and allow impressionable children to look at the things called facts rather than be indoctrinated by pseudo-scientific cultists. It is true that Conservatives of the MSM and modern pseudo-science will try to conserve their irrational beliefs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  9. #9 NJ
    March 22, 2011

    person @ 8:

    The brainwashing epiphany that has taken place in the name because of science

    FIFY, again.