Let's just believe everything

We all know it is possible for people to hold two contradictory ideas in their head at the same time. Evolution and creationism are a case in point. Apparently in a recent USAToday/Gallup Poll, a majority of my fellow citizens responded they believe both are likely explanations for life on earth.

Two-thirds in the poll said creationism, the idea that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years, is definitely or probably true. More than half, 53%, said evolution, the idea that humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, is definitely or probably true. All told, 25% say that both creationism and evolution are definitely or probably true. (USAToday)

Most people are not as dumb about evolution as the three evolution denying Republican presidential candidates (Huckabee, Tancredo, Brownback) seem to think they are. Huckabee has sort of figured this out and is trying to walk back his earlier claim he doesn't believe in evolution. In fact most people do believe in evolution, even if they also believe in some creation myth they were taught as a babe. Those who said a candidate's opinion on evolution would affect their vote, two to one said denying it would make it less likely they'd vote for the person. Denying evolution is a loser, even in supposedly god-fearing America:

Nearly three in 10 in the new poll said they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate who rejects evolution; 15% said they'd be more likely, and 53% said it would make no difference. Huckabee says the issue is not relevant to a White House race and seven in 10 in the poll agreed with him.

Thirty percent is a sizable chunk of the electorate. Like most people I, too, am able to hold two contradictory ideas in my head. One is that over half of the poll respondents believed in evolution is good news. The other is that over half of the respondents believed in creationism is dismaying news.

The glass is 53% full, 67% empty and 25% WTF?

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They can't be Bush supporters given their nod towards evolution, so I think they're probably people who still think Lieberman is a Democrat.

Also keep in mind that many Americans have trouble focusing on the difference between "10,000 years" and "millions of years" as a prepositional clause. I'd bet that the overlapping set so worrying to the purist mind actually consists of people who believe that evolution started a whole long time ago, and probably some-form-of-god-figure got it going back in the day, but keeping the timeline straight is not particularly important when you've already got so many PIN numbers to memorize for daily use {g}. It's easy for the hardcore progressive to overestimate how many of his fellows are actually hardcore Usherites and/or biblical literalists, because the far-right anti-science forces that Jerry Falwell and Karl Rove have been using for the last 30 years have been really skillful about "pushing the debate" to the right. But the creationists only succeed when they're flying under the radar... they've been good at subverting local school boards and driving individual teachers nuts. But when their antics reach as far as the local newspapers, much less the national networks, they've consistently lost to the forces of reason. I think "we" (us skienterrific types) need to stop publicly panicking about the exponential growth of the Usherite believers, from say-who? to uh-I-think-I've-heard-of-him? single digits, and start pushing our own Overton Window -- most people accept evolution as an ongoing factual process, which needs to be better explained in our schools so that the tiny minority of Talibangelical god-botherers can't keep confusing the issue.

By Anne Laurie (not verified) on 11 Jun 2007 #permalink

Anne Laurie: I agree with you pretty much. I even agree with the things I disagree with.

Apparently in a recent USAToday/Gallup Poll, a majority of my fellow citizens responded they believe both are likely explanations for life on earth.

What this mostly tells me is that most people have a very nonspecific idea of what "evolution" and "creation" means, and the poll should have been more explicit about what it was asking.

People believe in both, in many cases, as to them neither case is proven and it could be one or the other - so pick both.
The creationists limit their on-going education and careers when they get to university.
Also many people can't say what month, day or year the Twin towers went down. This is after they are asked "When was 9/11?"

Anne with respect, there are those on the other side of the fence that force kids to watch an Inconvenient Truth and that give detention to kids who want to have a morning prayer in the hallway. I agree 100% that this boat has swung way too far to the right. It has been in key areas too. US Supreme Court as long as you leave Kennedy out of it. I have no idea what he represents but he was a bad choice.

Creationism/Evolution-It depends on what religion you are speaking of. The Muslims go pretty much Old Testament as do the Jews. Most Christians (that term again) go with a modified version...What in Hell is a day in the life of God I ask you? As Rod says, the universities are lousy with atheistic purists and mostly in the science and philosphy depts. By the same token, most universities have a chapel of some sort. Union has several of them.

Why cant people just state what they think and get on with it. Hilary likely just likes the church of power. Huckabee and the others know damned well that they are creationists. So what? Just say so and let it ride. No one really gives too much of one big crap in this country really. I always said that the Ten Commandments should be at every courthouse in America. That is, out on the veranda and not inside. Those jurists, jurors, defense attorneys and prosecutors all carry what they believe into the courtroom which is where all of this always seems to end up. It started there too, Darwin threw it out and it took hold. Then there was the Scopes monkey trial. Can it be so wrong to posit a differing opinion?

My only rub is simple. When someone states it as fact, they had better be able to prove it. Neither side can, although evolution has known science as we know it to support it now. Therefore, I lean towards this and I listen to Intelligent Design. If the caretaker from the other side of the argument shows up, well we will just know we made one Hell of a mistake and hope he is in a forgiving mood.

If he created us and gave us the right to free thought, he also had to have instilled doubt as part of it. It could all merge back in together if we are able to divine what a "day" is. Revere and others presented with enough evidence to support a creationistic evolution would likely change their minds. Until then, live like you want to live.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 11 Jun 2007 #permalink

Can it be so wrong to posit a differing opinion?

In public schools? With my tax dollars? So that political hacks with the ethical sense of a pack of jackals can strut around wearing tinfoil halos?

Yes, it goddamn well can.

"The Muslims go pretty much Old Testament as do the Jews."

Which Jews? Not Maimonides, for one.

So Phila, they either present the two mainstream thoughts on how we got here or they present none.... Kind of where we are. I would like for them especially in Tennessee to do both rather than the one....to either side of it. God also if you believe instilled man with curiousity as well and that gave rise to technology. Revere is an atheist, but I find him to be highly ethical. Even the non-believing college instructors are fairly ethical. Some carry it too far, as do some creationist teachers. Cut to the chase.....we could go around and around but we end right back here. Unless someone can prove or disprove it and it being how we got here then IMO both ideas should be taught.

Anyone in the EU, or Japan out there? Tell us how they handle the issue there. How does Italy do it?

Csrster-As I said until then, live like you want to live.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 12 Jun 2007 #permalink

Randy: Creationism isn't mainstream scientific thought. It is beyond the fringe thought in science. So it shouldn't be taught in science class. There are classes where the teaching of creation myths (many of them still believed by various groups around the world) can be taught. Science class should not be one of them.

In the EU they are mystified about the US attitude. Only one surveyed country has fewer of the general public believing in evolution than the US: Turkey.

Ethics don't rely on a belief in a diety nor an afterlife.
Enlightened self-interest; we'd all like to have a safe society and home, right?
There are behaviors that make the world a worse place,
and behaviors that make the world a better place.

(Then, there's always a few high-functioning sociopaths trying to be the ones
who frame which behaviors as one or the other for their personal benefit..)

By crfullmoon (not verified) on 12 Jun 2007 #permalink

"deity" - (I can spell; can't type.)

Alot of doublethink going on in the public health pandemic planning sector too;
"we can't tell the public or they'd panic" - "maybe it won't even happen",
"98% of the sick will get back to work, and be immune"
"there's no vaccine, so there's nothing anyone can do!" - "volunteers would get vaccinated first if it was up to me" "I don't think vaccine will take as long as Leavitt said"
"Not everyone can afford two weeks, so we can't tell them they'll need more; it wouldn't be fair!" - "Two weeks will be enough and then you can go restock after the peak is over" ("It's going to be so bad who'd want to live in a world like that anyway?")
( - hey and that was all just one ph guy! - but, it sounds like they
all got the same hymmsheet, from somewhere.)

Thousands and thousands of people have a cross between "Sybil" and "Pinocchio"
gatekeeping their pandemic awareness/preparedness, (except the nose doesn't grow).

(Someone on PFI said, a dental student from Chapel Hill said a Sociology class was teaching, sometimes news is so bad the public can't be told or people would panic
and maybe hurt each other trying to make sure their kids survive, so sometimes it is justified; not telling the public the truth

I wish the public and media cared to learn the difference between
a stomach upset and pandemic influenza,
and an experimental mouse vaccine and being able to make one effective for humans and having the capacity to produce anything in the quantities and speeds needed,
and stop saying God (or "the president" -I heard that one once!) or, being "modern"
"won't let pandemic happen here".
(Where have all the reality-based people gone? Long time passing?)

By crfullmoon (not verified) on 12 Jun 2007 #permalink

We are now 150+ years from the publication of Darwin's "On The Origin of Species...", and our knowledge of biology is exploding at an accelerating pace... At the same time, increasingly urban and disassociated human impacts on other co-evolving and inter-dependent biological systems are growing ever greater and more ominous (e.g., carbon emissions are increasing, along with global temperature and extreme precipitation events -- extinction rates are rising). Against this backdrop, the denial of an overwhelming scientific consensus based on decades of cumulative evidence in order to pander to the sensibilities of a voting block is no small political issue... Thinking people may begin to see it for what it is, and demand accountability from irresponsible politicians who would pander to ignorance for votes.

There are also many of us who believe that the universe and life on this planet were created by something not understandable to us, loosely called God.

I believe evolution is the likely mechanism of our creation. However, I also believe there is a God and that this God that is not understandable by me guided this evolution.

I am not certain I approved of the way things worked out, but I did not get a vote.

God or no God, and whether you like the way it turned out or not, if you are a US citizen of voting age who has registered to vote - you get a vote.

What rankles me isn't that people believe in God. That is perfectly understandable and defensible from my perspective. What bothers me is that we have a political culture and accompanying discourse that tracks and values electability over truth. If there is a God, I've always believed he/she/it loved Truth, and I would dearly like to see debate and discussion around the truth of the candidates statements and beliefs -- rather than just analysis of how their answers play to the masses.

The question on evolution I'd like to see asked of the presidential candidates is, "Yes or no, do you believe that everything written in the Bible is the literal truth?"

I would think this is also the question a fundamentalist would like to see answered. Where the fundamentalist (who would answer that question in the affirmative) and I disagree, is that I believe we have scientific proof beyond any reasonable doubt that answering that question with a simple "YES", is false. It is simply not true.

If you honest and educated enough to know this, but you continue to knowingly assert the affirmative answer, you are, in my judgement, at best in the moral equivalent of denial, and at worst, you are simple lying to advance your particular interest. In either case, the Truth that the God of my upbringing stood for has been sacrificed on an alter from which offerings will never be acceptable. Frankly, after 7 years of this kind of thing from the Bush administration, I'd like an administration that could make acceptable offerings.

I'm of the opinion that acknowledging our common biological heritage through descent with every other living entity, and the anthropogenic origins of our deepening climate change crisis, are two of the most important ideological issues and divides of our time. How people reconcile themselves with these two realities is, for me, a most telling sign as to their deepest beliefs and their true values. Above all, I value scientific truth and honesty in the answers...and so it's perhaps not so curious that I would find these two issues to be so interrelated...

Those who profess that the Bible is the literal truth should read Exodus 35:2. This is a clear example of the craziness of some of the authors.

It is a command by God to kill all those who have ever worked on the sabbath.

Any serial killer could take this as a biblical authorization to kill anyone over six years old he sees. There are probably less than a thousand people on the planet over six who have not worked on the sabbath.

However, the preposterous stories in the Bible are not an indication that there is no God. It is an indication that people can get really crazy.

Yes Steve, I did have a vote in the election. I voted against GW both times. I knew he represented the fundamentalist Bible crazies. It does not seem that I got a vote on how God's creation turned out. From my perspective, its seems to need a little tweaking.

I asked a question on Yahoo! Answers about how creationists would account for the fact that moles have non-functional eyes. I could imagine a creator making animals to live in the dark with no eyes, but why give them eyes that don't work?

In the answers I even had people who denied that moles are blind (something that can be and has been observed) rather than open their presuppositions to critical scrutiny.

I want a president who is capable of critical thinking, and who will not rewrite the facts to agree with his assumptions.

Regarding Michael's (whose name in Hebrew means "Who is like God?")quote from Exodus 35:2...
This is a commandment given by God, that the sabbath day is a holy day, of rest to the Lord. It must have been literal in those days, and an extremely serious law, as another place in the Bible describes a man killed by God for gathering sticks on the sabbath.
The greater message to us in this day is the spiritual message, which can be derived by comparing these scriptures with others in the Bible and arriving at agreement, keeping an open mind toward other scriptures which may contradict.
The message is that we are not to do any work for our own salvation, that the work of salvation is entirely God's work on our behalf, which was God himself dying for those whom he came to save on the cross.
Yet the majority, if not all of the Christian congregations around the entire world sincerely believe that they must do some kind of work to be saved, even as little a work as accepting Christ as personal savior (collecting a few sticks). Exodus 35:2 then clearly states that those who believe this way and stay in a church which teaches this way are condemned to spiritual death-- not saved.
Which includes just about all of the Christian churches in the US, and of course, their leader, GWB and his cohorts Pat Robertson, Falwell, etc., etc.