A new article on Live Science suggests that Creationists are taking a “smörgåsbord” approach to science, in that they’re applying their Cafeteria Christianity to various scientific fields and assuming it works the same way.
Despite a near consensus among scientists, just about half of all Americans soundly reject that humans evolved from an earlier primate and four in ten believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years. You may have heard the refrains — I think my favorite is “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?” (to which one responds, “If Americans evolved from English-speaking Europeans, why are there still English-speaking Europeans?”), but I’ve gone round and round with some really uneducated individuals on these issues and I’m sure you have, too.
However, it’s the well-educated ones, who do understand what I’m talking about when I invoke the molecular clock, WMAP, or the Hubble Constant and redshift, that throw me for a loop. To understand why these people exist, study lead author, Timothy O’Brien, and his colleague, Shiri Noy, analyzed data from the General Social Survey, “a set of questions asked in 2006, 2008 and 2010 to test people’s attitudes toward and knowledge of science.” Of the 2,901 respondents, 43% were labeled “traditional,” which meant that they preferred religion over science. About 36% were classified as “moderns,” which means they put science over religion, and 21% were “post-secular”, which meant they viewed the two about equally.
Of the three categories established, the 21% post-secular routinely and consistently rejected Big Bang and human evolution.
The moderns and the post-seculars were deemed to have roughly the same level of schooling, but among post-seculars, “It’s almost a uniform rejection,” said O’Brien.
The real interesting truth is that the post-seculars viewed science positively. “The difference between the post-secular and the modern group is not a matter of a knowledge deficit,” O’Brien said. What this means is that more education is actually not going to solve this problem, since they already “understand genetics and experimental methods and statistics.”
Half of these post-seculars are evangelical Protestants, whose leaders reject the Big Bang and evolution. It also included Catholics, Jews, and mainline Protestants who also rejected these scientific facts, even though their religious leaders actually support them.
So what’s the deal? According to O’Brien, many of the post-seculars actually see evolution and the Big Bang theory as corrupted science. The findings of the study dovetail nicely with other surveys that show educated religious people may be skeptical to scientists who they think are “overstepping” the boundaries of “purely naturalistic explanation.”
According to John Evans, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego:
Scientists like to portray what they’re doing as making fact claims about the natural world. I think that the public doesn’t view that quite so cleanly. They see scientists as making moral or meaning claims about the world at the same time.
Science education isn’t the answer. Most of the “post-secular” crowd understand how it works already. An introduction to Dunning-Kruger couldn’t hurt, but if the problem is that the general public can’t tell the difference between observations about the natural world and making “moral or meaning” claims, then there’s a much deeper problem that I can’t even begin to know how to address.
[source: Live Science]