The Electric Commentary

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why does evolution have such a rough time

even though it's one of the most thoroughly researched and repeatedly validated scientific theories out there? Dennis Trumble thinks that people find creationism comforting:

Although this perpetual pattern of natal indoctrination and communal reassurance does not begin to encompass the full psychosocial breadth of this phenomenon-especially where adult converts are concerned-it does go a long way toward explaining the inordinate longevity of creationist mythology and why so many intelligent, well-educated, and otherwise rational people appear unable to step back and examine certain beliefs with a critical eye. Because creationist beliefs are both deeply rooted and profoundly comforting, it isn't hard to understand why certain people feel compelled to enlist any and all means at their disposal to discredit Darwin's theory. Nor is it difficult to imagine the sense of frustration they must feel when repeatedly told by scientists that their arguments are fundamentally flawed.

(Hat tip, the invaluable ALD.)


  • I was raised Southern Baptist, and still know several people who believe in Creationism fully, even believing that God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days. I think that an underlying reason that they hold on to those beliefs so dearly is that in rejecting them they would change almost all social ties. You aren't as close to your parents, many of your friends think less of you, and you have to learn to date different types of people. Those are dramatic and tough changes.

    By Blogger Mike, at 12:37 AM  

  • Good point. To some exten everything that you believe is going to be influenced by pressures from your community. My friend Brian believes in literal creation too, but he believed it in the face of a lot of hostility, and that's my point of reference.

    I'm interested in why this particular issue is such a flashpoint though. Religion has had to adjust countless times to accomodate science in the past, and I don't understand how the line was dran in the sand here. Even the Vatican (at least until now) has basically accepted evolution, I just think it's weird that it lights such a fire.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:16 AM  

  • The big difference between evolution and other scientific theories that are contradicted by passages in the Bible is that the theory of evolution applies directly to human beings. If the theory of evolution is true, then our ancestors are apes, fish, amoebas, and who knows what else. Not only does this contradict some people's understanding of the Bible, it contradicts their understanding of humanity.

    By Blogger dhodge, at 1:23 PM  

  • First, I think Mike & dhodge make good points.
    By nature, once a belief is entrenched in the mind, the mind will work very hard to defend that that notion and find support in the information it processes ("confirmation bias"). In this case creationism is part of many people's core beliefs and is tied to many other important beliefs. For example, an often repeated reason you should love God and serve it is that God created you and you are created in his own image. Evolution directly undermines this key component of closeness to God by suggesting you are just the result of an chain reaction of unintentional accidents. So evolution not only contradicts a narrow creation story, but undermines one of the foundations of people's love for and indebtedness to God. For many people this belief is crucially tied to their morality which determines many things they do, go to church, get married instead of sleeping around, help others, don't cheat, etc. To accept creationism would threaten their justification for a large history of their personal actions. People have a psychological need to be justified in their actions.

    Of course, other than the confirmation bias and justified in their actions concepts, this whole thing is complete speculation on my part.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 2:17 PM  

  • Wasn't the disgarding of the geocentric theory similar though? We thought we were at the center because we are special, right? And I know that Christianity at the time fought the heliocentric theory (still wrong, but closer), but eventually they adjusted.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:22 PM  

  • This is true, however, the geo/helio-centric debates happened a long time ago. Perhaps they were very similar to the current debates over evolution for the first 150-200 years or so. Minus the blogging, of course.

    By Blogger dhodge, at 3:14 PM  

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