Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Darwin's Evolution Has No Traction In America

In a blog article in The New Yorker this week, Jonah Lehrer tries to find some scientific reasons why Americans don't have faith in science, at least when it comes to the question on evolution and the origin of humans.
Last week, Gallup announced the results of their latest survey on Americans and evolution. The numbers were a stark blow to high-school science teachers everywhere: forty-six per cent of adults said they believed that “God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.” Only fifteen per cent agreed with the statement that humans had evolved without the guidance of a divine power.
What’s most remarkable about these numbers is their stability: these percentages have remained virtually unchanged since Gallup began asking the question, thirty years ago. In 1982, forty-four per cent of Americans held strictly creationist views, a statistically insignificant difference from 2012. Furthermore, the percentage of Americans that believe in biological evolution has only increased by four percentage points over the last twenty years.
Such poll data raises questions: Why are some scientific ideas hard to believe in? What makes the human mind so resistant to certain kinds of facts, even when these facts are buttressed by vast amounts of evidence?.
I give Lehrer an "A" for effort for using the latest scientific explanations for why the human brain resists scientific thinking. Besides begging the question on why our brains have not evolved to accommodate evolutionary thinking, there might be a far more simpler reason. Americans as a people have a high degree of faith, and science plays a secondary role in their lives, notably on explaining human origins.

Although there might be some hand-wringing among the non-religious that scientific thinking has not beome predominant, I would suggest that the concern is over-inflated. This is just one question, and the result are not only understandable but explainable. A vast majority of Americans have reported a belief in the existence in God, and thus, by default, feel compelled to agree with the biblical narrative of creation.

The relationship between God and the biblical narrative is a strong one, and for believers it would be considered a betrayal of faith to hold a contrary view, even if it makes more sense. It does not necessarily follow that most Americans do not believe in Science for other matters, namely, in improving the lives of humanity. (I would like to see the results of such polls.). They just don't buy in to Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

There's more. For most Americans, Science can never give persons the comfort, solace and answers to the Big Questions that faith in God does, nor could it, since that is not its fundamental purpose; and hence the loyalty of the American people to their beliefs. It has been said that Science is good at explaining how; Religion on why. It just might be that persons in the U.S., an affluent but turbulent nation, are seeking answers to why questions rather than the how questions. Equally important, religious faith has been around since the beginning of humanity; modern science only a few hundred years—a blink of an eye in comparison.

You can read the rest of the article at [The New Yorker]