Saturday, 27 July 2013

Winning With Science

Belief in evolution up since 2004

The recent dramatic advance in the understanding of science and the corresponding rejection of primitive superstitions as an explanation for life on Earth across America was illustrated by a stunning YouGov poll published a few days ago. The last nine years between 2004 and 2013 when the poll was conducted has seen acceptance of the science of undirected, unguided Darwinian evolution as the explanation for human beings rise from just 13% to 21% - an increase of almost 1% per annum.

And it's even more of a shock for Creationists when we look at those figures more closely. Between 2004 and 2008 the increase was 0.5% per annum but this more than doubled to 1.2% per annum between 2008 and 2013. The rate of increase has doubled in just five years. This is beginning to look like the beginnings of an exponential growth phase where the rate of increase also increases steadily, just as we saw, and are still seeing in Europe.

This advance is against a backdrop of a very-well financed, increasingly shrill campaign of disinformation and downright lies conducted by the Discovery Institute and others as part of the 'Wedge Strategy'. The aim being to subvert the US Constitution and turn America into an extremist Taliban-style Old Testament theocracy with self-appointed fundamentalist Christian clerics forming all layers of government, complete with the death penalty for teaching 'false religions'. (See Why Creationists Lie To Us)

The belief that the best explanation is that God created humans in their present form within the last ten thousand years - a fundamental concept of Christianity from which everything else about this remnant superstition of blood sacrifice to appease an angry and vengeful sky god stems - is now a minority view held by only 37% of Americans whilst belief in some form of Darwinian evolution is the majority view at 46%.

As the YouGov poll reports points out, the position for Creationists is likely to worsen in coming years because acceptance that there was no god involved in the evolution of mankind is highest, at 31% amongst the key 18-29 year-old group. This is the group that will be, in the main, producing the next generation. As we found in Europe, once it becomes socially acceptable to dismiss the role of gods the switch in attitudes and beliefs can be quite sudden. Many European countries have switched from devoutly Christian to predominantly Atheist in the last fifty years. America, it seems, is merely lagging behind in this process.

However, the poll was not a total disaster for the Discovery Institute despite them clearly losing the battle over superstition vs science. They appear to have had some success in their campaign to fool the American public into thinking 'Intelligent Design' is an alternative science and not just biblical creationism in disguise, with a majority of Americans believing it should be taught in public schools as an alternative scientific explanation. This is despite Supreme Court and Federal Court rulings that teaching Creationism in either form violates the 'Establishment Clause' and is thus in violation of the constitutional right to be free from government interference in matters of religion. (Edwards v. Aguillard, 1984 and Kitzmiller v. Dover District School Board, 2005.) Curiously, the religious right, which is normally shrill in its opposition to government involvement in anything, including the health and welfare of American citizens and protecting them against predatory corporations, has a diametrically opposite philosophy when it comes to religious freedom. Religion, it believes, should be imposed on Americans with the full weight of the law.

The main challenge now facing rationalists is how to get this view across to people at the lower end of the income and education scale, where primitive superstition is still the norm as the following tables show:

Education
Less than high schoolHigh schoolSome collegeCollege gradPost grad
Undirected evolution9%14%24%32%37%
God-guided evolution29%22%23%28%33%
Created as is in last 10,000 years41%44%39%26%16%
Not sure21%21%14%13%13%

It's quite clear from this that belief in primitive superstition is inversely proportional to educational attainment. It is also clear from other work that the less educated a person is the more likely they are to come from the lower income groups which are, in turn, more likely to be members of the more fundamentalist Christian sects.

It is no surprise therefore to find people like Ken Ham, whose income depends on people remaining uneducated, have recently started teaching the unfortunate children of Creationists strategies designed to shut down any discussion which might lead to better understanding of science. (See Were You There?)

Ironically, in the USA, these lower income groups have been specifically targeted by the Christian political right who gave up victimising the under-classes when they achieved full political emancipation in the 1960s, and now seeks to keep them at the bottom of the social peck-order by keeping them under-educated and aspiration-free by selling them the notion that primitive Christianity is the only way they can have jam tomorrow - after they're dead and it's too late to ask for a refund - provided they accept their inferior social position in this one and vote for the Christian fundamentalist. This is reinforced by the insidious notion that all scientists are either mad, evil or elitist, and probably all three, and that nothing science has to say on anything can possibly be anywhere near as reliable as the folk-tales of Bronze-Age middle-eastern goat-herders - and they'll burn in Hell if they don't buy it.





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1 comment :

  1. It looks like the "undirected evolution" figure is closely tracking the percentage of Americans who claim no religion, which has also risen to around 20% and is also highest among people under 30. I agree that the US is following a similar trajectory to Europe, just a few decades behind.

    Don't be too disturbed that 26% of college graduates are creationists. It looks terrible, but the term "college" here in the US covers institutions that vary wildly in quality, including fundamentalist brain laundries. And it's possible to get a degree in some fields while remaining almost completely ignorant of science.

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