Monday, 7 May 2018

Science Shows Creationists and Conservatives Are Ignorant

Source: Deena Skolnick Weisberg et al., in Bioscience, Vol. 68, No. 3; March 1, 2018
No Missing Link: Knowledge Predicts Acceptance of Evolution in the United States
Bioscience, Vol. 68, No. 3; March 1, 2018
Credit: Amanda Montañez
People Who Understand Evolution Are More Likely to Accept It - Scientific American

A study published in BioScience last March and reported on in Scientific American shows a clear link between scientific ignorance and rejection of evolution in favour of creationism in America.

It also shows the same link between scientific ignorance and political conservatism. In both cases the more ignorant of science a person is the more likely he/she is to be a creationist and politically conservative.

Conversely, the more scientifically knowledgeable a person is the more likely they are to accept evolution and the more politically liberal they tend to be. For those of us who spend time - probably far too much time - debating and trying to educate creationists and correct the dis- and mis-information pushed out by the creation industry, this simply confirms what is readily apparent. Creationists who confidently declare science to be wrong about evolution can rarely define evolution or say how science explains it. It is also quickly apparent that many of the most truculent and blatantly dishonest creationists are pursuing a political agenda that requires people to be ignorant of and misinformed about science.

My favourite tactic for exposing the disingenuous frauds who pretend to be interested in the evidence for evolution, having burst into a debate group in the social media and announced that they have proved evolution false and can prove creationism true, is to ask three simple questions. These questions should be simple for anyone who knows the science and is genuinely interested in evidence. They are:

  1. What is the scientific definition of evolution?
  2. How does the scientific Theory of Evolution explain the processes by which evolution occurs?
  3. What single piece of testable evidence would convince you that the Theory of Evolution is correct?

To date I have never had a creationist answer any of these questions. In fact, they seem to act like magic spells and make creationists disappear, at least for a few days until they think their failure to answer them will have been forgotten.

When you show you know you need to lie for your faith, you show you know your faith is a lie.
These are people who were earlier posing as experts, qualified to tell millions of working scientists that they don't understand their subject and have it all wrong. And these are people who a few moments earlier will have been asking for evidence for evolution. Yet they won't say what they would accept. Rarely, a creationist will proudly declare that they won't accept any evidence because it would conflict with their faith.

But what were they asking for evidence for, if they have decided in advance to reject it? This is clearly an attempt to mislead; to create the impression that their creationism is evidence-based, not faith-based. But why the pretence? Is there something to be ashamed of in having faith-based beliefs? Is scientific evidence seen as better so they want people to think they have evidence-based beliefs to deceive them?

Of course, there are a few who do it simply to show off that nothing would shake their faith. These are the people who get some sort of self-affirming glow from showing off that nothing anyone could say and nothing anyone could show them will change their minds. These are the irritating people who repeatedly ask the same questions and ignore the answers and who will never risk saying what they would accept because that would make it really difficult to reject it, if it is ever produced.

But isn't bearing false witness supposed to be a sin? Isn't pretending to be an expert and pretending to have evidence-based beliefs bearing false witness? The psychological process of moral self-licensing goes some way to explaining why fundamentalists so often act as though their religion's rules don't apply to them, but so does having a political objective where the real agenda is to misinform people and keep them ignorant of real science. These are the people who no more believe a god of truth and honesty is watching over them than I do, but to whom it is important that people believe falsehoods rather than the truth and remain ignorant of the real science.

As this study shows, the link between scientific ignorance, creationism and right-wing political extremism is clear. Those most likely to be scientifically ignorant are more likely to be politically conservative. Creationism keeps them that way. This is the real agenda behind the Discovery Institute, the Institute for Creation Research and other creationist disinformation sites - and why they lie freely to achieve it.

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