Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Creationism Round-up: Alive and Well in America

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, by Domenichino, 1626

Researchers recently correlated American belief in creationism to American understanding of evolution and found that, among 34 countries, America ranks number 33. Only the people of Turkey know less about evolution than we do, as a nation.

Culprits in our ignorance about the basis of evolution are our poor understanding of biology ~ especially genetics ~ plus a widespread literal interpretation of the Bible, as well as the fact that science in our schools has become highly politicized.

“American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.

Findings were based upon data collected between 1985 and 2005 in 32 European countries, the United States and Japan. According to LiveScience, adults in each country were asked whether they thought the statement “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals,” was true, false, or if they were unsure.

The study found that over the past 20 years:
  • The percentage of U.S. adults who accept evolution declined from 45 to 40 percent.
  • Yet the percentage overtly rejecting evolution also declined, from 48 to 39 percent.
  • It was the percentage of adults who were unsure that substantially increased, from 7 to 21 percent.
Of the other countries surveyed, only Turkey ranked lower, with about 25 percent of the population accepting evolution and 75 percent rejecting it. In Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France, 80 percent or more of adults accepted evolution. In Japan, 78 percent of adults did.

Influence of Christian Fundamentalism

The analysis found that Americans with fundamentalist religious beliefs ~ defined as belief in substantial divine control over all things worldly ~ were more likely to reject evolution than Europeans with similar beliefs. The discrepancy is due to differences in how American Christian fundamentalist and other forms of Christianity interpret the Bible.

While American fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible literally and to view Genesis as a true and accurate account of creation, mainstream Protestants in both the United States and Europe instead treat Genesis as metaphorical, the researchers say.

“Whether it’s the Bible or the Koran, there are some people who think it’s everything you need to know,” Miller said. “Other people say these are very interesting metaphorical stories in that they give us guidance, but they’re not science books.”

Click here for the complete article in LiveScience.

In other recent creationist news:
  • A recent survey found that 12 percent of U.S. high school biology teachers present creationism or intelligent design in a positive light in the classroom, despite a federal ruling against it. In a 2005 case in Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones called a school district's policy of teaching intelligent design "breathtaking inanity." Click here for the article.
  • A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2005 shows 42 percent of U.S. residents saying they hold strict "creationist'' views that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.''  Click here for the article.
  • A new survey in the UK found that 29 percent of teachers surveyed via email think creationism and intelligent design should be taught as science. Half of the surveyed teachers said they think excluding these ideas from the classroom would alienate students from science. Click here for the article.
  • The Creation Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, is packing them in, with now more than a half-million people touring its Old Testament displays since it opened in May of 2007. Click here for the article.

Believing in creationism at the expense of evolution is not simply a matter of education. Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in California, told LiveScience it goes deeper, and is a function of our country's culture and history.

“The rejection of evolution is not something that will be solved by throwing science at it,” Scott said. "There needs to be more addressing of creationism from these more moderate theological perspectives. The professional clergy and theologians whom I know tend to be very reluctant to engage in that type of ‘my theology versus your theology’ discussion, but it matters because it’s having a negative effect on American scientific literacy."

Click here for the LiveScience "Top 10 Creation Myths," showing the beliefs of several cultures regarding how life on earth began.


ludmil said...

This article brings amazement regarding the way the rest of the world view America.Being an emigrant i always view America as the country that put man on the Moon,country on the cutting edge of technology,science and social experiments.And when you read this survey that we are ranking on the bottom with Turkey ,makes you really perplexed.As everything there is a surface and deep down different reality.It is like iceberg.Down bellow is the critical mass of fundamentalism that rules and guides the country.Well for starter 2009 is the big Darwin anniversary.200 hundred years after his birth and 150 after the ground braking publication that shook like earthquake the world of Creationism-"On the origin of the species".I would say would be a great event bringing the both sides:Creationists and Evolutionists to the battle field of the creative discussions.I can,t wait! Greg all ready started with a great article way back ,about "The church of England and Darwin".There will be more to come in the media.At the beginning of this month two very prominent/in their field/anthropologists were awarded Leakey award.The Leakey Foundation is named for Lois Leakey,the pioneering explorer of the roots of human race.The recipients are Jane Goodall/GB/and Toshisada Nishida/Japan/.We used to think that making tools was that distinguished us from animals.And then Jane Goodall back in the 60,s showed that chimpanzees use tools,and roughly at the same time did Dr.Nishida.Goodall,s work prompted Leakey to proclaim at the time;:Now we must redefine tool,redefine man or accept chimpanzee as humans"The recipients hope to inspire the general public,s interest in science at a time when the quality of US science education is suffering and basic principle,s of science ,such as EVOLUTION,ARE NOT UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED.This article is example for that.Chimpanzees share an aw full lot of their DNA with us.For an evolutionist there is no way that could happen unless we both evolved from something hallway,if you like,between a human and a chimpanzee.Even the late pope John Poul said that the Darwin theory should be left or fall on it,s merit.The school system should encourage creative thinking and stop trying to cloud the young minds with religious dogma.

Gregory LeFever said...

I agree, Ludmil, that much will be happening regarding people's understanding of evolution in the coming few years. Like so much else, the creationists know little about evolution and base their opinions on falsehoods. I wouldn't mind if they continued to cling to their creationist ideas if they would only take the time to learn some facts about what they're opposing. It's a character trait we see in many places where fundamentalist have no room for facts, whether it's concerning scientific theory or presidential elections.

Ultimately, I believe their ignorance and their continued refusal to learn things will be their undoing.

Christine LeFever said...

It's pretty scary that people can be so ignorant and horribly frightened at looking at something other than what they've been raised for generations to believe. This goes for all forms of fundamentalism.