What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 6, 2012

America, The Scientifically Illiterate.

H/T to Dimitri for posting this on his facebook page:
Nearly half of Americans — 46% — believe God created the human race in a single day 10,000 years ago, a newly-released Gallup poll found.

The poll revealed that Americans’ ideas about the origin of mankind have remained virtually unchanged in the 30 years Gallup has surveyed on the topic.
Doesn't mean that any of what's believed is true, of course. Just consistently wrong over the last 30 or so years.  It's interesting to see how Gallup addresses that point.  We'll see it in a minute.

But let's look deeper into that Gallup Poll.  Some background:
Gallup has asked Americans to choose among these three explanations for the origin and development of human beings 11 times since 1982. Although the percentages choosing each view have varied from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period -- and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The 32% who choose the "theistic evolution" view that humans evolved under God's guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the 15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%).
Who is this God person, anyway?  Anyone?  Oolon?  Oolon?  Oolon Colluphid?

Back to reality.  Digging deeper into the numbers we can, perhaps, discern some greater insight into our American character:
Two-thirds of Americans who attend religious services weekly choose the creationist alternative, compared with 25% of those who say they seldom or never attend church
So, at the very least there's a correlation between regular weekly church attendance and deep scientific ignorance.

By political party, then:
Highly religious Americans are more likely to be Republican than those who are less religious, which helps explain the relationship between partisanship and beliefs about human origins. The major distinction is between Republicans and everyone else. While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.
And a correlation between political party and that same deep scientific ignorance.

And here's how Gallup oh-so diplomatically addresses all that ignorance:
Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.
Which is a very nice way of saying that all those nice people (consistently church-going Republicans, for sure) are just simply wrong about the science.

Sadly, we've done this all before.

So I'll say it again.  If we are a superpower in decline, this has to be one of its causes: our stubborn faith- based adherence to scientific ignorance.

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