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Jan 24 2012

Education Directly Correlates With Acceptance of Evolution

NPR asks why so many people have trouble accepting the theory of evolution, and reports on survey data that shows a direct correlation with educational achievement. The lower one’s level of formal education, the more likely they are to reject evolution, and vice versa.

The evidence is clear, as in a February 2009 Gallup Poll, taken on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, that reported only 39 percent of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36 percent don’t have an opinion either way.

The same poll correlated belief in evolution with educational level: 21 percent of people with a high school education or less believed in evolution. That number rose to 41 percent for people with some college attendance, 53 percent for college graduates, and 74 percent for people with a postgraduate education.

And also correlates with religious belief:

Another variable investigated by the same poll was how belief in evolution correlates with church attendance. Of those who believe in evolution, 24 percent go to church weekly, 30 percent go nearly weekly/monthly, and 55 percent seldom or never go.

Not surprisingly, and rather unfortunately, religious belief interferes with people’s understanding of what the theory of evolution says.

This should hardly come as a shock to anyone. I think there are two primary reasons why people reject evolution: mundane ignorance (they simply don’t know enough about it to understand it) and virulent ignorance (they have swallowed whole a large set of falsehoods, mostly religious, that make them believe they understand it when they really don’t).

48 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    It’s painfully obvious that this is why the religious right has so many problems with public education. The more educated an individual becomes, the more they start to become aware of other cultures, other religions, and science, the more likely it is they’ll abandon religious ideas which do not fit with those.

  2. 2
    had3

    I’m just amazed by the mental gymnastics the 26% of post-graduates who don’t believe in evolution must perform. That’s some good rationalizations there.

  3. 3
    Doug Little

    53 percent for college graduates, and 74 percent for people with a postgraduate education.

    Yegads, I find this extremely disturbing, those numbers are way too low. It’s not as if evolution is a difficult concept to grasp, and there is absolutely mountains of evidence for it, what kind of thinkers are we letting graduate from college?

  4. 4
    slc1

    Re had3 @ #2

    I’m just amazed by the mental gymnastics the 26% of post-graduates who don’t believe in evolution must perform. That’s some good rationalizations there.

    What, apparently, the survey didn’t include was what the graduates and post-graduates were majoring in. I would expect to see a significant difference between those majoring in one of the sciences (e.g. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) and those majoring in one of the humanities (e.g. history, languages, etc.).

    However, even someone with a PhD in one of the sciences is not immune. My PhD thesis adviser in elementary particle physics was a born again Christian who did not accept the Theory of Evolution.

  5. 5
    Who Cares

    I wonder how many of those (post)graduates went anal retentive and thought: I don’t believe, it’s based on facts.

    Doug Little: None are so blind as those who do not want to see.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    So if I read that correctly, education also correlates negatively with religious belief. Well fucking duh.

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    virulent ignorance (they have swallowed whole a large set of falsehoods, mostly religious, that make them believe they understand it when they really don’t

    There’s also the possibility/likelihood that they understand it and knowingly adopt a falsehood. I have long felt that a significant percentage – I’d guess more than 50% – of the people who claim to believe religion simply are lying. They “believe” but they know it’s not true. They propagate the lie because it’s socially convenient.

  8. 8
    roggg

    So it’s true then. The schools and universities are bastions of left wing liberal propaganda. Nah…just kidding. What really strikes me about these numbers is how bad they are across the board. The religious right has made significant inroads in muddying the waters around scientific consensus on this issue. Or America sucks…take your pick.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    The religious right has made significant inroads in muddying the waters around scientific consensus on this issue. Or America sucks

    …could be “and”

  10. 10
    dingojack

    So it’s official – Creationists are ignorant fucks!*
    Dingo
    —–
    * In other news – water discovered to be wet. Film at 11.

  11. 11
    Jordan Genso

    I have the same questions for evolution-deniers that I have for AGW-deniers:

    Is it possible for you to accept that evolution is real? What would it take to convince you? If you set the goalposts, and the science community reaches that goal, will you stop denying?

  12. 12
    Abby Normal

    I think there’s at least one more important metric they neglected, political aspiration. For example, a look at the initial top seven Republican presidential candidates shows only 29% accept evolution. (Unless Romney has flip-flopped and now rejects it, in which case 14%.) All of them are college graduates and all but one have multiple postgraduate degrees.

  13. 13
    holytape

    I believe the numbers are lower than expected for college/post college educated people because the category includes degrees with no relevance to science. I don’t except an english major or even an accountant to be much better versed in evolution than the average high school graduate. With that said, we need to have better high school graduates.

  14. 14
    D. C. Sessions

    I’d love to see you and Mark Hoofnagle kick this thesis around.

  15. 15
    slc1

    Re Jordan Genso @ #11

    Is it possible for you to accept that evolution is real? What would it take to convince you? If you set the goalposts, and the science community reaches that goal, will you stop denying?

    The testimony of Dr. Kurt Wise, BS Un. of Chicago, Phd Harvard University, YEC is perhaps the most telling. As Richard Dawkins describes it in an essay on Prof. Wise, “Whatever the underlying explanation, this example suggests a fascinating, if pessimistic, conclusion about human psychology. It implies that there is no sensible limit to what the human mind is capable of believing, against any amount of contrary evidence. Depending upon how many Kurt Wises are out there, it could mean that we are completely wasting our time arguing the case and presenting the evidence for evolution. We have it on the authority of a man who may well be creationism’s most highly qualified and most intelligent scientist that no evidence, no matter how overwhelming, no matter how all-embracing, no matter how devastatingly convincing, can ever make any difference.

    If no evidence would convince someone of Prof. Wise’s pedigree of the truth of evolution, what hope for someone with no scientific background?

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/dawkins_21_4.html

  16. 16
    michaelraymer

    Jordan Genso: Nope. I have some experience with irrational believers shifting the goalposts. One of my hobbies is studying the history of spaceflight, and that hobby brought me to forums where folks think the Apollo missions were hoaxed. On these forums, there are several qualified people (i.e., rocket scientists) who debunk these claims with great ease, but are met with the claim they are simply “NASA shills.” But, at some point, a hoax believer will get asked “What would it take to convince you Apollo was real?” Most of them refuse to be pinned down to anything concrete, but a few of them responded “Orbital images of the landing sites would convince me.” This was years before LRO. Then LRO happened. So, what was the outcome? Did a bunch of hoax believers suddenly come out of the woodwork and say “Oh, I was wrong, NASA did actually land astronauts on the Moon!” Nope. The reply was basically, “Photoshopped!” See, the images “must” be fake, since they already “know” the landings were fake. Why, it’s airtight logic! But it seems like irrational belief is the same regardless of the specific thing believed, so I’m sure the same is true for evolution deniers, climate change deniers, etc…

  17. 17
    harold

    Is it possible for you to accept that evolution is real? What would it take to convince you?

    Thank you for making this critical point.

    It is important not to model political ID/creationism in the US as merely mistaken belief due to ignorance or misinformation.

    Denying evolution is understood by many people to be one of the required tenets of an authoritarian social/political/religious ideology with which they wish to identify as a follower.

    When you are dealing with the 25% who outright deny evolution, and especially with the ones from the higher education groups, the answer is usually “nothing can ever convince them”.

    In my experience, they are best modeled as narcissistic authoritarians who behave as if they think that life won’t evolve, if they can coerce people into saying it doesn’t evolve. The same people take this post-modern, narcissistic, authoritarian “we create our own reality” reality-denying stance on a range of scientific and economic issues, AGW being an obvious one.

    What you can do is work hard to keep them from tricking the 36% who “don’t know”, many of whom are genuinely ignorant, not necessarily academically gifted, and often quite afraid of the 25% (think of where almost all threats of violence related to domestic politics emerge from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57364265/pols-cat-killed-liberal-scrawled-on-body/).

    However, don’t imagine that you can convince the hard core denialists themselves with evidence.

  18. 18
    baal

    I’m sure this is a huge part of the reason why folks with (R) after their names are so big on defunding higher Ed and cutting K-12 to balance state budgets. The reason I’m sure is that I worked for a while in state gov. and they’d admit it offhandedly behind closed doors.

  19. 19
    slc1

    Re Michaelraymer @ #16

    Yet another example is global warming denier Anthony Watts who, before the Berkeley climate study began, stated that he had complete confidence in the PI, Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller and would accept any conclusion that the research team arrived at. When Prof. Muller testified before a Congressional committee that his findings were that the climate scientists were correct and their research was confirmed, did Mr. Watts then come out and say that he now agreed that AGW was happening and that he had been wrong? Not a bit of it. Mr. Watts’ proceeded to bad mouth Muller’s study and accuse him of selling out to the “warmists”.

  20. 20
    harold

    Abby Normal said –

    For example, a look at the initial top seven Republican presidential candidates shows only 29% accept evolution. (Unless Romney has flip-flopped and now rejects it, in which case 14%.) All of them are college graduates and all but one have multiple postgraduate degrees.

    I said –

    When you are dealing with the 25% who outright deny evolution, and especially with the ones from the higher education groups, the answer is usually “nothing can ever convince them”.

    In my experience, they are best modeled as narcissistic authoritarians who behave as if they think that life won’t evolve, if they can coerce people into saying it doesn’t evolve. The same people take this post-modern, narcissistic, authoritarian “we create our own reality” reality-denying stance on a range of scientific and economic issues, AGW being an obvious one.

    These points are related.

  21. 21
    Trebuchet

    I’m an engineer, and after spending 40 years around other engineers I’d say a fair percentage of those with college degrees and beyond who deny evolution may be in engineering. It always boggled my mind how many people in such a reality-based profession could deny reality outside their specific expertise. This applies not just to evolution, but even more so to climate change. I also had a cubicle-mate who insisted the US Navy shot down TWA flight 800.

  22. 22
    plutosdad

    Indeed I couldn’t become an atheist until I left the church. Being indoctrinated every week, being told to “stop investigating things [I] didn’t need to know about”, being bombarded with apologetics (funny I read more apologetics and knew more than anyone else at any church).

    It was after I left I had time to think that I should read the “other side” of all these arguments (I read the anti evolution, pro fine-tuning, pro historicity of the bible, etc stuff to death for years), and had time to read and think without being influenced by people who were more concerned about protecting their worldview.

    And then only outside of that environment I finally could see both sides for what they were. No matter if there were jerks on one or both sides, the arguments were plain. one had good arguments, the other had horrible arguments that made no logical sense, and far, far worse: was propagated by liars who kept repeating the same debunked arguments hoping you never listened to anyone else, and one side was ultimately a rationalizer of evil.

  23. 23
    Jim

    Did the stats give any info on how many people who accept the theory of evolution (I steer away from “believe”) attend church on a weekly basis? I’m curious to find out if I’m a statistical anomaly.

  24. 24
    Jordan Genso

    slc1, michaelraymer, harold.

    Absolutely, a large percentage of the deniers would refuse to even answer the questions I posed, but I would like to think that if you posed the questions to enough deniers, that at least some would have the integrity to really consider answering. And that if they can’t come up with an answer, maybe they’d realize the irrationality of taking such a position.

    But it is right to point out that the questions do serve a better purpose when persuading an “undecided”. And so we should make sure that such points are included in the public discussion as often as possible. It won’t change the 25% of deniers, but hopefully get the 36% of “undecideds” to better understand how the deniers approach the issue in such an illogical way. And the same approach should be used when the issue is climate change.

  25. 25
    Aquaria

    What, apparently, the survey didn’t include was what the graduates and post-graduates were majoring in. I would expect to see a significant difference between those majoring in one of the sciences (e.g. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) and those majoring in one of the humanities (e.g. history, languages, etc.).

    1) Some of the humanities don’t make as much sense without the theory of evolution, so it’s important to know it. Anthropology and Geography come to mind.

    2) Several of the loudest anti-evolution buffoons are engineers and MDs, not just humanities geeks. There is a stunning correlation between engineers who claim scientific expertise while supporting creationism and other assorted quackery, enough that an entire hypothesis has been named for them:

    Salem Hypothesis.

    However, I do know why so many college grads and post-grads might not understand evolution as well as they could, after going through the catalogues for various branches of the University of Texas recently. All students in the undergrad University of Texas system are required to take only 6 hours of science, and you can completely avoid biology, or any mention of it. You might never hear the term evolution, if you’re sitting in a business, engineering or humanities class. Hell, you might not hear it if you take chemistry or physics.

    It’s probably up to the faculty of related subjects to demonstrate how evolution has effected their field; however, there’s no guarantee that a history professor will know or teach anything about it, even though the theory of evolution has had a profound effect on the subject.

  26. 26
    Aquaria

    I believe the numbers are lower than expected for college/post college educated people because the category includes degrees with no relevance to science. I don’t except an english major or even an accountant to be much better versed in evolution than the average high school graduate. With that said, we need to have better high school graduates.

    I think even more than that is that we’re discounting the huge numbers of idiots who get their “degrees” from fundie/evangelical university diploma mills. Liberty, Regents, Bob Jones, Oral Roberts–there are hundreds of thousands of grads from these frauds posing as universities.

  27. 27
    Canadian Yankee

    Trebuchet:

    I’m an engineer, and after spending 40 years around other engineers I’d say a fair percentage of those with college degrees and beyond who deny evolution may be in engineering. It always boggled my mind how many people in such a reality-based profession could deny reality outside their specific expertise.

    I’m trained in physics and work at an engineering company. I’d say that most engineers are good at math, but not so good in science – in fact, I’d say that there’s a fundamental difference in the engineering and the science mindsets.

    Engineers like to build things – when faced with a problem, they immediately want to build a solution. If the solution is not good enough, then they want to keep improving that solution until it is good enough.

    Scientists like to destroy things – when faced with a problem, they immediately want to look at the set of all proposed solutions and attack each one with all the firepower they can muster. When they’re done, the least damaged one will grudgingly be accepted as a provisional solution until something better comes along.

    Shoot enough holes in creationism and a creationist scientist will be likely to abandon it altogether for a better theory, while a creationist engineer will be thrilled to have the opportunity to apply patches and extensions in order to make it a fancier and more elaborate creationism.

  28. 28
    slc1

    Re Aquaria @ #25

    As someone who majored in physics, I can testify that I never took a course in biology at the university level and was, as an undergraduate and graduate student, only vaguely aware of the theory of evolution. The subject was not covered in the one life science course I took in high school. I suspect that my creationist PhD thesis adviser didn’t know much about the subject either. Everything I now know about the subject is self taught from reading popular books by Ken Miller, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Ernst Mayr, et al.

    However, even biologists may not be very familiar with the subject. Brown biology professor Ken Miller admitted that, at the time he was challenged by his students to debate Henry Morris, he really didn’t know much about evolution as it was not relevant to his research specialty, cell biology. He had to spend time boning up on the subject before the debate, in addition to reading everything he could find that Morris had written on the subject so he could respond to a Gish gallop.

  29. 29
    d cwilson

    If you set the goalposts, and the science community reaches that goal, will you stop denying?

    Creationists mounted the goalposts on wheels for ease of moving years ago.

  30. 30
    Michael Heath

    had3 writes:

    I’m just amazed by the mental gymnastics the 26% of post-graduates who don’t believe in evolution must perform.

    It’s extremely easy to get university degrees from public institutions without ever touching on the subject of evolution.

    In addition there are private Christian “colleges” who either don’t teach evolution at all or instead teach it as a strawman they knock down with some form of creationism.

  31. 31
    eric

    SLC:

    I would expect to see a significant difference between those majoring in one of the sciences (e.g. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) and those majoring in one of the humanities (e.g. history, languages, etc.).

    I haven’t looked at these polls in a long time, but IIRC the trend is basically the same for all majors save one. There are only minor differences in the numbers of, say, history vs. biology majors who accept evolution.

    The one exception? Divinity majors – theologians.

    What this points to is the huge impact that critical thinking has on creationism. It is not learning biology that gets you to question religious fundamentalism. It is learning how to assess your own beliefs with a skeptical eye. To find the flaws in your own ideas that others might (and very likely will) bring up. Practically every discipline has some sort of peer review or peer assessment practice, where your ideas are examined and critiqued by others. So practically every good academic learns to anticipate what their peers might say about their own assertions.

  32. 32
    abb3w

    Jim @23: you can get a notion from the GSS data. Using variables EVOLVED and ATTEND and rounding, for weekly attendees around a quarter of those asked say it’s true that humans developed from earlier animals, around three-fifths say it’s false, and about 10% say they don’t know.

  33. 33
    slc1

    Re eric @ #31

    If it is true that biology majors are no more accepting of evolution then history majors, then something is wrong with educational pedagogy. Although, maybe one shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Brown Un. biology major, and current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is an evolution denier.

  34. 34
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #30

    Most universities and colleges require humanity majors to take a science survey course. However, if the survey course taken is physics or chemistry, or astronomy (at Berkeley, astronomy was the most popular non-science major survey course), one wouldn’t hear anything about evolution as it has no relevance to those fields (except that, given the search for extraterrestrial life, the subject might come up in an astronomy survey course).

  35. 35
    rork

    The other stats:
    Weekly church attenders: 24% believe (in evolution), 35% No, 41% no opinion.
    Nearly Weekly/Monthly: 30% believe, 26% no, 44% no opinion.
    And seldom/never as given above: 55% believe, 34% no, 11% no op.

    The gallup report fails to give the marginal distribution: what fraction are “weekly”, etc, so I can’t reconstruct what the counts really looked like for the 1018 adults surveyed. They are just pollsters I guess, and don’t need to know how to report numbers clearly.
    They actually write “Previous Gallup research shows that the rate of church attendance is fairly constant across educational groups” – as if they were too dumb to realize they had data about that from this poll.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/114544/darwin-birthday-believe-evolution.aspx

  36. 36
    rork

    By Darwin’s liver, gallup permits themselves to say “These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity.” without any hint of a model. I think the author is just making it up.

  37. 37
    Michael Heath

    Canadian Yankee writes:

    Engineers like to build things – when faced with a problem, they immediately want to build a solution. If the solution is not good enough, then they want to keep improving that solution until it is good enough.

    I can only speak for engineers operating in repetitive manufacturing environments (autos, computers) who are, or aspire to be, ‘world-class’. The mindset described above was frequently observed decades ago. However total quality management approaches began to take hold in the U.S. in the 1980s and were fully established in the 1990s (though not always executed by experts but ‘wanna be’s’. This approach, which is a formal, structured way to think and act, requires the same rigor and a very similar approach to thinking that scientific methodology employs.

    This approach is taught within those corporations I described above that are or aspire to be world-class. I assume it’s getting increasing increasing attention in the relevant college degree programs.

    Given that this approach has let to not just radical improvements in quality and reliability, but unimaginably improved results, I expect to see all future engineers immersed in this type of thinking in all countries with a manufacturing base.

    And it’s not just engineers who are taught to think like this, every business group who touches groups with engineers also get this training with only a couple of possible exceptions (perhaps facilities in some organizations).

    My politics changed dramatically once I started to become a subject matter expert on a subset of this approach used to deal with defects which were purchased from a supplier. That’s because this disciplined approach to thinking enhances one’s ability to think critically and dismiss bad explanations of defects and instead work through a process to best understand the reality that caused such a defect which is also sufficiently framed. That skill set transfers well to arguments with people having a beef with science and how people argue public policy.

  38. 38
    rork

    #28 and the cell biologist thinking evolution not relevant.
    Maybe the details (like group selection or not) are not as critical, but I use what I think of as evolution every day, and it is extremely useful.

    We are studying some protein in human cells. We do yeast two-hybrid or proteomics experiments to see what other things are critical or sticking to that protein in yeast. We become more interested in the human homologs of the identified yeast genes and study them – I don’t know why, it just works.

    We are studying a microRNA that we thinks knocks down gene G in human. We immediately look to see if the part of the two RNA sequences we think bind in human are also present and have the binding conserved in Dog, chicken, worm, yeast, etc. It could be real even if there is no conservation (it’s “a new trick”), but we usually only follow up if it is conserved to some degree, since otherwise we often suffer from “bad luck”. Same thing for transcription factors binding DNA.

    True or false, I’m just here to say, that like Galileo’s ideas about how canon balls fly, it is instrumental.

  39. 39
    eric

    SLC: If it is true that biology majors are no more accepting of evolution then history majors, then something is wrong with educational pedagogy.

    Why assume that? What these surveys probably show is that there is a core 25% or so of fundamentalists that will not change their mind regardless of how much you educate them. But that a good, solid graduate education gets everyone else.

    No matter how much education they get, there will still be doctors who smoke and mathematicians who buy lottery tickets. If you say ‘good pedagogy’ ought to reduce the number of biologists who are YECs to zero, I think you have an unrealistically high expectation of what education can accomplish.

  40. 40
    harold

    Several of the loudest anti-evolution buffoons are engineers and MDs

    As pathologist turned entrepreneur who was an undergraduate biology major, one thing I learned from (rational) business partners who are engineers is that there is much less cross-training among them.

    I had to do at least some physics, chemistry, math, and statistics to get my biology degree. Any upper level undergraduate biomedical science class will have at least some students who are serious computer geeks, math geeks, or outright biophysics or biochemistry majors. I’ve done some graduate level work in statistics and probability.
    An engineer who was a business partner admitted to me that he had deliberately avoided all biology classes, because he was upset by the sight of blood and thought (incorrectly) that basic biology would necessarily involve being traumatized. Any developing engineer who is averse to biology for an irrational reason can simply avoid the biomedical sciences with ease.

    MDs who deny evolution are up there with the biology PhD’s who are creationists. Pediatric neurosurgeon Michael Egnor by definition deals with things like bacterial resistance, tumor clones resistant to chemotherapy, the anatomy of the human brain, etc, every day. A very special level of compartmentalization is required.

  41. 41
    slc1

    Re rork @ #38

    Let’s be clear about this. Prof. Miller never said that evolutionary theory was irrelevant to a cell biologist. He said that it didn’t come up much in his research.

    Re eric @ #39

    Of course, my response would be to question why these folks are going into biology as a major in the first place if they reject the fundamental tenant of the subject? A biologist rejecting the theory of evolution is equivalent to a physicist rejecting Newton’s laws of motion. As Theodosius Dobzhansky put it, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

  42. 42
    harold

    SLC: If it is true that biology majors are no more accepting of evolution then history majors, then something is wrong with educational pedagogy.

    I think this would actually be expected, for the same reason that the percentage of biology majors who accept 1776 as the year the Declaration of Independence was signed is about the same as the percentage of history majors who accept this.

    I just noted above that engineers sometimes manage to remain totally ignorant of the most basic principles of biology. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if history students do a bit better.

  43. 43
    harold

    To add to what Rork said above –

    However, even biologists may not be very familiar with the subject. Brown biology professor Ken Miller admitted that, at the time he was challenged by his students to debate Henry Morris, he really didn’t know much about evolution as it was not relevant to his research specialty, cell biology.

    Dr. Miller was measuring himself against standards of high academic expertise. He did not mean that he “didn’t know much” relative to a lay person.

    The theory of evolution is highly relevant to cell biology.

    What he probably meant was that he didn’t, as a cell biologist, make daily working reference to such fields as population genetics, ecology, or comparative gross anatomy/paleontology/physical anthropology.

    He had to spend time boning up on the subject before the debate, in addition to reading everything he could find that Morris had written on the subject so he could respond to a Gish gallop.

    Yes, a cheap trick of sleazeball creationists of that era was to take advantage of scientific specialization by lying about multiple fields of science at once, hoping that no one scientist would easily defend all the unfairly attacked areas.

  44. 44
    d cwilson

    Creationists are infiltrating US geology circles

    Newton describes the way in which so-called “Young Earth” creationist geologists – who sometimes hold advanced degrees in geology despite believing that the planet Earth is only a few thousand years old – work within the mainstream US geology scene.

    (emphasis mine)

    I think this is an important thing to take into consideration when asking why a degree in biology or geology is not a guarantee that someone will accept evolution. One can go to classes, do the work, and give all the correct answers on the tests to get a degree, but still hold onto creationist beliefs. In fact, it seems like some creationists are going out an earning credential for purpose of giving them the air of authority that they can use to then undermine evolutionary theory.

  45. 45
    Aquaria

    One can go to classes, do the work, and give all the correct answers on the tests to get a degree, but still hold onto creationist beliefs. In fact, it seems like some creationists are going out an earning credential for purpose of giving them the air of authority that they can use to then undermine evolutionary theory.

    See: Jonathan Wells.

    See: Casey Luskin.

  46. 46
    Aquaria

    If it is true that biology majors are no more accepting of evolution then history majors, then something is wrong with educational pedagogy.

    Maybe not.

    I think we’re forgetting that most people retain very little of what they learn in college, outside the things that pertained to them, or interested them. I don’t remember the quadratic equation, for instance. And I feel no guilt for that. Of course, I’m not trying to say that it’s a conspiracy to destroy christers. If they can’t remember what it was about, then they can easily be swayed by people who prop up their wishful thinking about being a sky fairy’s BFF.

    I also think it’s important to remember what I said in #26, and what Heath said in #30: There are substantial numbers of people who go to christer colleges and graduate schools who are willfully misled about evolution; worse, the students want to be misled about it. Or at least their parents want that. And then there are divinity post-grads on top of that.

    The numbers of such people could run into a significant portion of “all” college grads and post-grads.

  47. 47
    exdrone

    Canadian Yankee @27 writes:

    Engineers like to build things – when faced with a problem, they immediately want to build a solution. If the solution is not good enough, then they want to keep improving that solution until it is good enough.

    As a fellow engineer, my take is that engineers, in the above context, know that they will have to focus on certain hard problems to arrive at a solution, so they save time by knowing (and relying on knowing) many rules-of-thumb for the mundane aspects of the design. I think that engineers who are creationists fall into that unquestioning rule-following mental rut when it comes to creationist “facts” and arguments. Along these lines, try Googling a creationist argument verbatim, and see how many creationist websites repeat it word-for-word.

    Michael Heath @37 says:

    I can only speak for engineers operating in repetitive manufacturing environments (autos, computers) who are, or aspire to be, ‘world-class’. The mindset described above was frequently observed decades ago. However total quality management approaches began to take hold in the U.S. in the 1980s and were fully established in the 1990s …. This approach, which is a formal, structured way to think and act, requires the same rigor and a very similar approach to thinking that scientific methodology employs.

    I think that design engineers have a different mindset than process-focused engineers, at least in my experience. It’s not that they are allergic to scientific thinking, but they have a lot more motivation and latitude to find solutions through non-rigorous rapid prototyping and spiral development. Reproducibility is the homework you have to do after you get a preliminary solution and then the production engineers and test engineers show up.

  48. 48
    rork

    I didn’t mean to slam Miller so much as just give some down-to-earth examples of evolution being a productive idea, every single day. If I was going to a debate, I’d be studying up too. How else would I know what gaps God was occupying lately.

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