1. says

    He wasn’t a creationist, quite — he didn’t believe that the world was 6000 years old or the bible was literally true. I’m not entirely clear what he believed, just that evolution didn’t make sense to him.

    Mostly he was stubborn and devil’s advocatey (and had great joy in pushing the family’s buttons). He truly didn’t believe evolution was true, but I think creationist was the wrong term for him.

  2. CanuckRob says

    Creationsit or not Wolfa, you have done a good thing. Your father now has at least one less irrational belief. I would like to know what book you gave him if you are willing to share that information.

  3. says

    I gave him a copy of Evolution, by Carl Zimmer (I linked to it in my post). I believe PZ recommended it to me, but I cannot recall who.

    Really, I’m so pleased he read the book, enjoyed it, and decided it generally made sense to him. (It’s hard to be convinced of something that doesn’t make sense.) I believe he even lent it to some of his other sceptical friends. (I appreciate the term change — this term seems generous.) And it’s not just because now he’s going to stop driving me nuts by mocking the idea of evolution.

  4. says

    Any religion which requires belief is irrational, Rob. Belief is one of those words like “Clearly” or “Truthfully…” it implies something which isn’t true or clear at all.

    Wolfa, great post though! I should read that book.

  5. Gun Of Sod says

    The question that I would love to answer is: “Why don’t rational explanations win over more fundamentalists/ID-proponents”. It seems transparently obvious to me that they are attempting to fit explanations around their pre-determined beliefs, why is this not obvious to them?

  6. Thinker says

    At least in part, I think the reason people aren’t won over by the rational explanations is emotional. The cold, logical style that many science writers use can make people feel they would have to abandon their sense of awe and wonder at the world around them if they accept the scienctific viewpoint.

    Those of us who have studied evolution (or other sciences) know that this isn’t the case – you simply replace the awe and wonder of an ignorant state with a deeper understanding of the “endless forms most beautiful”.

    My appreciation of a work of art can be deepened by learning about the artist, his life, what influenced him, the techniques he used and the context the work was done in. Similarly, learning about the processes of nature has increased, rather than decreased, the profound emotions I feel when seeing a flower, a bird or a Grand Canyon sunset.

    In addition, the scientific method itself, with its logic and fact-based reasoning, can seem mechanistic, almost inhuman, to some people. But I am sure many of those who think that is the case love the excitement of solving jigsaw or crossword puzzles, not to mention Su Doku, in which precisely those processes are required.

    So it comes down to how we communicate, not the content itself. I have not read Carl Zimmer’s book, but judging from his blogging and articles in the NY Times, I feel he is better than most of us at communicating this sense of wonder and excitement, along with the science itself, to the layman.

    Somebody said: “Opinions are like nails: the more you hit them, the harder they are stuck”. We have to learn to pull in smart ways, not just keep pounding.

  7. says

    I have not read the book myself — I chose it mostly because it was aimed low and had pictures. (I do want to read it, but it’s likely at a lower level than people who read Pharyngula would like. On the other hand: colour!)

    My father’s argument, at heart, seemed to be an argument from incredulity: it didn’t *make sense*, so it couldn’t be true. I think that (1) this is true for a lot of people who have no religious push to believe one thing or the other and (2) it’s really easy to dispel with (engaging, interestingly written/presented) information (as Thinker suggests).

    Now, my father had a few pluses that not everyone has. He is not part of a religion which is anti-evolution. He was uninformed rather than misinformed (“Why should I believe your facts are right and mine are wrong?”). He had family members ready to push him into becoming informed about this issue, such that he was the only person in the family who didn’t believe in evolution.

    But when I was looking for books, it was *hard*. Yes, a lot of them are interesting — I read quite a number of them. But they’re all aimed high, at the kind of person who already believes that evolution is true, but wants to read more about it. At the academic elite. There aren’t that many books available that are aimed lower, but for adults. This book is a coffee table book, which is fine, but makes it less likely that people want to read it, because it’s big and bulky, though it has the other pluses: it doesn’t speak down to the reader, but it doesn’t assume that they are the top 5% of people. It half-fills the void, but I think that there is room for something else.

  8. Sean Foley says

    I’m not sure if you saw it, Wolfa, but PZ put up a list of recommended books about evolution here back in December. If you’re still looking for more stuff on the subject, there’s probably something useful there.