[extropy-chat] survey on fringe ideas: evolution

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Thu Oct 27 18:41:45 UTC 2005

On Oct 24, 2005, at 9:07 PM, spike wrote:

> Be that as it may, I do not get too worked up about
> surveys showing what percentage of the population
> believes this or that, for those figures can be
> greatly affected by how the question is asked.

If I had not personally met up with major human irrationality on many  
occasions it would be easier to be soothed by this.   Ignoring the  
fact that a large part of the population is not only ignorant but  
willfully ignorant is ignoring reality.  This is not extropic.

> Ron Numbers, in his excellent book The Creationists,
> deals with this by citing a number of studies based
> on surveys, some of which he designed himself, that
> demonstrates that a significant portion of the
> population believes in two or more mutually
> exclusive concepts simultaneously.  Michael Shermer (Why
> People Believe Weird Things) and Steven Jay Gould (Rocks
> of Ages, et.al.) have also noted this, specifically
> with regard to evolution and creationism.

Yep, which is why in the 21st century we are still wasting time on  
monkey trials in the US.

> In some (or perhaps most) cases this really is as
> absurd as it sounds, but consider the case of
> sophisticated creationists (yes such a thing
> does exist).

Sophisticated rationalization exists.  I have done more than a little  
of it myself.

>   People can be taught from earliest
> childhood that creationism is the truth, and to
> think otherwise is to deny the word of god.  The
> notion is difficult for many to give up even if
> later they receive top-notch scientific training.

Sure. But this is part of recognizing or explaining the truth of what  
the surveys portray.  We are also too used to treating religious  
notions as so sacrosanct that we don't point out the obvious errors  
in one another's religious beliefs.   Even atrocities are condoned in  
the name of religion.

> So often some hybrid notion is derived.
> Consider the survey question:
> Do you believe in
> a) creationism
> b) evolution
> c) neither
> d) both
> A sophisticated creationist may answer choice d,
> reasoning that Noah only took aboard the ark the
> land-based families of beasts, or possible only orders,
> then genera and speciation occurred later, by the
> mechanisms of traditional evolution.

Well and completely exploded.  A total non-starter.

> If the survey
> is taken in rural Alabama, I have no doubt that
> the pollsters are appalled at how few choose b.  One
> of our now-absent former ExI posters insisted that
> we avoid the use of the term "believe."  He might
> choose c.  So how do we score it?  Do we say all
> the non-b choosers are the percentage that does
> not believe in evolution?

Irrelevant to the problem and I very much expect you know it.

> Ron Numbers makes the case that those polls which
> show a person believing mutually exclusive notions
> should be eliminated from the final score.

What for?  It is merely an accurate portrayal of the chaos in the  
minds of many people.

> He suggests
> that this could result in most of the survey-returns being
> eliminated, but then the conclusions are much more evolution-
> friendly.  Perhaps we can figure out a way to weight
> the results based on the number of contradictions
> in the survey, in the spirit of the three-coins test
> example.

What for?  The on-going monkey trials show all to real fire behind  
what you would pass off in part as meaningless smoke.

> I suppose that if people take a serious interest
> in origins of life and approach the problem with
> a disciplined and open mind, they will find the answers
> they seek.  If they take no interest in these matters,
> it is irrelevant what they believe.

Not in a country where they have the votes to force the poisoning of  
the minds of future generations.

- samantha

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