Saturday, March 31, 2007

Evolution and the uninformed U.S. American Christian

Here is the sort of of thing that really frightens me about my fellow U.S. American peers – that they have no clue about biology. Any political intuitions they have about stem cells, therefore, must be highly suspect, if not outright invalidated on that basis alone. Consider the following results from a study which came out this week in Newsweek:
Nearly half (48 percent) of the public rejects the scientific theory of evolution; one-third (34 percent) of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact. Seventy-three percent of Evangelical Protestants say they believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years; 39 percent of non-Evangelical Protestants and 41 percent of Catholics agree with that view.[1]

Although at first glance it appears as a shocker that over a third of college graduates accept “the Biblical account of creation as fact”, there is probably some room for a less dire analysis to this response. Many Christians I know would be perfectly content to say that (1) it's a fact that the world is God's creation; and (2) it's a fact that God constructed the world such that evolution is God's mechanism for the development of living things. I suspect there would be a split between these two options, with many U.S. conservative Evangelicals (the least scientifically informed group) denying the second; but with other Christian groups affirming both.

Still, this is not good news for America's voting system. A scientifically uninformed populous can only hurt itself in the long run by being clueless on even the most rudimentary foundations of biology. Moreover it's easy to manipulate people with political rhetoric and confusing information on such matters when this is their default view.

The study also notes how deeply religious American sentiments run:
A belief in God and an identification with an organized religion are widespread throughout the country, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. Nine in 10 (91 percent) of American adults say they believe in God and almost as many (87 percent) say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82 percent of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as such. Another 5 percent say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam.[1]

Again, and as a sociological observation, the least scientifically informed group, the socially conservative U.S. American Evangelicals, are often decrying how religion is being muted in the public school system and how society is continually suppressing the exercise of Christianity. With 82% of U.S. Americans identifying themselves as Christian, it doesn't appear there could be that many “suppressors” out there to do the job!


[image] "The New Monkey Trial" Salon News Jan. 10, 2005.

[1] Brian Braiker “God’s NumbersNewsweek March 31, 2007


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At 11:57 AM, Blogger Taylor Caraway said...

I used to think President Bush got a bad rap for all sorts of things in the public eye, but then I saw a video of his saying that "the jury is still out" on evolution. I think it's really telling that someone who admits to being infidelitious with his or her spouse or someone who openly admits to having experimented with a lot of drugs would never be elected, while someone's believing that "the jury is still out" on evolution is a complete non-issue.

With the potential implications that scientific developments have at this time, it is really interesting to consider the implications of electing someone with such spurious beliefs about something as foundational as evolution.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Roger said...

"With 82% of U.S. Americans identifying themselves as Christian, it doesn't appear there could be that many “suppressors” out there to do the job!"

Just out of curiosity, what % of the population do you need to have before you can suppress a significant portion of the rest?

Granted, I believe evolution is valid, and have a strong distaste for many of the antics of my christian peers. But arguing that there can't be much anti-christian sentiment in the US because the poll numbers don't add up is a weak basis, don't you think?


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