Sunday, February 15, 2009

Darwin, Evolution, and Religious Influences on Belief

Education level influences whether you believe in Evolution; but, religious influence matters way more.

Of course in this celebration year of Darwin's birth, there will be plenty of good articles, and Nicholas Wade has written one for the New York Times. Here's an insightful quote, but there were many:
From the perspective of 2009, Darwin’s principal ideas are substantially correct. He did not get everything right. Because he didn’t know about plate tectonics, Darwin’s comments on the distribution of species are not very useful. His theory of inheritance, since he had no knowledge of genes or DNA, is beside the point. But his central concepts of natural selection and sexual selection were correct. He also presented a form of group-level selection that was long dismissed but now has leading advocates like the biologists E. O. Wilson and David Sloan Wilson.[1]
I'm sure this celebration of Darwin's 200th birthday must be excruciating to people who believe that the first two humans in history walked around naked in a garden a few thousand years ago, humans whom subsequently had a bad run-in with a talking snake. A gallup survey released this month found the following:
only 39 percent of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution," and just 24 percent of those who attend church weekly believe in that explanation for the development of life on Earth. [...] and 36 percent said they don't have an opinion either way.[2]
The poll also notes that education level has much to do with the issue, since "Among those with high-school educations or less who have an opinion on Darwin's theory, more say they do not believe in evolution than say they believe in it." [2] No big surprise there. Although the numbers are markedly different when direct comparisons of education level are made -- "Just 21 percent of respondents who had up to a high school level of education believe in evolution, compared with 74 percent of those with postgraduate degrees." -- it appears that education is not the predictive factor. Instead, it's the influence of religious beliefs: "55 percent of those who seldom or never attend church expressed belief in evolution, while 11 percent do not, and 34 percent have no opinion."

One thing I find notable is the "no opinion" crowd. I wonder if it because they are really ignorant about biology, or if it's because they don't want to admit their views on the matter publicly just because the matter is (sadly) controversial.



[1] Nicholas Wade "Darwin, Ahead of His Time, Is Still Influential" Feb. 9, 2009 New York Times

[2] "Darwin's Birthday Poll: Fewer Than 4 in 10 Believe in Evolution" Fox News Feb. 12, 2009 (Accessed 2/15/2009)

[*] Some people think that there are still too many missing links in the fossil record, and that Evolution, as we understand it today, is therefore not established; or, maybe that evolution at the macro-level is not established, at least, in light of such missing fossil evidence. But this is just an old (religious) wives-tale. Here's a nice article from Live Science which discusses and showcases many types of linkage fossils: Robin Lloyd "Fossils Reveal Truth About Darwin's Theory" Feb. 11, 2009 Live Science (Accessed 2/15/2009)

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

The owl is wise

The owl sees all
even when darkness reigns,
and is therefore rightly accounted
as a symbol of wisdom.
So too, is the owl a predator.


[image] "Juvenile Borrowing Ow" Elegant Memories Photography Flickr Feb 6, 2009. (Accessed Feb 7, 2009)

[ * ] Classification

* Kingdom Animalia (the animals)
* Phylum Chordata (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals)
* Subphylum Vertebrata (animals with backbones)
* Class Aves (Birds)
* Order Strigiformes (owls)
* Family Tytonidae (barn and bay owls) and Strigidae (other owls)

[ * ] "Owls of North America" The Owl Pages -- excellent site which gives scientific name of each species, full descriptions, and even sound files which showcase the calls of each species.

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