In the August 11th, 2006 edition of Science magazine, a team of scientists led by John D. Miller published their findings of a study designed to investigate Americans’ rejection of the theory of evolution. According to a recent study, only fourteen percent of Americans, or a third of all United States citizens, believes the theory of evolution to be definitely true, and more than fifty-five percent hold tentative views of evolution.
In the global community we rank second to last in acceptance of evolution, right above Turkey, but below such technologically advanced nations as Cyprus, which I thought was a flower of some sort, and Latvia, which up until now I assumed was a fictional country in the Marvel Universe ruled by the Machiavellian Doctor Doom.
Miller and his team offer three reasons to explain our rejection of evolution:
1. “First, the structure and beliefs of American fundamentalism historically differ from those of mainstream Protestantism in both the United States and Europe. The biblical literalist focus of fundamentalism in the United States sees Genesis as a true and accurate account of the creation of human life that supersedes any scientific finding or interpretation. In contrast, mainstream Protestant faiths in Europe (and their U.S. counterparts) have viewed Genesis as metaphorical and–like the Catholic Church–have not seen a major contradiction between their faith and the work of Darwin and other scientists.”
2. “Second, the evolution issue has been politicized and incorporated into the current partisan division in the United States in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan. In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in southern and Midwestern states–the “red” states. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of “creation science.” There is no major political party in Europe or Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform.”
3. “Third, genetic literacy has a moderate positive relationship to the acceptance of evolution in both the United States and the nine European countries. This result indicates that those adults who have acquired some understanding of modern genetics are more likely to hold positive attitudes toward evolution. The total effect of genetic literacy on the acceptance of evolution was similar in the United States and the nine European countries.”
While I do believe that religion and politics play a major role in our rejection of evolution, I find Miller’s number three the most interesting. Basically, he’s saying that American’s don’t understand genetics on the most basic, elementary level. Miller goes on to explain that “fewer than half of American adults can provide a minimal definition of DNA.”
I’ve also read quite a few articles lately that explain that while the average American will identify his or herself as a devoted Christian, the literacy level of the average American regarding the Bible is tenuous at best. In this USAToday article, Cathy Grossman claims that “sixty percent of Americans can’t name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.”
Now, why would a group of people reject a fundamental scientific theory in favor of a book that they barely understand?
One word: laziness.
That’s right, I think we’re just too damn lazy to actually begin at Origin of the Species and work forward through scientific literature to understand evolution, and instead prefer the biblical account of creation over the scientific one simply because it’s easier to understand. Biological divergences…natural selection…common ancestry…damn, that’s just complicated stuff! Not to mention boring! The Bible’s version is just so much more exciting and science-fictiony, but never you mind the fact that it was never meant to be taken literally. Or that the creation narratives in Genesis were created by two different tribes of early Jews, and were later crammed together in a totally hack editing job.
Also, we’re such a group of PC-idiots that most people won’t argue with you if you refuse to do something, “because it’s against my religion.”
You might be surprised, but I fully support this willful intellectual ignorance. In fact, I’m planning on disbelieving in everything that I don’t want to waste time learning, and later blaming it on my religion. Theory of gravitation? How silly…we all know that the Flying Spaghetti Monster keeps us stuck to the ground with marinara sauce. Plate tectonics? That’s just stupid. When God spoke to the Famenites, he told them the ground was made of delicious nougat. Heliocentrism? BLASPHEMY! The internal combustion engine? Don’t be retarded. We all know that prayers power our SUVs.
As of right now, I only believe in three things: 1. Nutella and graham crackers; 2.Cold milk; 3. Napkins.
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have finished writing this right before my snacky time, but you get the idea.