Over at The League, in a thread about evolution, Pierre Corneille said the following:
Speaking for myself, sometimes I actually kind of get a little chip-on-shoulder-y with the pro-teaching-evolution-in-school crowd because I detect sometimes a certain arrogance that annoys.
When deciding where I want my wife and I to land, I sometimes say “I don’t want to live in a place where I am the only vote on the school board in favor of teaching evolution.” I actually stand by the content of that comment, but it means something different to me now than it meant when I first made it. Now, more than anything, I understand it as a matter of culture. Namely, that I don’t want to live in a place that is not only highly religious, but sufficiently unified in their religiosity that they feel comfortable inserting that religion into the school curriculum. It’s not so much about the curriculum of science class per se (that can be taught at home), but rather the unified religiosity and the effects it is likely to have on culture that extend far beyond the classroom.
At some point, it dawned on me… do you know why I believe evolution? It’s because that’s what I was taught. I went to school five days a week, in an environment that taught it, and went to Sunday School only once a week in an environment that didn’t deny it. When I was a teenager, I started having serious questions about the veracity of the literal interpretation of the Bible. When I brought these concerns to my father, he basically said that I shouldn’t turn myself into a pretzel trying to verify what are often Very Important Stories and not necessarily a meticulous recording of events. And that the important parts of the Bible are not the recording of events at all.
That’s the sort of environment I was raised in. The results on my thinking of evolution are, by and large, a product of that raising. Because I am not a science-fiend. Science was easily my least favorite subject in school. I could spout off the answers to the questions, I could do the math parts really well, but I didn’t have the passion for it. At all. Unlike reading class, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t care. It was much, much easier for me to put my faith in what science people told me was true.
Now, I can list off a bunch of reasons as to why it is more practical to believe the White Coats over the White Robes, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that I was never really challenged on this front. To some extent, I believe the White Coats because that’s who I was told to believe and the White Robes were saying unrelated things that strained credibility. If I could lend credibility to the other things – the ones I went to my father about – then it would actually be a little bit tougher for me to say “Oh, yes, their views on the metaphysical being of humanity and existence are quite true, but their views on the origins of mankind and the planet are just nonsensical.” Not that it can’t be done, but it’s foolish to pretend that I came about my views objectively and intelligently while they didn’t when, for the most part, we are both just believing what we were told by the people we believe. People often reject what they are told to believe, but the same dynamics are there regardless “The White Robes were lying about this, therefore anybody and especially the White Coats are more credible on the whole creationism vs. evolution thing.”
The primary difference not necessarily being that one Cares About Science while the other Hates Science, but rather it revolves back to believing the people on your side of the line in the sand on other issues translating into belief of evolution.
Now, I speak mostly of people who are like myself in this regard. Who knows, I may be the only person in the entire universe who believes in evolution for relatively superficial reasons. But, I kind of doubt it. I’ve seen debates between creationists and evolution supporters wherein the former absolutely crushed the latter. The creationist was able to talk about micro-evolution and macro-evolution and something about the Grand Canyon that I forget and a whole host of reasons as to why they believe evolution – by which they really mean macro-evolution – is bunk. Meanwhile, the latter focuses scornfully on “That man in the sky” and “Republicans are stupid.”
Not that those arguments sway me to the creationist side. They don’t. Because, ultimately, I believe the White Coats. Mostly on faith and the reasoning of how they say they came about their views versus, ultimately, how I believe the other side came about theirs. Comparative credibility, when I am not really an objective party in any real sense.
I don’t mean to get all relativist here. I do genuinely believe in evolution and I don’t think the sides are really created equal here. What I am more leading to is this comment that I made, preceding Pierre’s:
I do want evolution taught in schools, and would vote on that basis, but a whole lot of very functional people – people in the medical profession, even – believe in creationism. It’s not the indicator of intelligence or competence that people make it out to be.
In addition to the above revelation, this is a product of being raised in the South as much as anything. Or any religious area, really. You meet and get to know a lot of really wicked-smart people that believe things that you believe completely and utterly defy common sense and credibility. And when you stop and think about it – if you stop and think about it – it really doesn’t make sense to really put people in one side or the other in the Smart Box and the Stupid Box. Republicans disproportionately believe in Creationism, and oppose AGW, but outside of that are not on average any more ignorant of SCIENCE! than are Democrats. It’s more about what I would consider to be blind spots than blindness.
It’s because of this that I am increasingly less patient with comments suggesting that creationists cannot be competent doctors, engineers, or so on. A part of my job description at an old job was to edit my boss’s religious tract. It was some 300 pages long, including quite a bit on evolution, wherein he came down pretty hard against. He was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. He was a mechanical engineer, but if he’d chosen surgery or medicine instead, I would trust him with the care of my baby daughter. And I have virtually zero affection for the guy.
I still don’t understand it, to be perfectly honest. How smart people can believe these things that just seem so unbelievable to me. But ultimately, I have to consider that they got their views from a place not all that dissimilar from where I got mine, albeit from the opposite end. And as much as I am inclined to blame that on passivity, research on global warming has indicated that education mostly serves to harden views rather than lead everyone to the “right” one.
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