Skip to comments.Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology
Posted on 04/19/2006 3:57:51 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
A new article in PLoS Biology (April 18, 2006) discusses the state of scientific literacy in the United States, with especial attention to the survey research of Jon D. Miller, who directs the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University Medical School.
To measure public acceptance of the concept of evolution, Miller has been asking adults if "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals" since 1985. He and his colleagues purposefully avoid using the now politically charged word "evolution" in order to determine whether people accept the basics of evolutionary theory. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of Americans who reject this concept has declined (from 48% to 39%), as has the proportion who accept it (45% to 40%). Confusion, on the other hand, has increased considerably, with those expressing uncertainty increasing from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005.In international surveys, the article reports, "[n]o other country has so many people who are absolutely committed to rejecting the concept of evolution," quoting Miller as saying, "We are truly out on a limb by ourselves."
The "partisan takeover" of the title refers to the embrace of antievolutionism by what the article describes as "the right-wing fundamentalist faction of the Republican Party," noting, "In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, and Texas all included demands for teaching creation science." NCSE is currently aware of eight state Republican parties that have antievolutionism embedded in their official platforms or policies: those of Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas. Four of them -- those of Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas -- call for teaching forms of creationism in addition to evolution; the remaining three call only for referring the decision whether to teach such "alternatives" to local school districts.
A sidebar to the article, entitled "Evolution under Attack," discusses the role of NCSE and its executive director Eugenie C. Scott in defending the teaching of evolution. Scott explained the current spate of antievolution activity as due in part to the rise of state science standards: "for the first time in many states, school districts are faced with the prospect of needing to teach evolution. ... If you don't want evolution to be taught, you need to attack the standards." Commenting on the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover [Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District et al.], Scott told PLoS Biology, "Intelligent design may be dead as a legal strategy but that does not mean it is dead as a popular social movement," urging and educators to continue to resist to the onslaught of the antievolution movement. "It's got legs," she quipped. "It will evolve."
Gentle reminder: Now hear this: No personal attacks (title of thread posted 15 March 2006 by Jim Robinson).
To gauge the extent of fundamentalism's reach into American life, Miller evaluated adults' responses to three statements: the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally; there is a personal God who hears the prayers of individual men and women; and human beings were created by God as whole persons and did not evolve from earlier forms of life. In 2005, 43% of American adults agreed with all three statements.
Miller has an extremely condescending opinion toward Americans if he thinks they are too stupid to understand he is talking about "evolution" when he asks if humans "developed from earlier species of animals"
Which we will soon regret.
Miller has an extremely condescending opinion toward Americans if he thinks they are too stupid to understand he is talking about "evolution" when he asks if humans "developed from earlier species of animals"It isn't a matter of stupidity, it's a matter of valid polling techniques. The purpose of the phrasing is to rule out any immediate non-rational response to the word "evolution". If you really want some psychological studies on the effects of phrasing on memory recall (and the accuracy of those memories) then I can post some later today. But basically the issue is that certain words have varying connotations depending on who you ask, so if you can accurately rephrase the word into some non-connotative phrase then you are more likely to get a more accurate return from your sample.
The accuracy of this statement is what makes it so humiliating.
You dare question the new priesthood?
Since 1979, he says, the proportion of scientifically literate adults has doubledto a paltry 17%. The rest are not savvy enough to understand the science section of The New York Times or other science media pitched at a similar level. As disgracefully low as the rate of adult scientific literacy in the United States may be, Miller found even lower rates in Canada, Europe, and Japana result he attributes primarily to lower university enrollments.
But that really is only a crumb. Rather more telling, perhaps, is this observation:
As time went on, more people said they had a good understanding of stem cells21% in 2004, up from 9% in 2003but only 9% of respondents could define the term when asked, compared with 8% in 2003.
In other words, over half the folks who believed themselves to have a "good understanding" of a scientific concept were in fact incapable of even a basic definition of something they believed they understood.
Not unlike a number of critics of Darwin's ToE, who busily refute strawmen without demonstrating the most basic understanding of what Darwin actually wrote and (accurately) predicted.
What I still don't understand is, why is your Republican Party embroiled in this? Over here, the Conservative Party is staunch in its support of both enterprise and science--how can you support one without the other?
"..But basically the issue is that certain words have varying connotations depending on who you ask.." ~ droptone
So You Want to be an Anti-Darwinian
Varieties of Opposition to Darwinism
Copyright © 1998 by John Wilkins
[Last Update: December 21, 1998]
MMany different people oppose some or all aspects of Darwin's thinking, or the views that have arisen since and go by the term "Darwinism". This essay distinguishes and names the major varieties of anti-Darwinism. It does not attempt to defend or reject any views, just to provide a map to the conceptual territory.
Caution to the Reader
Every one of these viewpoints, although it has a name and often a number of defenders, is only a notional position, and is not held by anyone as bluntly as stated here. People can and do hold a variety of these positions and see no conflict with each other or Darwinism. Just because someone flies a banner doesn't mean there's an army underneath it or a war to fight. The world of science is not a formal logical system, and schools of thought do not resolve most of the time into exclusive camps. Or to put it another way, borders on maps are often arbitrary.
If you wish to disagree with Darwin, it is important to know what aspect of Darwin's thinking, and more importantly of modern evolutionary theory, you are disputing. Many opponents of Darwinism seem to think that because one disagrees with, say, the role of natural selection in evolution, that one automatically disagrees with the idea of evolution itself. Creationists especially seem to slide from "disagrees with some aspect of synthetic Darwinism" to "rejects evolution". One of the more dishonest versions of this tactic lies in the use of comments made in one context (for example, Colin Patterson's talk on the relevance of cladistic methods to reconstruct evolutionary trees in the Symposia on Systematics at the American Museum of Natural History) in an entirely different context (the supposed rejection by Patterson of Darwinism in total, despite his having written a book on evolution accepting Darwinian theory , see Patterson Misquoted: A Tale of Two 'Cites' FAQ).
What Darwinism actually is, is of course at issue. It is a term that has many different meanings, depending on the field in which it is being discussed . In, say, artificial life research, Darwinism tends to mean natural selection (in the form of what are called "genetic algorithms"). In systematics it means the reconstruction of ancestral forms and historical sequences of species. In bacteriological research it means the evolution of drug-resistant strains by selection. In organismic biology it means the evolution of new forms of life. In genetics it means the so-called "central dogma" of the inability of information about the state of the body to be reverse transcribed back into the genes, because that view was first proposed by an arch-Darwinian, August Weismann, in the 1880s. And in fact, all of these are just tendencies that vary according to where the researchers are, who you are reading, and the period in which those people lived. "Darwinism" according to Wallace in 1890  is very different to Darwinism according to Stephen Jay Gould or Richard Dawkins.
So, to overcome this confusion of meanings and to ensure that both notional Darwinians and anti-Darwinians alike know what it is they accept and what they object to, this essay covers the varieties of anti-Darwinism, including opposition to transmutationism, common descent, undirected variation, randomness, selection, Weismannism, and monism.
Theses of Darwinism [snip] Click here to continue: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/anti-darwin.html
What I still don't understand is, why is your Republican Party embroiled in this? Over here, the Conservative Party is staunch in its support of both enterprise and science--how can you support one without the other?You've got two main contributers to this issue (in my estimation). One, the poor state of basic scientific education. I do not mean what is the scientific method. The SM is important, but merely memorizing the steps and not fully grasping the application of it is pointless. The basic philosophy of science that underlies good scientific reasoning is also not even mentioned, discussed, or elluded to in basic education; so you'll have mainstream newspapers proclaiming that science has proven something or the other. Nevermind science is not in the business of proving anything. There is evidence for a theory or claim, and degrees of confidence that should accompany that evidence, but there isn't definitive proof of anything. This hurts the scientific enterprise when something is "disproven", say the recent trend of serious psychologists to reject multiple-personality disorder's either prevalence (because a huge portion of the case are diagnosed by a very few doctors) or existence or something along the lines of diety discoveries (omega-3 fatty acids' benefit for the heart have recently been called into question). So people cannot even understand what is being told to them, and absolutely do not have a justifiable critical eye towards such matters.
Personally, I do believe that evolution makes sense and is supported by the evidence. But, as an agnostic, I am very, very disturbed by the vitriolic fervor with which anyone who believes otherwise is attacked. I never see the pro-evolutionists reasoning calmly with the evidence on their side, but rather, storming around like the villagers in Young Frankenstein, relying on inflamed passions and demagoguery. (Someone please tell me I spelled that right). I also hate to see the supporters of evolution deny the existence of any scientist who thinks that there must have been some conscious plan for so complex a world. When one denies the existence of that which I've talked to, someone's going to be discredited. And it ain't gonna be me.
to teach such "alternatives" to local school districts. ( from the article)
There is only ONE reason why evolution is such a hot topic: GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS!
If we did not have compulsory attendance, compulsory tax payer funded government schools, the controversy over evolution would dry up like dew on grass on a hot summer morning.
Evolution has PROFOUND cultural, political, and religious consequences for all the children in the government school. Those who win the government school struggle over evolution or ID will influence the political, cultural, and religious worldview of the next generation of voters, politicians, judges, film makers, journalists, artists, and community leaders of all kinds. Is it any wonder that the fight is so bitter?
There is NO way that the government school can approach the topic of the origins of mankind without ESTABLISHING the worldview of some ( with political, cultural, and religious consequences) without actively working against and deliberately destroying the political, cultural, and religious belief systems of others. ( Hm?....don't our state and federal constitutions have something to say about "establishment"? )
Is evolution soooooooo important in the daily work and lives of ordinary people, that government should have the right to actively promote or destroy the religious, political, and cultural worldview of some children while establishing the worldview of others? I don't think so, and rational people will agree with me.
Please remember that government schools use the threat of police force to compel children to attend and to compel taxpayers to pay for the government school agenda. That is what government means. It means the threat of police force.
The solution: Begin the process of privatizing universal K-12 education. Parents, teachers, and principals should be deciding these matters privately in private schools.
By the way, evolution is merely one of HUNDREDS of curriculum and policy issues that have PROFOUND religious, cultural, and political consequences. Government must get out of the education business.
I wonder if you could come up with, oh, one thread that supports your belief that such a thing "never" happens. One thread that relies on "inflamed passions and demagoguery", and contains not a single example of "pro-evolutionists reasoning calmly with the evidence on their side". Just one thread.
I also hate to see the supporters of evolution deny the existence of any scientist who thinks that there must have been some conscious plan for so complex a world.
I'd hate to see that too. On the other hand, I wonder if you can name one poster who's done so. Just one poster.
Ha! Watch a few episodes of "Jay-walking" and get back to us.
Excellent points in your post!
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