Belief in Evolution, Understanding Science, Not the Same

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Belief in evolution and understanding science are not the same, according to an article on the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School, 24 May 2014. Dan Kahan, a Professor of Law and Psychology at Yale Law School, has written an article entitled “You’d have to be science illiterate to think “belief in evolution” measures science literacy”, where he strongly criticises those who claim that people who don’t believe in evolution are ignorant of science and do not know what the theory of evolution actually says. He makes the following three assertions, and gives references to back them up:

“First, there is zero correlation between saying one ‘believes’ in evolution and understanding the rudiments of modern evolutionary science.” (emphasis in original)

“Second, ‘disbelief’ in evolution poses absolutely no barrier to comprehension of basic evolutionary science.”

“Third – and here we are getting to the point where the new data came in! -- profession of ‘belief’ in evolution is simply not a valid measure of science comprehension.” (emphasis in original)

To back up his third point Kahan compares two surveys of science literacy that included questions about the origin of human beings. One survey presented the statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals”. The other presented the same statement with the introductory clause: “According to the theory of evolution, ...”. For the first survey 55% said the statement was true. In the second 81% said true. Kahan commented: “Wow! Who would have thought it would be so easy to improve the ‘science literacy’ of benighted Americans”. Overall, Kahan’s research on surveys of “scientific literacy” has led him to conclude “that ‘belief’ in evolution is a measure of who people are and not what they know”. (emphasis in original)

Cultural Cognition

Editorial Comment: It seems that this lawyer understands what many scientists and educators don’t – belief in evolution does not measure science literacy - it indicates what world view a person has. Evolution is a world view based on faith, just as much as creation ultimately is. The key issue in the creation evolution debate is not science vs. religion, but truth vs. error, and which world view is consistent with the evidence.

The false dichotomy of science vs. religion is often used to accuse creationists as being ignorant and stupid, but as Kahan explains, it is possible to know about an idea without having to believe it. This has led to the undoing of some arrogant academics who debate us, when they assume that we don’t know any science and are too stupid to evaluate scientific evidence.

In fact, our experience with college and university students is that many people who claim to believe in evolution know very little about the theory, or how it is currently supposed to work. Most people who believe in evolution do so because the word “evolution” is repeatedly thrown at them by the media and authority figures like David Attenborough, usually accompanied by photos of plants and animals that actually show evidence for creation. (Ref. statistics, surveys, world view, philosophy)

Evidence News vol. 14, No.11
2 July 2014
Creation Research Australia

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