Independent thought is a virtue
I don’t want to invite trouble (I already get enough hassle from internet weirdos thank you). I was recently lurking on the Weston A. Price Foundation group and was surprised by the number of creationists that came out of the woodwork when the subject of evolution was raised. I heard on Radio 4 last week that there is only one country in the Western world whose population is less able to accept the notion of evolution than the USA, and that is Turkey.
Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals: true or false? This simple question is splitting America apart, with a growing proportion thinking that we did not descend from an ancestral ape. A survey of 32 European countries, the US and Japan has revealed that only Turkey is less willing than the US to accept evolution as fact.
Religious fundamentalism, bitter partisan politics and poor science education have all contributed to this denial of evolution in the US, says Jon Miller of Michigan State University in East Lansing, who conducted the survey with his colleagues. “The US is the only country in which [the teaching of evolution] has been politicised,” he says. “Republicans have clearly adopted this as one of their wedge issues. In most of the world, this is a non-issue.”
Miller’s report makes for grim reading for adherents of evolutionary theory. Even though the average American has more years of education than when Miller began his surveys 20 years ago, the percentage of people in the country who accept the idea of evolution has declined from 45 in 1985 to 40 in 2005 (Science, vol 313, p 765). That’s despite a series of widely publicised advances in genetics, including genetic sequencing, which shows strong overlap of the human genome with those of chimpanzees and mice. “We don’t seem to be going in the right direction,” Miller says. New Scientist
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Surveys by a Michigan State University researcher find that about one-third of the American population does not believe in evolution, a figure which is much higher than those found in similar surveys in European nations and Japan.
The research of Jon D. Miller, MSU Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies, is published in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Science.
“One in three American adults firmly rejects the concept of evolution, a significantly higher proportion than found in any western European country,” Miller said.
For example, in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France, 80 percent or more of adults accepted the concept of evolution, as did 78 percent of Japanese adults. Michigan State University
Only 40% of Americans accept the idea of evolution, compared to around 80% of adults from Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France and Japan. Around a third of Americans completely reject the concept of evolution (the rest, presumably, are undecided).
This is really astonishingly bad news. What has gone wrong with the US? I’ve spent a fair bit of time criticising the scientific community for poor scientific method, for being riddled with silly and outdated beliefs, and for burying its head in the sand. But if the general population can’t even get its head together about something as fundamentally proven as evolution, what hope do we have?
I personally find any form of spiritualism to be the most extreme form of arrogance. The idea that one can “just know” something is true without any factual evidence is deeply egotistical.
I’m aware that many people are indoctrinated into such beliefs from childhood, even that many people find solace in religion when they are grieving. But for many, religion is a great opt out. A way to get out of finding the answers to life’s problems, morals, and politics yourself, a way to get out of personal responsibility for your own life and health (after all this life doesn’t matter so much if one is going to come back as an ant in the next one), a way to get out of all the hard work of independent thinking.
Personally, for my ‘religion’, I would rather focus on increasing my quality of life and extending my lifespan, and using what energy I have in making this life better and more enjoyable for myself and others, whilst I am still here.