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Proof most Americans are stupid .. at least when it comes to biology

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Ayn Rand had her doubts about evolution too. Is that proof she was stupid?

If the poll showed the number of people believing in creationism--now that would be proof of stupidity. Evolution and creationism are often presented as a dichotomy, but in fact they aren't: it is also possible to believe in neither of them.

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Ayn Rand had her doubts about evolution too. Is that proof she was stupid?

If the poll showed the number of people believing in creationism--now that would be proof of stupidity. Evolution and creationism are often presented as a dichotomy, but in fact they aren't: it is also possible to believe in neither of them.

Is there any other view than creationism or evolution?

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Is there any other view than creationism or evolution?

my favorite, which i guess is an offshoot of creationism, is an argument i heard for neo-creationism: that a scientist took a time-travel machine back in time and planted the first microbe in a bubbling pool of goo.

Edited by athena glaukopis

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CF, Do you think that there is any reason not to accept the validity of evolution today, with certainty?

Absolutely: the reason is that accepting something with certainty presupposes having seen and understood the proof for it and integrated it with all the rest of your knowledge. If I spent several years studying the theory and the evidence for it, I might--or might not--eventually come to the conclusion that it is certainly true. There are people who do this as a part of their career--but since such a highly specialized aspect of biology is not relevant to my career (just like it wasn't to Ayn Rand's) I have not chosen to engage in such study. So, if I were asked the question of the poll, the honest answer for me to give would be "Not Sure."

Come to think of it, if the sample was at all representative of America's general population, that's what most of the respondents should have said as well, so the fact that most Americans claimed certainty where they were clearly not in a position to possess it does prove them stupid. But I am totally certain that, unless he wanted to set us up for a clever trick, this is not what David meant! :thumbsup:

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Is there any other view than creationism or evolution?

Not any positive view providing a full picture of the origin of life and the various species as well as man's volitional consciousness. Creationism and some interpretations of evolution claim to have all the answers, but there is nothing forcing an honest person to accept all the answers of one or all the answers of the other.

You could also have the following view, for example, which I in fact do: Creationism is arbitrary. The theory of evolution is a highly plausible account of how minor changes occur within existing species (as has been substantiated by observations) and possibly of how new species are formed from existing older species (although I am not aware of any observations of this actually happening, and given the age of the theory and the timeframes involved in the formation of new species, I think we are definitely far from having been able to make enough observations to confirm the theory as the full explanation of it). To the extent I am familiar with it, the theory of evolution does not give a satisfactory explanation of how life itself began on Earth, and does not even attempt to address the specifics of how the perceptual consciousness of apes turned into the conceptual and volitional consciousness of man.

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Is there any other view than creationism or evolution?

Sort of. You can believe the Universe has always existed as it is today, with some changes like supernovas, extinct species, etc. But basically that there were humans since the beginning of time, along with dinosaurs, mammals, trilobites, and everything else. It would be an extension, some would say an implication, of the Steady-State Universe model.

Doubting evolution, or anything else, is not stupid. Nothing should be taken on faith or authority, after all. But there are rational doubts and irrational ones. If your're unsatisfied with a given explanation for a certain phenomenon, or consider some assumptions to be invalid, than you have a rational doubt. If, on the other hand, you claim evolution contradicts some book for which there is scant supportive evidence, well, that's not rational at all.

Irrationality may or may not be the result of stupidity. It's tempting to think it always is, but I've found that's not always the case.

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Absolutely: the reason is that accepting something with certainty presupposes having seen and understood the proof for it and integrated it with all the rest of your knowledge. If I spent several years studying the theory and the evidence for it, I might--or might not--eventually come to the conclusion that it is certainly true. There are people who do this as a part of their career--but since such a highly specialized aspect of biology is not relevant to my career (just like it wasn't to Ayn Rand's) I have not chosen to engage in such study. So, if I were asked the question of the poll, the honest answer for me to give would be "Not Sure."

My knowledge of evolution comes from what I have learned in high school, a few Richard Dawkins books, discussions with friends and my understanding of the mathematics behind evolutionary meta-heuristics. Although I lack a doctoral understanding of evolutionary biology, I do not really think I in particular, or anyone else with a similar situation in general, have a reason to doubt evolution especially since the flaws in the alternate explanations of creationism are pretty obvious. Thus, I do not see any reason why someone in my position should not indicate "yes" when queried if they believe in evolution. Of course, when I say "yes" here, I am still open to new facts that could cause me to subsequently change my position. However, within my context of knowledge, I am certain.

That being said, could you please elaborate more on your position? Do you believe that you have a reason to question evolution? Are there any significant details about evolutionary theory that you would prefer to understand before you indicate your certainty in your belief?

Ayn Rand had her doubts about evolution too.

Can you please provide a source for this? I think I remember reading that she claimed to not know all of the details about evolution. However, this is certainly different from expressing a reason to doubt evolution.

Part of the reason why so many United Statesmen express disbelief in evolution is that it is often not taught here. Even at the Georgia Institute of Technology, many of the undergraduates here indicated to me personally that they were not taught evolution in the Georgia public school system.

Edited by DarkWaters

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I resent the idea that belief in Creationism or non-belief in Evolution makes a person "stupid." If so, then I was stupid until about age 21, at which point I suddenly became intelligent! My father is a Creationist and a biblical literalist, but he is also a very intelligent man.

There's a difference between "irrational" and "unintelligent...a difference between "sufficiently brainwashed" and "stupid."

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Can you please provide a source for this?
As far as I know, these references are the ones that are public. If one ignores her specific particular statements about being unsure of evolution, one might conclude (for the rest of the reference) that Rand is arguing in support of evolution. So, her disavowal, is more in the nature of a caution to the reader not to assume that she is an expert in the field, speaking with the certainty of an expert.

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To the extent I am familiar with it, the theory of evolution does not give a satisfactory explanation of how life itself began on Earth

You are correct, but that is not the aim of evolution. Darwinian evolution defines how species evolve, but it does not address, nor attempt to address, how it started. Evolution starts at the single-cell organism and works up. What sparked that first single-cell organism is out of the realm of evolution. It is a matter of biology and chemistry.

and does not even attempt to address the specifics of how the perceptual consciousness of apes turned into the conceptual and volitional consciousness of man.

Evolution favors survivability. Those with the mechanism for survival survived, those without it did not. The identifying characteristic of our ancestors was a primitive cognitive faculty, which has been honed over many, many years by "selecting" the smartest. The progression, at least to me, seems very plausible.

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Evolution favors survivability. Those with the mechanism for survival survived, those without it did not. The identifying characteristic of our ancestors was a primitive cognitive faculty, which has been honed over many, many years by "selecting" the smartest. The progression, at least to me, seems very plausible.

I think he means there's no satisfying record provided which shows the evolution of the volitional human conciousness. That's not a disproof of evolution, since we have proof evolution occurs. It's simply something that doesn't yet fit the theory -- HOWEVER, since we can't even biologically locate what it is in man's mind that we can label as saying, "this is how man's volition springs about", we can't talk about its evolution, let alone whether it calls for a reassessment of the entire theory of evolution.

As a biological concept though, a system, known as evolution, whereby those traits that allow the survival of a creature in its environment are passed on, whilst those creatures with weaker traits naturally die off in their environment, there is nothing invalid about the theory of evolution.

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One site reports the following from a 2001 Gallup survey of Americans:

  • 45% chose "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so,"
  • 37% chose "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process"
  • 12% chose "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."

The reference says "The public has not notably changed its opinion on this question since Gallup started asking it in 1982."

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That being said, could you [CapitalismForever] please elaborate more on your position? Do you believe that you have a reason to question evolution? Are there any significant details about evolutionary theory that you would prefer to understand before you indicate your certainty in your belief?

My apologies, I seemed to have overlooked your statement here:

You could also have the following view, for example, which I in fact do: Creationism is arbitrary. The theory of evolution is a highly plausible account of how minor changes occur within existing species (as has been substantiated by observations) and possibly of how new species are formed from existing older species (although I am not aware of any observations of this actually happening, and given the age of the theory and the timeframes involved in the formation of new species, I think we are definitely far from having been able to make enough observations to confirm the theory as the full explanation of it). To the extent I am familiar with it, the theory of evolution does not give a satisfactory explanation of how life itself began on Earth, and does not even attempt to address the specifics of how the perceptual consciousness of apes turned into the conceptual and volitional consciousness of man.

I agree with Chops' statement how evolution does not claim to explain the origins of life. Instead, it merely seeks to explain its progression.

The concern you raise how biologists have not given a clear account of the evolution of man's conceptual faculty is an interesting point. I imagine that this part stems from poor philosophy. Many individuals do not even consciously recognize man's conceptual faculty in full understanding. (I still remember my high school biology teacher explaining that the evolutionary characteristic that differentiates man from apes is his thumb!) Surely this is largely because most intellectuals do not possess a great theory of concepts. A growing acceptance of Objectivism should change this.

I have always wondered if the more intelligent non-human mammals were capable of forming very primitive concepts, but were utterly incapable of abstracting from abstractions to form higher level concepts. This investigation of this conjecture probably warrants its own thread.

Edited by DarkWaters

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I resent the idea that belief in Creationism or non-belief in Evolution makes a person "stupid."

I did say "when it comes to biology." I don't think anyone will interpret my statement to mean that Americans are mentally deficient in a particular scientific field.

The point is, America is way behind the civilized world when it comes to developing a secular world view, and we should make the public ashamed of it.

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If the poll showed the number of people believing in creationism--now that would be proof of stupidity. Evolution and creationism are often presented as a dichotomy, but in fact they aren't: it is also possible to believe in neither of them.

Aside from the arguments already mentioned, there is a big difference between not accepting a scientific theory due to one’s own ignorance (I make no judgment on the validity of “cold fusion”), and claiming that a theory is false because a voice from the sky said so. Part of the context of my statement is that there exists no plausible alternative to evolution, so the best a person could rationally say is "not sure."

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If so, then I was stupid until about age 21, at which point I suddenly became intelligent!

By the way, as far as I remember, I learned about evolution and genetics in a freshman (honors) biology class in a public high school in Texas. I was not an exceptionally good or studious student, and my understanding of evolutionary theory has not dramatically improved since. I assume that the textbooks are basically the same nationwide.

How is it that the same theory that I found obvious and irrefutable was rejected by the majority of my fellow students?

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By the way, as far as I remember, I learned about evolution and genetics in a freshman (honors) biology class in a public high school in Texas. I was not an exceptionally good or studious student, and my understanding of evolutionary theory has not dramatically improved since. I assume that the textbooks are basically the same nationwide.

How is it that the same theory that I found obvious and irrefutable was rejected by the majority of my fellow students?

We'd have to take a sampling and find out why people are rejecting evolution. A large enough sampling should give us an objective picture. I suspect the reason is a long and serious campaign against science by some religious people who don't like seeing the Bible replaced by reality. These people use the cloak of science (much the way environmentalist do) to thwart real science. They present pseudo-facts to counter evolutionary theory.

I would further suggest that the postmodernist methods of presenting materials in schools undermines science and makes it possible for something like creationism to get stronger. That’s the problem when you undermine a proper epistemological method, all hell breaks loose, because there are no longer any solid checks against dogma.

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By the way, as far as I remember, I learned about evolution and genetics in a freshman (honors) biology class in a public high school in Texas. I was not an exceptionally good or studious student, and my understanding of evolutionary theory has not dramatically improved since. I assume that the textbooks are basically the same nationwide.

How is it that the same theory that I found obvious and irrefutable was rejected by the majority of my fellow students?

I imagine it has something to do with how you were raised. I was raised in a Biblical literalist household, so it took quite a bit more willpower and pondering for me to accept evolution, than it would take someone who was not raised in a literalist household.

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What I wonder is - is the theory of evolution not being taught properly in schools, or are the students covering their eyes and ears and singing "la-la-la, it's not in the bible" when it is taught?

I suspect that evolution is largely taught correctly, but the scientific method is not. What's lacking may be a history of scientific discovery as an epistemological process rather than a collection of facts.

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As someone who grew up being fundamentalist Christian, my personal view is that there is some serious brainwashing going on in children. In the Islamic world, children are taught to not even question the truth of the Koran. People like to think it's different here but, in many cases, it isn't. It just doesn't envelope our entire society, the way it does in Saudi Arabia.

I was brought up being taught to unquestioningly accept the literal truth of every word of the Bible. I was taught to cringe at the mention of the word "evolution" and was taught to believe that it is a patently absurd proposition. So, while evolution may have been an obviously sound theory to you, it is far from obvious to people who are brought up in such a mindset.

The Church of Christ school that I attended from 6-12th grades looked like Aristotle's Academy, when compared to the elementary school I attended from grades 2 through half of 5. I specifically remember my 5th grade teacher saying that scientists estimates of the age of the earth were not valid, because their methods were akin to judging a golf ball to be millions of years old by virtue of the fact that it is dirty. I am not making that example up...that's really what we were told. Every time (not just at school, but in every facet of my life) that anything was said about the earth being "millions of years old" (let alone billions), everyone I knew would laugh and talk about how ridiculous it was.

Add to that, the fact that I was constantly scared with visions of Hell for not having enough faith. I don't remember that happening in my school very much (thought it did happen occasionally), but it was rather pervasive in my church and Sunday School. Even though I have considered myself an atheist for about 4 years, I still twinge at the thought that I might be wrong and wind up in eternal torment. I usually just shove such thoughts out of my mind, because I know that they are just remnants of my upbringing.

Two decades of brainwashing and scare tactics was difficult enough for me to overcome...and I was an above average,* well-educated 20-year old when I finally started to doubt literal Creationism. Given how hard it was for me, I don't think you can really expect high school freshmen to do any better. Occasionally, there will be the ultra-smart 14-year old who reads philosophy in his free time and breaks free of fundamentalist religion at an early age. But, with fundamentalist Christianity of the type that I was raised to believe, it almost never happens at all...let alone by the early teens.

I honestly don't think that a proper curriculum of teaching epistemology, scientific method, history of science, etc. will be enough to fix the problem. I knew as much, at age 14, as any non-fundie kid knew about such matters, and it didn't make a difference to me...because I was raised as a fundie. What kids are taught at home and at church will always overpower whatever rational precepts they are taught in school.

*Not trying to toot my own horn here, but I feel comfortable in saying that I am above average in intelligence...I'm not a genius either, but I've always been smarter than most of my friends.

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Now that I'm thinking about it, if existence has always existed and doesn't need a cause, then why does life? Could it be possible that life has always existed as well?

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Well, if life has always existed, then I don't understand why it took so long for it to evolve past unicellular organisms. Given the fact they found fossils, and the fact that they became more complex as time passed, it seems to indicate that life went from very rudimentary to complex, which implies a beginning point. It would be very strange for an organism that has existed in a simple form for eternity, to suddenly change.

I think the alternative of life being eternal only makes sense if life as we know it has existed for all of eternity, which basically means that species only change in minute ways, and that there's no evolution from one species into another.

Edited by Maarten

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Could it be possible that life has always existed as well?
Assuming that you know what "possible" really means, I'd say the answer is "no". But perhaps you are aware of some evidence that life has always existed, which I don't know of and which you could share.

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