Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why Some People Still Hold to Creationism

It's frustrating when we see otherwise rational, intelligent people profess they believe in the bible, not Darwin. How can they do this? Why would they want to?

The how is quite simple. For most of man's history everyone had it wrong on the question of evolution and they survived quite well. For the individual, the consequences for making the wrong choice on what to believe here are very low.

For most of us, Evolution is an esoteric rather than a practical science. It's just not something we use in our everyday life. Unless an individual is actually a biologist, getting it wrong will, at worst, make them look stupid at parties.

As a society though, it's vital that people working in fields like biology understand this important theory on how life developed, because if they get it wrong, the rest of us might miss out on the next advance in medicine or agriculture or environmental science.

This is what threatens us when people want to do things like taking evolution out of schools or teach inferior theories like the bible as an equal to it. Most of those students may never need to know the truth about how life developed on earth because they won't grow up to work in the sciences, but for those few who do, it's imperative they get the best information.

Why would somebody choose to be wrong though? They're not stupid. Even a brief look at the body of evidence tells you there's much more supporting evolution and very little supporting the biblical story.

They choose cognitive dissonance in this matter, because for them it's easier to be wrong than to be right.

Being right, as I said earlier, has fairly low rewards for the individual. Most of us don't have opportunities to use knowledge of evolution very often so giving up that option isn't much of a loss.

Publicly embracing the bible instead of science might have some usable benefits for people who come from sub-cultures that value it so they end up in a situation where denying evolution has no practical penalty, but embracing the bible has some cultural gain.

For believers, God has a pretty good reputation. They say he's kind, intelligent, forgiving and insightful. There's comfort in believing an agent like that created the world. Evolution is a process though, as such, it's incapable for kindness or forgiveness so embracing it as the creative force may intimidate some.

We remember our mothers as humans, comforting, smiling, who provide for us and make us feel safe. Suppose you were to find out that wasn't your mother at all though. Your real mother was a machine, a vat of chemicals and valves and tubes, without conscious or feeling.

For many people, asking them to embrace evolution must seem just that way. Evolution replaces their human-like creator God with a cold machine so they choose simply not to believe it, and immediately they discover there are no ill consequences for choosing not to believe it so the thought pattern settles in.

We're in little danger of the faithful doing any damage to evolution. We have yet to experience an incident where science doesn't eventually win out over religion. Some of the early battles, like the ones over Copernicus are so well won that we hardly ever mention them anymore.

As a practical matter, faith does seem to help some people, so if the need it, I'm not inclined to try and take it from them. I'm not too worried about them taking science from me either. Science stands on its own and they've yet to have any luck suppressing it for even one generation.

1 comment:

  1. Ah... Boyd. Now understanding the part of this planet you come from... I do understand the belief systems in that area. My grandparents came from the area a few hundred miles directly east of you in those first decades of the last century. And having had the religious education that was mandatory in my first 14 years I did read a large portion of the christian literature. I was surprised to see the following line, "They say he's kind, intelligent, forgiving, and insightful." Oh my... that wasn't in the part I read. Vengeful to say the least. However the rest of your post is spot on. When those that purport to KNOW THE TRUTH speak to me I try and keep in mind that old saw that, "we teach best what we most need to learn".

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