1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's Easier to Believe in God Than Evolution

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Steerpike, Nov 27, 2013.

    So says the author of the Mother Jones article, linked below. In fact, he says, the way our brain and intelligence evolved make religion an easier sell than evolution. I also think that bigotry and the general "us v. them" mentality we see in everything from sports teams to political party affiliation has explanation in our evolutionary history.

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/11/seven-evolutionary-reasons-people-deny-evolution
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yup. I've said it often enough, our greatest failure as a species is the failure to recognize that we are in fact a species of animal with evolved traits that don't always benefit our current way of living. And I think it may be one of the reasons you and I, @Steerpike, share a love of Octavia Butler. In nearly all of her stories, she probes the fundamental question of what is thing that I am? She tackles very deep, core, primordial concepts, grabbing the lizard brain by its lizard balls and giving them a good shake, rattle & role. It was core to her Oankali series.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree @Wreybies. The human capacity for self-reflection isn't all that great much of the time, and when it comes for reflecting on ourselves biologically, as part of the animal kingdom, it is even more lacking.

    As for Butler, I agree there also. Race/biology often play a role in her stories (and I found metaphors for human race and slavery in the Oankali books as well.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    His last point is especially true. The consequences of evolution can be scary for some people, and that's actually very understandable.
     
  5. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Entirely possible to accept evolution and god, of course, but I get the gist.

    It seems to me the easiest position has little to do with some of the nebulous ideas thrown about the author but rather to do with the society about you. A child growing up in Western Europe will find irreligiosity easier than the alternative. Scorn is a highly effective teacher.
     
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think too, that God has had a longer Broadway run than evolution. Certainly God is easier, technically speaking, to understand; if the data doesn't fit, just fudge it, if it still doesn't fit, attribute it to faith or some sub heading thereof, like the mysterious ways genre, which, as everyone knows, enjoys a vast following.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This is very true. As I've noted before, I worked in a couple of research labs, one studying evolutionary biology directly, and the other heavily reliant on principles of evolutionary biology. Both of the principal investigators believed in god and went to church every weekend.
     
  8. plothog
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    As a Catholic who believes in evolution, I'm glad the article acknowledged my point of view. I've seen far to many discussions which assume you can either believe in God or believe Darwin, but not both at once.
     
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  9. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh aye. Here are a few illuminating (and perhaps abrasive) words from astrophysicist Paul Jaminet (who also happens to have written a very good diet book (if you like that sort of thing!)):

    and

     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Nice quotes @art.

    A study out a few years ago had 2/3 of scientists expressing a belief in god. The number was slightly lower for physicists, chemists, and biologists, but not much.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I love brain research and this article reveals even more clues as to how we think. And a lot of the traits described likely led to the nature of human's god beliefs in the first place. But I take issue with the conclusion: "make it difficult or unnatural for many people to accept evolution." If one could undertake similar research to see if teaching evolution to children who are not bombarded with contradictory messages from evolution theory deniers we could see whether the conclusion, our brains naturally resist the knowledge, or, as I think is more likely, one of two competing contradictory facts are being chosen, not because of the natural traits noted in the article, but rather because of two other traits not mentioned.

    1) The human brain sorts new information based on old. For example, if you encounter a new species of a tree your mind doesn't start from scratch. In the flash of a nanosecond the brain categorizes the features and plugs the incoming visual data into the category, 'tree'. We sort all new information this way, if we didn't we couldn't function. But one side effect of this is confirmation bias. It's one thing to be biased one is looking at a tree when one sees a trunk, branches and leaves. But it's another when the information is more complex. The brain assigns credibility to some information and incredibility to other information, based on what one already knows.

    The result when it comes to evolution theory is, if it is established first (typically through religious indoctrination or Creationism marketing messages) that evolution theory is weak and uncertain, then being exposed later to the evidence the theory is solid and irrefutable, a person might simply discard the real evidence as incredible, and seek out and accept the false evidence (see Answers in Genesis for a list of unsupportable claims) as credible.

    2) When we are young we trust those close to us. If the family is religious and in particular if the family passes on the evolution denial meme, then it becomes established early on. Educators start with an uphill battle to overcome the confirmation bias. Add to that the fact that in the US more than a few too many teachers impart their own evolution theory denial bias in the classroom and you have one country where evolution denial exceeds that by far in Western European countries.


    We are intelligent enough beings to understand the things the article concludes are barriers and step right over them. Given the fact Europeans had little trouble while the US did, one has to ask, what differed? An intense marketing campaign differed for one. The Evangelical movement, maybe similar to the Catholics in Galileo's times, exerts a huge effort to discredit evolution theory. If we didn't have that million (billion) dollar marketing campaign competing with scientific evidence, I doubt those human traits noted in the article would be much of a barrier for humans to accept what the scientific evidence supports.

    I agree certain things, like believing we are not an animal species in the same sense as other animals, had a lot to do with resistance to the paradigm shift Darwin introduced in the first place. I just don't think the conclusion this is still operating now that people have made the paradigm shift is necessarily a valid conclusion.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The Catholic religion, despite being Christian, is not as overly invested in 'Jesus' the way the Evangelical religion is. Few Christians have trouble accepting a Sun centered solar system. Many things in the Bible are simply rationalized as parables and symbolic representations. But the Evangelicals' main religious focus centers around Original Sin and accepting Jesus. It's a lot harder to dismiss Adam and Eve as a parable when the most critical tenet of one's religion requires a literal or close to literal translation of Adam and Eve.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've written extensively on humans' societal constructs of 'gods' and 'religions'... all of which can be found in my book, 'in whose name?'... i invite all who dare to look at the subject with an unbiased eye to email me for a copy...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Have you heard of Project Steve?
    It doesn't mean much that people who began believing in God as a child still do so as adults. If you wanted to impress a doubting Thomas like me, show me all the atheists who only began believing in a god after they earned their degrees.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This number has always surprised me. It's a lot higher than I would expect. Perhaps the reason I'm surprised is because almost all (95%-ish) of the scientists and engineers I know do not believe in God.
     
  16. HarleyQ.
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    HarleyQ. Just a Little Pit Bull (female)

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    We (Catholics) do seem to be less Jesus-crazed. Odd, considering Jesus founded us. . . .

    On topic, now. I never thought about Evangelical's views like that. Thank you for putting that into perspective for me. (I've always wondered why some Christians didn't believe in evolution, and this gives me some insight.)

    Same here. It goes to show that one can love science, study it, work with it, and that doesn't leave out room for believing in a god, because it's not one or the other.
     
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  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Do you have a link? I'd like to know if this study only looked at American scientists. Or was it global? Or only a set of developed countries? I'd also like to know if the proportion of scientists who believe in god tracks with the general population, country by country.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The survey was conducted by a Rice University sociologist. I didn't see any indication of whether or not it was global:

    http://www.livescience.com/379-scientists-belief-god-varies-starkly-discipline.html
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    On a related note, this link contains 10 pages of results from a survey of scientists. It includes religious belief among a ton of other factors.
     
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know several atheists who turned agnostic only after earning degrees. It happens.
     
  21. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Well said. I usually refer to all of that as "pitchfork and torch" mentality. One can only hope, in forums like this, that they can find some like mindsets.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    Looking for the original paper it's pretty clear Eklund at a minimum has an agenda.

    Elaine Ecklund continues to whitewash the atheism of scientists
    I'll keep looking for the original papers cited in the news clip.
     
  23. Tharian
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    Tharian Contributing Member

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    I've never heard of the 2/3 number in modern times. Neil Degrasse Tyson said that most of his colleagues were atheist, that's why he was so interested in knowing those who chose theism.

    Anyway, on topic:

    I don't necessarily think that we can (just) look at our biological backdrop when it comes to picking religion over atheism. It's true that religion stands for a belief system and unity, which is great for a human, since we're social beings.
    But the us vs. them mentality happens in atheism as well. I've seen many instances of atheists grouping up in micro instances, and in macro instances there are big gatherings of prominent atheist.

    In the end it comes down to the individual. Are you broad-minded and skeptic, or do you jump on the bandwagon that makes you (initially) feel safest?
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    Why is that anecdote significant?
     
  25. Tharian
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    Tharian Contributing Member

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    That's not a belief in God, though.
     

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