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U.S. Lags World in Grasp of Genetics and Acceptance of Evolution
Live Science ^ | 08/10/06 | Ker Than

Posted on 08/11/2006 11:54:04 AM PDT by presidio9

A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower.

Among the factors contributing to America's low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.

“American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.

The researchers combined data from public surveys on evolution collected from 32 European countries, the United States and Japan between 1985 and 2005. Adults in each country were asked whether they thought the statement “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals,” was true, false, or if they were unsure.

The study found that over the past 20 years:

The percentage of U.S. adults who accept evolution declined from 45 to 40 percent. The percentage overtly rejecting evolution declined from 48 to 39 percent, however. And the percentage of adults who were unsure increased, from 7 to 21 percent.

Of the other countries surveyed, only Turkey ranked lower, with about 25 percent of the population accepting evolution and 75 percent rejecting it. In Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France, 80 percent or more of adults accepted evolution; in Japan, 78 percent of adults did.

The findings are detailed in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Science.

Religion belief and evolution

The researchers also compared 10 independent variables—including religious belief, political ideology and understanding of concepts from genetics, or “genetic literacy”—between adults in America and nine European countries to determine whether these factors could predict attitudes toward evolution.

The analysis found that Americans with fundamentalist religious beliefs—defined as belief in substantial divine control and frequent prayer—were more likely to reject evolution than Europeans with similar beliefs. The researchers attribute the discrepancy to differences in how American Christian fundamentalist and other forms of Christianity interpret the Bible.

While American fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible literally and to view Genesis as a true and accurate account of creation, mainstream Protestants in both the United States and Europe instead treat Genesis as metaphorical, the researchers say.

“Whether it’s the Bible or the Koran, there are some people who think it’s everything you need to know,” Miller said. “Other people say these are very interesting metaphorical stories in that they give us guidance, but they’re not science books.”

This latter view is also shared by the Catholic Church.

Politics and the Flat Earth

Politics is also contributing to America's widespread confusion about evolution, the researchers say. Major political parties in the United States are more willing to make opposition to evolution a prominent part of their campaigns to garner conservative votes—something that does not happen in Europe or Japan.

Miller says that it makes about as much sense for politicians to oppose evolution in their campaigns as it is for them to advocate that the Earth is flat and promise to pass legislation saying so if elected to office.

"You can pass any law you want but it won't change the shape of the Earth," Miller told LiveScience.

Paul Meyers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the study, says that what politicians should be doing is saying, 'We ought to defer these questions to qualified authorities and we should have committees of scientists and engineers who we will approach for the right answers."

The researchers also single out the poor grasp of biological concepts, especially genetics, by American adults as an important contributor to the country's low confidence in evolution.

“The more you understand about genetics, the more you understand about the unity of life and the relationship humans have to other forms of life,” Miller said.

The current study also analyzed the results from a 10-country survey in which adults were tested with 10 true or false statements about basic concepts from genetics. One of the statements was "All plants and animals have DNA." Americans had a median score of 4. (The correct answer is "yes.")

Science alone is not enough

But the problem is more than one of education—it goes deeper, and is a function of our country's culture and history, said study co-author Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in California.

“The rejection of evolution is not something that will be solved by throwing science at it,” Scott said in a telephone interview.

Myers expressed a similar sentiment. About the recent trial in Dover, Pennsylvania which ruled against intelligent design, Myers said "it was a great victory for our side and it’s done a lot to help ensure that we keep religion out of the classroom for a while longer, but it doesn’t address the root causes. The creationists are still creationists—they're not going to change because of a court decision."

Scott says one thing that will help is to have Catholics and mainstream Protestants speak up about their theologies' acceptance of evolution.

"There needs to be more addressing of creationism from these more moderate theological perspectives," Scott said. “The professional clergy and theologians whom I know tend to be very reluctant to engage in that type of ‘my theology versus your theology’ discussion, but it matters because it’s having a negative effect on American scientific literacy."

The latest packaging of creationism is intelligent design, or ID, a conjecture which claims that certain features of the natural world are so complex that they could only be the work of a Supreme Being. ID proponents say they do not deny that evolution is true, only that scientists should not rule out the possibility of supernatural intervention.

But scientists do not share doubts over evolution. They argue it is one of the most well tested theories around, supported by countless tests done in many different scientific fields. Scott says promoting uncertainty about evolution is just as bad as denying it outright and that ID and traditional creationism both spread the same message.

“Both are saying that evolution is bad science, that evolution is weak and inadequate science, and that it can’t do the job so therefore God did it,” she said.

Another view

Bruce Chapman, the president of the Discovery Institute, the primary backer of ID, has a different view of the study.

"A better explanation for the high percentage of doubters of Darwinism in America may be that this country's citizens are famously independent and are not given to being rolled by an ideological elite in any field," Chapman said. "In particular, the growing doubts about Darwinism undoubtedly reflect growing doubts among scientists about Darwinian theory. Over 640 have now signed a public dissent and the number keeps growing."

Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education in California points out, however, that most of the scientists Chapman refers to do not do research in the field of evolution.

"If you look at the list, you can't find anybody who's really a significant contributor to the field or anyone who's done recognizable work on evolution," Matzke said.

Scott says the news is not all bad. The number of American adults unsure about the validity of evolution has increased in recent years, from 7 to 21 percent, but growth in this demographic comes at the expense of the other two groups. The percentage of Americans accepting evolution has declined, but so has the percentage of those who overtly reject it.

"I was very surprised to see that. To me that means the glass is half full,” Scott said. “That 21 percent we can educate."

TOPICS: Heated Discussion
KEYWORDS: anothercrevothread; christianbashing; christianmythology; christians; creationism; crevolist; culturewar; darwin; darwinism; deadhorse; dumbingdownwithid; enoughalready; evolution; evorage; flatearthsociety; genetics; goddooditamen; hatefulevos; idfairytales; idjunkscience; indoctrination; jerklist; junkscience; ludditesonparade; mythology; pavlovian; religion; religiousright; science; superstiouskooks; superstition; theory; theoryofevolution; whocares; wwfsmdo
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1 posted on 08/11/2006 11:54:06 AM PDT by presidio9
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To: presidio9

Good. Just one more way we're more sensible than any other culture or society on the planet.

2 posted on 08/11/2006 11:55:04 AM PDT by BelegStrongbow (
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To: presidio9

They report this like it's a bad thing that most Americans don't believe the Darwinism lies.

3 posted on 08/11/2006 11:58:42 AM PDT by Catholic Canadian (Formerly Ashamed Canadian - thank you Stephen Harper!)
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To: presidio9

Since the 34 countries are being led down a wrong-path like sheep to slaughter, US doesn't want to follow.

4 posted on 08/11/2006 11:58:52 AM PDT by lilylangtree
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To: BelegStrongbow

If evolution is a theory why is disagreement with it wrong? Why does it have to be fixed? We don't have surveys on "who believes in the big bang (vs. the steady state or collapsing bang) and take ourselves to task. To me the 21% doubting are just being careful thinkers. What's bad about that.

5 posted on 08/11/2006 11:58:53 AM PDT by Jack Black
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To: presidio9
This is the kind of thing that's going to cause us to lose market dominance. We ignore science (especially biology related fields) at our peril.
6 posted on 08/11/2006 11:58:54 AM PDT by Lt_funk
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To: BelegStrongbow

Anyone who still beleives in evolution should read Coulter's 'Godless'.

7 posted on 08/11/2006 11:58:54 AM PDT by kawaii
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To: BelegStrongbow

Well, it's obvious. The reason America lags behind so much in education is because we don't fully accept evolution - right?

Maybe these people should start paying some attention to the real reasons why people don't understand math, science, and reading - and believe me, it has nothing to do with evolution.

8 posted on 08/11/2006 11:59:06 AM PDT by I still care ("Remember... for it is the doom of men that they forget" - Merlin, from Excalibur)
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To: kawaii

Yeah - that was a watershed book that presented a lot of original research that finally put an end to the evolution 'debate'.

9 posted on 08/11/2006 12:00:00 PM PDT by Lt_funk
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To: Jack Black

Jack, I see I must have miswritten or something. I shall be clear:

In my very humble opinion, evolution is an extrapolation from some facts and a lot of supposition. It is possible but I cannot accept it without external guidance (you can read: God).

I disagree with evolution, find it ludicrous, and simply turn my back when insulted for my opinions on the subject.

That said, I think we agree and if I were to try to restate what I first said, I would say,

...Good. Being at the 'bottom' for having the lowest agreement rate with evolution just shows that the US remains the most sensible culture/society on earth.

Are we okay now?


10 posted on 08/11/2006 12:02:20 PM PDT by BelegStrongbow (
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To: presidio9

Allegation anecdotally proven.

11 posted on 08/11/2006 12:02:33 PM PDT by elkfersupper
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To: kawaii

I don't (believe in evolution), and just haven't gotten to her latest yet (I'm still enjoying 'Treason' too much). I'm such a late adopter, y'know?

12 posted on 08/11/2006 12:03:24 PM PDT by BelegStrongbow (
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To: presidio9

The disciples of the evolution faith wish to shove it down our throats by force if necessary.

13 posted on 08/11/2006 12:04:28 PM PDT by stinkerpot65
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To: Lt_funk
We ignore science our Creator (especially biology related fields) at our peril.
14 posted on 08/11/2006 12:05:40 PM PDT by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Catholic Canadian

And what lies would those be?

15 posted on 08/11/2006 12:06:51 PM PDT by RFC_Gal (It's not just a boulder; It's a rock! A ro-o-ock. The pioneers used to ride these babies for miles!)
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To: presidio9

What a bunch of BS. The leftist professors just can't resist spending their time doing "studies" that supposedly show that the US is more backward than the rest of the world.

I wonder how many Turkish goat herders they polled and whether they really understood genetics and biology.

Maybe these professors should pack their bags and go teach in Uzbekistan, where they apparently have better appreciation for this than they do in the US.

16 posted on 08/11/2006 12:07:00 PM PDT by Brilliant
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To: BelegStrongbow
"Being at the 'bottom' for having the lowest agreement rate with evolution just shows that the US remains the most sensible culture/society on earth."

Second from the bottom; Turkey has us ....beat.

17 posted on 08/11/2006 12:08:18 PM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: presidio9
The current pinnacle of evolution is the acquisition of a belief in God. This is a very defensible argument since it is that belief in God(s) that has been at the foundation of, and the prime motivating force behind the flourishing of civilization, science and technology.

Evolution gave us God.

Atheism is a statistical abberance and is evolutionarily retrograde since it is essentially on par with the rest of the inferior animal kingdom.

It is not coincidence that the rgeatest expansion of science, wealth and technology has occured in Christian dominated nations.

It is no coincidence that the greatest, most free, most prosperous, most powerful nation evolution has ever created was founded upon Christian values, and is still dominated by over 70% Christians.

No coincidence at all.

18 posted on 08/11/2006 12:08:28 PM PDT by Mark Felton ("Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.")
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To: Lt_funk

Most importantly however, was the fact that it pissed off a lot of lefties.

19 posted on 08/11/2006 12:09:08 PM PDT by Sam's Army (RIP Little Lion 10-16-90 / 08-07-06)
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To: BelegStrongbow
"Good. Just one more way we're more sensible than any other culture or society on the planet."

Except of course the Muslims in Turkey who must be more sensible than us by your logic.
20 posted on 08/11/2006 12:09:36 PM PDT by ndt
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