Skip to comments.U.S. Lags World in Grasp of Genetics and Acceptance of Evolution
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 variablesincluding religious belief, political ideology and understanding of concepts from genetics, or genetic literacybetween 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 beliefsdefined as belief in substantial divine control and frequent prayerwere 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 its the Bible or the Koran, there are some people who think its everything you need to know, Miller said. Other people say these are very interesting metaphorical stories in that they give us guidance, but theyre 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 votessomething 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 educationit 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 its done a lot to help ensure that we keep religion out of the classroom for a while longer, but it doesnt address the root causes. The creationists are still creationiststhey'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 its 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 cant do the job so therefore God did it, she said.
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."
Good. Just one more way we're more sensible than any other culture or society on the planet.
They report this like it's a bad thing that most Americans don't believe the Darwinism lies.
Since the 34 countries are being led down a wrong-path like sheep to slaughter, US doesn't want to follow.
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.
Anyone who still beleives in evolution should read Coulter's 'Godless'.
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.
Yeah - that was a watershed book that presented a lot of original research that finally put an end to the evolution 'debate'.
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?
Allegation anecdotally proven.
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?
The disciples of the evolution faith wish to shove it down our throats by force if necessary.
And what lies would those be?
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.
Second from the bottom; Turkey has us ....beat.
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.
Most importantly however, was the fact that it pissed off a lot of lefties.
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