Evolution: Why Do Educated People Doubt It?

I came across an article in the Skeptical Inquirer, and it asked the question, “Why do educated people doubt evolution?” Well, that’s a loaded question! Either this was going to be a religious hit-piece, or the scientists (whom I presume are atheists) who wrote the article were truly puzzled and wanted to educate themselves and perhaps reexamine their own beliefs.

The article first pointed out the contrast between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the belief that humans contribute to global warming. According to a 2008 Pew Poll, only 28% of Republicans believe humans contribute to global warming, while 58% of Democrats believe this. But the researchers (Charles Reichardt and Ian Saari) are alarmed when they find out that only 19% of college graduate Republicans believe humans contribute to global warming, while 75% of college graduate Democrats do.

They seem to be at a loss to explain why more education causes Republicans to reject certain beliefs- such as global warming. And that leads them to examine how education effects the beliefs of Bible believing Christians, as opposed to those who don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God.

A General Social Survey collected data from 2006 to 2012 and showed that only 23% of those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God also believe in human evolution, while 66% of those who reject the idea that the Bible is the Word of God do believe in human evolution. But once again they found that the gap increases with education. It showed that, for Bible believers with less than a high school education, 31% believe in human evolution, but for Bible believers with a graduate degree, that number drops to 10%. In contrast, 56% of nonbelievers with less than a high school education do believe in human evolution, while that number jumps to 79% with a graduate degree (I’m surprised that they’re not concerned about the 21% of nonbelievers with a graduate degree who don’t believe in human evolution!).

The researchers have identified that there’s an effect education has on Bible believers when their beliefs “deviate further from scientific consensus,” and they call this the “Bible-believers” effect. Cute. It’s as if they view this as some sort of disease that needs to be diagnosed and corrected so that everyone conforms to the “consensus”. Do they not know that science isn’t up for a vote?

They’re quite happy with the “positive” correlation shown by nonbelievers as they’re educated; this group is more likely to believe in evolution, and that’s the desired outcome. But this blasted “Bible-believers” effect is at odds with their belief system and shows a “negative” correlation, in which belief in human evolution declines as the Bible believer is educated. Of course I think it’s a positive thing when believers are educated and reject evolution, but I’m one of the ones they’re befuddled about.

These researchers seem genuinely perplexed that Bible believer’s views on human evolution deviate from the “scientific evidence” as they are better educated. And they find the same to be true about belief in the big bang; among Bible believers, they are less likely to believe in the big bang as they become better educated, while unbelievers are more likely to believe in the big bang as they become educated.

The researchers try to make sense of the Bible-believer effect. They admit it’s not due to a lack of scientific literacy. Nor is it due to a lack of appreciation for the scientific method. And it’s not due to a deficit in reasoning skills.

So they reason that this group of highly educated Bible believers only reject “highly selected scientific facts,” like evolution and the big bang. It’s as if rejecting these “facts” is somehow a problem. And not once do they call these facts into question or challenge their own belief in evolution and the big bang.

As they attempt to ascertain the “true cause” for the Bible-believers effect, they consider that it may be due to the strength of religious beliefs and practices. Those believers that are more highly educated tend to have stronger core beliefs and practices.

I love the conclusion they present for this this problem: they claim that the stronger a person’s religious beliefs, the more likely that person is to deny scientific facts. Ha! Who says that human evolution is a fact? Is it not evolutionists? And aren’t evolutionists predominantly nonbelievers? So it’s self-serving to assume evolution is a fact, especially when those who reject evolution conclude that evolution is wrong. The very idea that evolution is a fact is being called into question, and they can’t (or won’t) consider that they themselves could be wrong. They’re so concerned about the causes of why Bible believing Christians reject certain beliefs that they’re unable to examine their own prejudices and biases.

Next the researchers consider a previous study to explain why highly educated Republicans reject human centered global warming, and they apply this study to evolution, suggesting that highly educated Bible believers understand the arguments to better deny human evolution, and that means they are better able to justify their opposition to “scientific evidence to the contrary.” Of course they don’t consider the possibility that evolution is not supported by the scientific evidence.

I was surprised when the authors admitted that we’re all susceptible to confirmation bias and the selective interpretation of evidence that agrees with our views, and we’re more motivated to find flaws in counter arguments. This means that better education gives us more skill to defend our beliefs when challenged. Despite such an admission, they don’t seem to apply this to themselves.

Another possible cause to the Bible-believer effect they propose is over confidence. They reason that better education enhances confidence in one’s opinions, regardless of the facts. One who believes they know the answers are less likely to be persuaded by opposing evidence. But, once again, they only apply this factor to believers, not themselves.

Finally they question which of the 48% of “evolution deniers” would be most susceptible to changing their minds. It seems this is the core question of the article. They want to know which Bible believing Christians would be most easily influenced by evolutionary indoctrination, and I think that’s the key. They realize that the least educated Bible believers are more likely to be persuaded to believe in human evolution than the highly educated, so it’s the uneducated they want to target and exploit.

And I think that’s a good reason why Bible believing Christians should value education. This also explains why evolutionists don’t want creation or intelligent design taught in schools. They know that if both sides of the argument were presented, they would lose support for human evolution. More students would challenge evolutionary beliefs, and they admit that this is a concern. They’re so certain that Bible believers are mistaken, however, that they’re afraid to have both sides of the debate presented to students and allow them to decide for themselves. I think their fear reveals a great deal about the lack of scientific evidence supporting evolution and its general inability to persuade through logic and reason.

Not that they would ever ask me my opinion, but I would tell them that the more I study the Bible, and the more I study science, the greater my belief and faith in God. Both science and the Bible are complimentary, and that’s because God is real and is the one responsible for setting the laws of science in motion. Francis Bacon, the man responsible for developing the scientific method, was a creation scientist, and it was his belief in God that paved the way for modern science. So the reason why I don’t believe in evolution is because it’s at odds with the Bible, and it doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.

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