Friday, January 12, 2007

Does Disbelieving Evolution Reflect a Lack of Understanding of It?

 
Bill Dembski is troubled by the latest report in Science that shows a correlation between acceptance of evolution and education. [See PZ Myers' summary on Pharyngula.] The data suggests that the more educated you become the more likely you are to accept evolution. In other words, the data suggests that IDiots are, well, idiots.

You can see why Dembski is upset [Does understanding coerce belief?]. The truth hurts. Dembski then goes on to give us a good demonstration of the negative correlation between intelligence and belief in intelligent design.
But why should disbelieving evolution reflect a lack of understanding of it? Alternatively, does understanding evolution automatically force one to believe it? I remember speaking at the University of Toronto in 2002 when a biologist challenged me about how holding to ID renders one a nonscientist. I asked him if that disqualified Isaac Newton from being a scientist. His instant response was, “but he didn’t know about evolution.”

I don't know if Dembki is referring to me or to one of my colleagues who was at the meeting. I recall accusing Dembski of stupidity and of not being a good scientist, but there were so many of us making the same point that I don't know which one Dembski remembers. (Dembski has mentioned this meeting many times. It must have been very traumatic for him.)

At the risk of boring anyone with an IQ over 80, let me make the point that Dembski is deliberately missing. In 2002, if you rejected evolution you were an idiot. That's because the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. The same correlation holds today, only more so.

To answer the question posed in the title; yes, disbelieving in evolution reflects a lack of understanding of evolution. That's an empirical observation. There are very, very few IDiots who understand evolution. (Don't believe me? Read Uncommon Descent and Evolution News & Views.) Dembski sure aint' one of them. He didn't understand the basic principles of evolutionary theory in 2002 and he's given no indication of having learned anything since then.

Newton didn't know about evolution so he couldn't have rejected it. He wasn't stupid and he wasn't a bad scientist. He also didn't know about general relativity and plate tectonics but that didn't mean he was stupid either. If Newton were alive today you can be sure he would accept evolution, continental drift and general relativity. In the 21st century, anyone who rejects these fundamental concepts in science doesn't deserve to be called a scientist.

8 comments :

  1. I just love to play the substitution game:

    But why should disbelieving the round Earth theory reflect a lack of understanding of it? Alternatively, does understanding the round Earth theory automatically force one to believe it?

    'Understanding' evolution presumably means not only knowing the proposed mechanisms, but having an accurate knowledge of the evidence in support of it.

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  2. Who ever said that Dumbski was a scientist? His degree is in mathematics and he has never, to my knowledge, published a paper on any scientific subject in a peer reviewed journal. Now of course, Dumbski will respond that neither did Newton, ignoring the fact that such journals did not exist in the 17th century.

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  3. At the risk of boring anyone with an IQ over 80, let me make the point that Dembski is deliberately missing.

    What about DaveScott? Doesn't he have 'certified IQ somewhere north of 150'?

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  4. 'certified IQ somewhere north of 150'?
    Unfortunately, latitudes only go up to ninety degrees. Then, if you continue in the same direction, they decrease. North of 150, it seems to me, is south of 30.

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  5. "Unfortunately, latitudes only go up to ninety degrees. Then, if you continue in the same direction, they decrease. North of 150, it seems to me, is south of 30."

    -That's about the funniest slam I've ever seen on a blog!

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  6. "In 2002, if you rejected evolution you were an idiot. That's because the evidence for evolution is overwhelming."

    I'm guessing that you are assuming that you are working under the assumption that by 2002, everyone has seen the overwhelming evidence for evolution. Would that this were true.

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  7. disbelieving in evolution reflects a lack of understanding of evolution. That's an empirical observation.

    I think it would be more precise to say what's lacking is an understanding of what science is and how it works.

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  8. I'm still unconvinced that evolution doubters _actually_ doubt evolution. I think the polls merely reflect that most religious people would _prefer_ that evolution had not been discovered.

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