Saturday, December 29, 2007
Do Fundamentalist Christians Actively Resist Learning?
Last summer Tom Bozzo, an economist in Madison Wisconsin, played around with the latest data on science education in America [Scientific Knowledge in the US by Religion]. He was interested in any correlations between religion and the understanding of basic scientific concepts.
A reader reminded me of this data. It was discussed on several blogs last summer but I had forgotten the details. There's one pair of graphs that are particularly interesting. The first one shows that fundamentalist Protestants, as expected, do not believe that humans evolved whereas atheists—and most other groups—accept the scientific facts.
Tom wanted to know what these results would look like if he only included those respondents with some college education. He cautions us that the numbers are small.
There are several cautions that need to be emphasized. For one thing, there's a relationship between the amount of education one has and the strength of their religious beliefs. Getting an education tends to drive you away from the most fundamentalist religions. That's probably why there's a smaller percentage of college educated fundamentalists (27%) compared to moderates (39%) and liberals (51%). Another problem is that the numbers are small and the associated error bars are large.
Keeping all these cautions in mind, it is still quite remarkable that some significant percentage of fundamentalist Protestants can go to college and still reject the basic scientific fact that humans evolved. Note that in all of the other groups the college educated subset are more inclined to accept evolution. (Do most of those "college" educated fundamentalists go to some cheap reproduction of a college run by a religious organization?)
As we've seen time and time again on the blogs (and elsewhere), the Christian fundamentalists have erected very strong barriers against learning. It really doesn't matter how much they are exposed to rational thinking and basic scientific evidence. They still refuse to listen.
This is one of the reasons why I would flunk them if they took biology and still rejected the core scientific principles. It's not good enough to just be able to mouth the "acceptable" version of the truth that the Professor wants. You actually have to open your mind to the possibility that science is correct and get an education. That's what university is all about.
Of course, we all recognize the problem here. How do you distinguish between a good Christian who is lying for Jesus and one who has actually come to understand science? It seems really unfair to flunk the honest students who admit that they still reject science and pass the dishonest ones who hide their true beliefs.