Before we look at the seven reasons let's remember the poll from 2005 that surveyed acceptance of evolution in 34 countries. Note that the percentage of the population who reject evolution ("false") is somewhere between 10% and 20% in the countries at the top of the list. About 75% of the people in those countries think that evolution is true.
In the USA the percentage who reject evolution is closer to 40% and only about 40% think that evolution is true. Clearly if we're going to ask why it's easier for humans to believe in god(s) than in evolution then we have to take these differences into account. It seems reasonable, doesn't it, to look for something that the USA, Turkey, and Cyprus have in common that makes people not accept evolution?
Chris Mooney thinks there may be innate reasons why so many people don't accept evolution and prefer god(s).
Yet even as creationists keep trying to undermine modern science, modern science is beginning to explain creationism scientifically. And it looks like evolution—the scientifically uncontested explanation for the diversity and interrelatedness of life on Earth, emphatically including human life—will be a major part of the story. Our brains are a stunning product of evolution; and yet ironically, they may naturally pre-dispose us against its acceptance.What are these features of the human brain that evolved to favor religion over evolution? What are the seven reasons that cause our brains to pre-dispose us against accepting evolution? Here they are ....
"I don't think there's any question that a variety of our mental dispositions are ones that discourage us from taking evolutionary theory as seriously as it should be taken," explains Robert N. McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University and author of the book Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not.
- Biological Essentialism
- Teleological Thinking
- Overactive Agency Detection
- Inability to Comprehend Vast Time Scales
- Group Morality and Tribalism
- Fear and the Need for Certainty
In any event, the evidence is clear that both our cognitive architecture, and also our emotional dispositions, make it difficult or unnatural for many people to accept evolution. "Natural selection is like quantum physics...we might intellectually grasp it, with considerable effort, but it will never feel right to us," writes the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom. Often, people express surprise that in an age so suffused with science, science causes so much angst and resistance.I don't believe that we evolved to favor religion over science any more than I believe we evolved to favor slavery, male superiority, castes, homophobia, and a host of other things that have disappeared or are about to disappear. Religion, especially the extreme versions, is soon going to disappear as well. I don't believe that those seven things are innate, hard-wired, ways of thinking. They are mostly learned behaviors. There's no reason to suspect than we can't teach our children different, and better, ways of thinking. There's no evidence that I know of that convinces me that essentialism, teleological thinking, dualism, and inability to understand vast time scales are more "natural" than other ways of thinking.1
Perhaps more surprising would be if it didn't.
It's too bad that Chris didn't discuss why the citizens of Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden have such a different cognitive architecture than those who live in the USA and Turkey. Those nasty Scandinavians don't seem to have much trouble with angst. They seem to find evolution quite natural and they were able to "intellectually grasp" it in spite or the fact that they have the same kinds of human brains as the citizens of other countries.
Or, maybe they don't. Maybe that explains why Scandinavians do all kinds of weird things that are totally unacceptable in the USA, like universal health care and concern about income inequities. Maybe socialism and acceptance of evolution are mental illnesses that are common in northern countries?
That would also explain why Europeans and the Japanese are much less religious. It's obviously because they have different brains that don't get fooled by essentialism, teleological thinking, dualism, etc.
Yes, I'm sure that's the reason. It can't possibly the other way around; namely, that religious brain-washing makes people stupid and once you get rid of religion the natural tendency to rationality and reality takes over. Nah, I'm sure Chis would have thought of that because he's been following this debate for over decade.
Oops. I almost forgot. It's important for Chris that he not look like he's attacking religion. The party line (framing) is that religion and science are perfectly compatible. Why? Because of Ken Miller.
Such is the research, and it's important to point out a few caveats. First, this doesn't mean science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. The conflict may run very deep indeed, but nevertheless, some individuals can and do find a way to retain their religious beliefs and also accept evolution—including the aforementioned biology textbook author Kenneth Miller of Brown University, a Catholic.
1. I'm not denying that brains evolved or that some behaviors have a genetic component.