Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why don't people accept evolution?

Chris Mooney (remember spin framing?) is at it again. This time he writes for Mother Jones: 7 Reasons Why It's Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution.

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.

"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.
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 ....
  • Biological Essentialism
  • Teleological Thinking
  • Overactive Agency Detection
  • Dualism
  • Inability to Comprehend Vast Time Scales
  • Group Morality and Tribalism
  • Fear and the Need for Certainty
Gee, I thought it had much more to do with religious fundamentalism and brain-washing.

Chris Mooney concludes with ....
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.

Perhaps more surprising would be if it didn't.
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

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.

65 comments :

  1. Larry,

    Do you see the latest poll on gravity? Why does it look so different? Nobody can see gravity and yet, evolution and gravity are in the same category of scientific theories...What is wrong with evolution? I thought it was a fact and a theory? Why is it so much different from gravity?

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    1. The answer is obvious Quest, Creationists today don't feel their beliefs threatened by gravity. Therefore few if any snake-oil salesmen are out there deforming and misinforming creationists about gravitation.

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    2. There was a rather huge battle over the religious versus scientific version of how the Universe worked over a few centuries in the late Medieval period and the beginning of the Renaissance. So argument about the arrangement of the planets and why they moved as they did (gravity) was pretty much over with by the time you began paying attention, Quest.

      Since a Deity's other big job besides creating the Universe was of course making us (and being very, very concerned with our naughty bits), it was completely predictable that when evolution was explained on a scientific basis, this would bother those who believed in deities. The argument over gravity and how the Universe worked took centuries. The argument over evolution is only 150 years old, so give it a little while before folks won't have to believe God sticks little propellers on microbes' rear ends, any more than he pushes the planets along in their orbits.

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  2. E.O. Wilson has written somewhere that he thinks religion helps a group of people (call it a tribe, if you wish) survive - religion gives them shared values and shared angst and this enables them to bond together and band against enemies (with other religions). I find that an interesting thought. I cannot put this comment in less than 140 characters, otherwise I would have tweeted it

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    1. That can be (and probably is) true without it having any biological basis.

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  3. It's really stupid to claim there are biological reasons for the differences in religiosity when it's really the same people in the US and in Europe that display vastly different levels of religiosity. Unless one is going to claim the difference in the last 300 years (extremely unlikely) or that there was a strong founder effect in the US (possible, but there is a control for that - Canada).

    In the USA the percentage who reject evolution is closer to 40% and only about 40% think that evolution is true.

    I thought you disagreed with counting theistic evolution is thinking that evolution is true?

    Religion, especially the extreme versions, is soon going to disappear as well.

    That's only going to happen if we maintain the current level of societal organization. The trends, however, are towards everything falling apart (driven in very large part by the effects of religion on our collective behavior). After that it's going to be a return to the Middle Ages as the scientific and educational infrastructure that is responsible for the current levels of atheism crumbles. It doesn't have to happen but that's the most likely outcome.

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    1. Why would the "scientific and education infrastructure" crumble? Science will only get stronger and continue to discover truths about the universe as religion continues to fade away. It's a positive feedback - when people drop religion, they will accept and respect science and rational thinking, further propping up the scientific and educational infrastructure.

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    2. Well, look at what is happening with science funding now after a relatively mild economic shock.

      Then imagine what will happen when we really feel the effects of the right-hand side of the Hubbert curve.

      It is also useful to look back in history and see what happened with the cultural and scientific infrastructure of the ancient Greco-Roman civilization and how much survived of it. And that was a local collapse - there was the Middle East which did not collapse and through which at least something was preserved. The current civilization is global

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  4. Although I find his accommodatinism quite odious and his hasty generalizations from the USA towards the rest of the world are indeed stupid, I am afraid that he is right with some of his pessimism. The hyperactive agent detection for example sure seems in-built although it does not necessarily mean that everybody ends up a believer.

    I also think that you are too optimistic about religion being on the way out. Here you might generalize from a few very secure and wealthy countries across the rest of the world where things are different, and we will have to see how much of our wealth and security will still be sustainable once fossil fuels run out...

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  5. """Religion, especially the extreme versions, is soon going to disappear as well."""

    I wish I could share your optimism.

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    1. The trend is obvious if you look at the big picture. I think we just differ on the timing. When I say "soon" I mean several generations but not hundreds of years.

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    2. Atheists comprised an estimated 2.01%, and non-religious a further 9.66% of the world population, according to The World Factbook in 2010, so there is still some way to go before atheism becomes the norm. Even in Sweden one of the most secular countries in the world 18 percent believe in God and a further 45 percent in a god or none defined life force. In Switzerland, arguably the most successful European country in providing a good quality of life for its citizens, those numbers are 44 and 39 percent respectively.

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    3. @Andy,

      I hope those numbers make you happy.

      Do you think there are people who have stopped believing in god(s) but won't openly admit to being an atheist? Do you think they might still talk about "life forces" and "spirituality" even though they haven't been to church in a decade?

      And speaking of trends, what do you think those number would have looked like 100 years ago?

      If you read Demographics of atheism, you'll see that the problem of describing non-believers is much more difficult than you think. Take China, for example; several surveys conclude that over half the population does not believe in god(s) and the actual percentage may be as high as 81%. They may identify with certain traditions (e.g. Buddhism) but those don't require belief in god(s).

      In Vietnam, 81% of the population doesn't believe in god(s).

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    4. Larry, I admit that surveys about beliefs are difficult to make and I note that you also picked the numbers that make you happy.
      I further think that you vastly oversimplify when you make the connection between not believing in a god and rational thinking. When people in general discuss evolution the arguments tend to be at the level of: "there are fossils, therefore evolution is true" or "life on earth was not created in 6 days, therefore evolution is true". The slightly more educated may come up with something like "the Anthropic Principal is sufficient explanation for evolution and the origin of life". None of those are to me example of rational thinking.

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    5. Americans in particular are "socially religious;" my own term. Most churchgoing folks I know do so because they went to church with their parents and it's the "expected" thing to do. Also, the stigma of being an open atheist is huge. Atheists are the most distrusted segment of American society (again, according to polls).

      My experience is that there is a huge gap between what Americans believe and what they say they believe. Also, the political separation of church and state perpetuates the gap because only kids who go to college will (possibly) encounter schools of thought that challenge their home-bred beliefs, if they haven't dropped them already.

      Very many high school students I encounter have questioned or are questioning their beliefs, however those same kids will continue to attend church and put up a facade because it's the socially acceptable thing to do.

      And, finally, do most Americans really think about anything? Not really, we're too busy playing Candy Crush!

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    6. I further think that you vastly oversimplify when you make the connection between not believing in a god and rational thinking.

      This is a very important point

      I like to illustrate it with the situation in Bulgaria (where I'm from), where there were 45 years of atheism being an official state policy. This succeeded to a significant extent in destroying the church as a factor in society, however, it did not result in a rationally thinking population (because how to think was not taught in schools, for understandable reasons).

      The consequences of all this after 1989 have been disastrous. There has been something of a revival of the Orthodox Church, however, it is still really not much of a factor in society and the majority of people are not actively religious. But the lack of rational thinking has allowed the proliferation of clairvoyants, mediums, psychics, astrologists, and all other sorts of charlatans you can think of, with the end result being no better than the situation before 1945. It's in fact even worse because I have not seen in my whole life an open public defense of atheism in the media, as it has been stigmatized due to its connection with communist rule (the same has happened in many other Eastern European countries too).

      I have a strong suspicion a lot of the decline of religion in Western societies has been the result of a similar replacement of one kind of irrational nonsense with another. The number of rationally thinking people has definitely been increasing but that's still one small number that used to be even smaller. Also, there are a lot of people who are nominally atheists but have bought so fully into the techno-gadget culture and have developed such an irrational belief in the omnipotence of technology to solve all problems that it has become a religion on its own, and that's another overlooked problem.

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    7. Andy Wilberforce says,

      I further think that you vastly oversimplify when you make the connection between not believing in a god and rational thinking.

      Really? It's hard for me to understand why believing in imaginary sky beings counts as rational thinking. Can you explain? Do you think that believing in bigfoot or the tooth fairy is rational thinking?

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    8. Larry, I was not arguing that it is rational to believe in God (seemed kind of pointless in this forum). I simply said that I think that you vastly oversimplify when you make the connection between not believing in a god and having rational thinking. Can you see the difference?
      I have however previously argued here on Sandwalk that the European style of rational thinking has its foundation in the Judeo-Christian tradition and that e.g scholasticism that was the foundation for the scientific revolution was first developed in monasteries and from there spread to the early European universities.

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    9. e.g scholasticism that was the foundation for the scientific revolution was first developed in monasteries and from there spread to the early European universities.

      Ah, you mean the monasteries that kept and translated much of the decidedly non Judeo-Christian Greek, Roman, and Arab ancient knowledge that the Christian tradition had succeeded in wiping out during that wonderful religious period popularly known as the Dark Ages? Leading to the scientific revolution that those monasteries welcomed with open arms (albeit 4 or 5 centuries later by the time they admitted there was something to the heretic ravings of that Galileo fellow)?

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    10. Judmark, you are misrepresenting history and you have completely misunderstood scholasticism. Scholasticism is a method of learning, scholasticism places a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference, and to resolve contradictions. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions.

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    11. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions.

      Leading to huge leaps in discussion of rigourously conceptual topics such as how any angels could dance on the head of a pin, while all that sloppy old non-conceptual stuff like circulatory patterns in the human body lay fallow in those heathen Greek and Arabic texts.

      Though I guess the Greeks and Arabs weren't altogether sloppy conceptually, thinking of number theory, algebra, etc.

      By the way, you owe me a new irony meter after the statement that *I* am misrepresenting history by disagreeing that the scientific revolution was born in medieval monasteries.

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    12. "Religion, especially the extreme versions, is soon going to disappear as well."

      The opposite is true. The more extreme the religion the faster it is growing. I recommand to everybody the book by Eric Kaufmann "Shall the religious inherit the earth?". He makes a very convincing argument that demography will finally make the fundamentalists win.

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  6. Surely people believe in gods and afterlives, largely because of their own suffering and helplessness. The individual life is a stream of sensations and thoughts, and what is outside it is not known. Facing the grave, facing crisis or the destruction of their hopes, people take advantage of this uncertainty to posit a larger world which supplies what they did not get here.

    Nietzsche pointed out the extent to which the character of the afterlife is defined in opposition to the world we know here. There is no guarantee of justice here, so justice shall rule there. Lives are torn asunder here, so we can be with our loved ones forever there. Here there is sorrow and deprivation, so there must only be joy and plenty, there.

    This does not speak directly to the psychology involved in rejecting evolution; but the human attachment to religion has deep existential roots in the tragedy and uncertainty of life.

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    1. I wonder how many people really and truly believe there's an afterlife? I know lots of people talk about it but I really wonder if the average Christian actually believes they are going to meet Jesus and their dead relatives.

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    2. Just love the Crash Test Dummies song God Shuffled His Feet:

      And if your eye got poked out in this life
      Would it be waiting up in heaven with your wife?

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  7. Cultural differences don't really falsify the idea of innate predispositions. Humans have an innate predisposition for consuming fatty, sugary foods. This is done to vastly differing degrees in the United States and Japan - but that doesn't mean there's no innate predisposition involved. It just means that memes can sometimes have a stronger influence on behaviour than the genes of their host.

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    1. Cultural differences don't really falsify the idea of innate predispositions.

      That's correct but they do weaken the argument considerably. As you show in the second half of your comment, you now have to add an additional layer of complexity to defend nature over nurture.

      In the end, we will have such a huge number of way of "overcoming" our genetic heritage that you have to wonder whether those genes were really there to begin with. This is one of the many problems that evolutionary psychology has to face.

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  8. Opposition to evolution or any wrong ideas is most likely to be found amongst the more intelligent people.
    surely its the english speaking civilization that has been the most intelligent in mankinds history and so it logically follows that the error of evolution would be highest amongst us.
    Its a line of reasoning. I would be embarrassed if third world countries or europe doubted evolution more then us based on appreciation of evidence.
    Its just as creationists would predict.
    What did Icelanders ever intellectually contribute to mankind??
    In reality Europeans simply accept authority more then we do. They follow anything or anyone that persuades them they know better.
    in north america we are independent minded and authority means very little. Indeed even thinking evolutionist supporters here probably believe in evolution based on the evidence and not simpleminded acceptance of their leaders.

    then one must add the unique presence of bible believing protestant Christians here as a source for opposition. Yet we are just a minority of those whi vote nay to evolution.
    Evolutionists don't make a good case. Lets face it.
    in fact they try to make the case based o SCIENTISTS SAY THIS. Yet this is the reason they fail. They don't make it on the evidence.
    They can't. But here it matters more then in the world out there centuries behind us.

    By the way do Nordic north americans have more/less evolution acceptance then the old motherlands??
    I bet we also believe in capitalism, democracy, law, and generosity more then old man Europe too.
    Where was Canada(English speaking) ??

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    1. surely its the english speaking civilization that has been the most intelligent in mankinds history and so it logically follows that the error of evolution would be highest amongst us.

      Apparently not the grammatical English-writing civilization, though.

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    2. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The main reason for letting Robert post comments is for the comic relief. His comment above is a fine example of his sense of humor and sarcasm. In fact, it's almost too good. One could easily get the impression that he actually believes that nonsense.

      Robert, please add smileys to your next attempt at humor. You wouln't want people to think you were crazy, would you?

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    3. """surely its the english speaking civilization that has been the most intelligent in mankinds history"""

      Apparently not only Byers believes that the Earth was created 6.000 years ago but that human history started a few of centuries ago too.

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    4. Re Lawrence Moran

      The folks over at Panda's Thumb don't think that booby Byers is a Poe.

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    5. We don't think so either. Moran was being ironic.

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    6. Yes, I was. It's sorta like when colnago80 pretended that Newton was the best scientist that ever lived. We now know that he didn't really mean it (whew!). He was just yanking my chain. :-)

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    7. Opposition to evolution or any wrong ideas is most likely to be found amongst the more intelligent people.

      I don't know about wrong ideas, but last year's Gallup poll (for the United States) suggests otherwise.

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    8. P.S. Not that I'm not appalled by the fact that 25% of American postgraduates are out-of-the-closet creationists, a further 42% accept "God-guided evolution", and 4% apparently have no idea what they accept. Acceptance of (non-guided) evolution in the US has almost doubled over the past 30 years, but is still pretty low.

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    9. Re Piotr Gasiorowski

      What are the percentages of American postgraduates who majored in physics, chemistry, or biology are creationists, or guided evolutionists? Even in the US, I would expect those numbers to be very low. However, I have to admit that my PhD thesis adviser, who, by the way made the final cut for the Nobel Prize in Physics this year, was an evolution denier.

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    10. There is, or used to be, a thing called general scientific literacy [sigh].

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    11. colnago80 says,

      ... who, by the way made the final cut for the Nobel Prize in Physics this year

      To the best of my knowledge almost anyone can be nominated for a Nobel Prize. The committee never reveals who was given serious consideration and never reveals the top rejected candidates. I don't believe there's any way of knowing who made the "final cut" unless there was a leak from the committee and that is extremely rare.

      Most of these speculations are based on guesses plus a general appreciation of what's hot in the discipline.

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    12. calnago80 asks,

      What are the percentages of American postgraduates who majored in physics, chemistry, or biology are creationists, or guided evolutionists?

      If you include theistic evolution then I'm guessing it would be around 50%. That's assuming that what you mean by "postgraduates" is "graduate students." If you just mean people who have graduated the it's probably closer to 70%.

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    13. Robert, please add smileys to your next attempt at humor.

      Oh please no. Nothing sets off the fine irony of writing about "English-speaking civilization" in bowdlerized English better than deadpan.

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    14. If you include theistic evolution then I'm guessing it would be around 50%. That's assuming that what you mean by "postgraduates" is "graduate students."

      I thought the proportion of American scientists who believe in a deity is a fair bit lower than that. Am I remembering the polls wrong; do you consider the polls to be wrong; or do you think that many believing graduates are weeded out in the search for employment as scientists?

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    15. Re Lawrence Moran

      In the discussions prior to the award of this year's Nobel Prize in physics, 5 individuals were identified as having contributed to the theory of the Higgs boson, of whom 2 were my co-thesis advisers. As expected, Prof. Higgs was awarded the prize along with Prof. Englert. Unfortunately, only 3 individuals can be named. We know that there was an hour's delay, apparently due to an extended discussion by the committee. It is my speculation that the committee couldn't agree on which of the remaining 3 to share in the award, i.e. none of the three could get a majority of the votes. Therefore, the committee had no option but to punt and belay naming a third individual. Evidently only Higgs and Englert could a majority of the votes. Hagen, Guralnik, and Kibble were shit out of luck (and when interviewed by the press, Hagen was a sore loser).

      I don't think there is any question that all 5 made major contributions to the theory of what became known as the Higgs boson, as described by Prof. Mano Singham on his blog a few days before the award was announced.

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    16. Re Larry Moran

      By the way, a similar situation would have arisen when Crick, Wilkins, and Watson were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology. Had Rosalind Franklin still been alive at the time, she probably would have been passed over as which of the 3 named would had been dropped? Of course, they could have awarded her the Nobel Prize in physics for the same contribution. AFAIK, that wouldn't have been against the rules.

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    17. colnago80 said that his supervisor "made the final cut for the Nobel Prize in Physics this year ..."

      Then he said "It is my speculation that the committee couldn't agree on which of the remaining 3 to share in the award ..."

      The second statement is far more correct than the first.

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    18. re: the structure of DNA

      I'm speculating that Watson & Crick would have got the prize for Physiology and Medicine and Franklin & Wilkins would have got the prize for Chemistry. I don't think that's ever happened but there could have been a first time.

      Unfortunately, unlike biochemists, physicists aren't important enough to be eligible for two different Nobel Prizes. :-)

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    19. judmarc asks,

      Am I remembering the polls wrong; do you consider the polls to be wrong; or do you think that many believing graduates are weeded out in the search for employment as scientists?

      I think that that those graduate students who actually get a job as an academic scientist are not as religious as those who don't

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    20. Unfortunately, unlike biochemists, physicists aren't important enough to be eligible for two different Nobel Prizes. :-)

      Well, Marie Curie got her first Nobel Prize in Physics, and then another one in Chemistry, and her PhD was in physics.

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    21. Re Lawrence Moran

      1. Ah gee, Francis Crick was a physicist by training. By the way isn't your daughter an astrophysicist?

      2. By the final cult, it is meant that the 5 individuals, Higgs, Englert, Hagen, Guralnik, and Kibble made the final cut and 3 were eventually eliminated. I don't know about the other 4 but Carl Hagan was, at least when I knew him, a born again Christian with much more conservative views on religion then Francis Collins. He was also an evolution denier at least at that time.

      As for Rosalind Franklin, she was a physical chemist by training so, had she still been alive, she could be awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry, rather then physics, with the other 3 retaining their medicine/physiology awards.

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  9. I think it is pretty clear that Wilkins would not have been on the award if Franklin had lived. He was basically on the prize because he was Franklin's supervisor and so in part responsible for her discoveries.

    What I'd like to see is the raw numbers in the above chart to see if there is a correlation with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_alcohol_consumption
    -- maybe the model of Science Pubs is particularly a good one for that reason.

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    1. Maurice Wilkins started the project on DNA structure in 1950 and it was he who obtained the DNA that Franklin used. He took the first X-ray diffraction photos of the DNA fibers in May 1950 then turned the project over to his graduate student, Raymond Gosling. Franklin didn't join the group until January 1951. Wilkins assigned his graduate student, Gosling, to work with Franklin on obtaining better images.

      There were THREE papers published in Nature in 1953. The most famous one was by Watson & Crick. The second one was by Franklin & Gosling. The third one was by Wilkins, Stokes, and Wilson. The title of the Wilkins et al paper is "Molecular Structure of Deoxypentose Nucleic Acids." I think it's pretty clear that Maurice Wilkins had an important role in the work and deserved a share of the Nobel Prize. Those who think otherwise don't know their history.

      You can read all about it on my blog ....
      The Story of DNA (Part 1)
      The Story of DNA (Part 2)
      Rosalind Franklin's Birthday
      The Watson & Crick Nature Paper (1953)
      The Franklin & Gosling Nature paper (1953)
      The Wilkins, Stokes and Wilson Nature paper (1953)

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    2. If Franklin had been alive in 1962 and had been passed over by the Nobel committee, she would not have been to first woman to have received that treatment. Lise Meitner deserved to share the Nobel Prize in physics with Otto Hahn and Chien-Shiung Wu (aka Madame Wu) deserved to share the Nobel Prize in physics with Lee and Yang.

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    3. Mme Curie narrowly escaped the same fate (hadn't it been for a leak from the committee and her husband's loyalty...):

      At first, the Committee intended to honour only Pierre and Becquerel, but one of the committee members and an advocate of woman scientists, Swedish mathematician Magnus Goesta Mittag-Leffler, alerted Pierre to the situation, and after his complaint, Marie's name was added to the nomination. Marie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie#Nobel_Prizes

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    4. Do you really think Wilkins' paper was the equal of the Watson-Crick one? Even Franklin's own paper wasn't that significant, although she really should have been a co-author on the Watson-Crick one given that her photograph 51 was the key piece of data involved.

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    5. ... given that her photograph 51 was the key piece of data involved.

      That's a bit of a myth. Read up on your history. I gave you the links.

      Watson got key bits of information from measurements that Wilkins had made himself. Watson and Crick got more data from an Institute Report published by Franklin a year earlier. The only think he really got from the photo was that DNA is a helix. This was a bit of a surprise since Franklin and Gosling had announced the previous summer that DNA was definitely not a helix.

      And the answer to your question is "no." Watson & Crick offered to put Wilkins' name on their paper but he declined. They did not make this offer to Franklin.

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    6. The only think he really got from the photo was that DNA is a helix

      Oh, merely that. It wasn't as if that was the whole point or anything.

      Franklin and Gosling had announced the previous summer that DNA was definitely not a helix

      Yes, I know of the "Death of the Helix" postcard. It wasn't entirely clear if Franklin was entirely serious or just trying to yank Wilkins' chain. Besides, everybody back then was shifting from model to model all the time. Even if she didn't favor a helix then, who knows if she wouldn't have come around.

      And the answer to your question is "no." Watson & Crick offered to put Wilkins' name on their paper but he declined. They did not make this offer to Franklin.

      But unquestionably they should have. I don't know how things are at UofT, but at my institute we have strict guidelines on authorship. If you use somebody's unpublished data as part of your work you have to ask them if they want authorship -- they can decline if they want (and sometimes they do), but you can't just take it.

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    7. If you use somebody's unpublished data as part of your work you have to ask them if they want authorship

      Franklin's data was published in the Institute Report.

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    8. If you use somebody's unpublished data as part of your work you have to ask them if they want authorship -- they can decline if they want (and sometimes they do), but you can't just take it.

      Out of real interest, does this policy apply to deposited sequences in, for instance, Genbank?

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    9. @TheOtherJim
      This is actually an important grey area. Typically people accept things in GenBank as "published" especially if they have been there for some time, but there are exceptions. Some funding agencies require sequences to be deposited within a few weeks/months of their generation, and often this is too soon for the data to be analyzed and for a paper to come out. About ten years ago I recall a minor scandal where a group that no connection with a genome project saw the sequences in GenBank and rushed out their own paper on the genome before the group generating the data could. This may have been technically legal but not very ethical.

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  10. Wait a minute everybody here.
    I am TOLD that its not measurable about the most intelligent people/nations/civilization relative to others and THEN you guys start talking about Nobel scientists.
    This Nobel prize measures who did the smartest thing in certain subjects and then posters here say this one too.
    I most sincerely believe the historic belief in the measurable conclusion of the Anglo American civilization prevailing over everyone else as a reflection also of intelligence.
    THEREFORE it follows logically that such people would most likely be most resistant to wrong ideas despite same ideas coming from educated professions.
    A natural sharpness kicking in here.
    Yes a foundational religious opposition but thats only a certain minority percentage.
    The opposition to evolution is from main street people unlike elsewhere on the planet.
    EXACTLY as a creationist would predict.
    Why do evolutionists expect North America etc to be so opposed to evolution if not from the general intellect of the people and some religion??
    why do evolutionist presume third world countries to better understand evolutionary biology then us?
    The rest of they world follows America in every department and they simply don't question authority as we do. History shows that.
    Of coarse evolutionism should be seen as weak supported ala evidence by people who created the positive progress of modern mankind.
    I predict Europe and others will become evolution deniers soon enough. first democracy, then capitalism, now creationism . I believe in them.

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    1. I predict Europe and others will become evolution deniers soon enough. first democracy, then capitalism, now creationism . I believe in them.

      Prof Moran is right, booby is a barrel of laughs.

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    2. Yes. I especially like the part where he suggests Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France and Japan are part of the "third world".

      Oh, and the UK is up there near the top, too. I guess Mr. Byers does not consider it part of "Anglo-American civilization".

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  11. "...the natural tendency to rationality…"

    Could you elaborate on this please. My admittedly limited readings in the ares of cognitive psychology and evolution have led me to the opposite conclusion. I am of the view that irrationality is the default setting of the human brain, not rationality. I think this is part of the reason why belief in the supernatural is so widespread across all cultures. If I am wrong on this then please inform me of the research I can examine that shows that rationality is the brain's natural tendency.

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  12. I realized something recently, something disturbing. I think that people in politics and peripherally associated with politics don't see spin as dishonesty. They actually think it's a morally acceptable thing to do in order to sway opinions.

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  13. Gee, I thought it had much more to do with religious fundamentalism and brain-washing.

    Yes, but why does that exist? I don't mean, why do people try to use the ignorance and biases of much of the public in order to make money, have power, etc., I mean, why do they find religious fundamentalism to appeal to people?

    Mooney's dealing with matters that do seem to predispose people toward magical thinking, teleological thinking, etc., and he's not all that wrong.

    He is overplaying how difficult it is for people to grasp non-teleological evolution, especially if you consider how organisms were grouped into "families" and groups by apparent relatedness even before evolutionary theory had won out. It's not so very non-intuitive, so that, say, many Asian cultures generally didn't have much problem accepting it.

    I don't believe that we evolved to favor religion over science...

    Of course we didn't evolve "to favor religion over science" (especially not with those teleological overtones), we evolved to take the world phenomenally and teleologically, which makes religious explanations relatively easy to formulate and grasp, while science took a great amount of time to develop. Religion is sort of the default. Science requires learning a good deal to actually understand, while religion plays off of human biases. Indeed, that is one of the better reasons to fight to have good science education in the schools, bad (including much religious) thinking is easy, good thinking is rather more difficult.

    So of course Mooney was rather overplaying the universality of the difficulty of understanding and accepting evolution, but he's not wrong to note that human biases tend to favor ideas that cater to those biases rather than to those that try to minimize said biases.

    Glen Davidson

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