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Why Are Americans Resistant to Science?

Posted in The Doctor Weighs In by Skepdude on March 31, 2009

This question often puzzled me. I can understand the need for a God, as an embodiment of people’s moral ideals. So the fact that our society, which views itself as based on moral principles, is fertile ground for the belief in an über-moral deity. The Brits, on the other hand, have a long history of scandalous, sometimes murderous, behaviors of their political leaders and royals. They are well-versed in their Shakespeare and, like him are cynical about assertions of moral superiority of authority figures. Is there any wonder why only a small minority of the British go to church? This could also be the reason why the most ferocious critics of religion are British. See, for instance Richard Dawkins “the God Delusion”, in which he argues that God is, well, a delusion, religion is a virus, and the U.S. has slipped back to the dark ages. If this sounds extreme, try “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens.

Why should a belief in a deity clash with acceptance of science? In fact, Dr. Francis Collins, a physician and scientist par excellence, is the director of the Human Genome Project. He is also deeply religious.

But consider this little nugget: In a 2005 Pew Trust poll, 42% of respondents said that they believed that humans and other animals have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, a view that denies the very existence of evolution. And in a 2008 Republican presidential debate, none of the five, or was it six, candidates raised their hands when asked whether they believed in evolution. Michelangelo%20story.jpg

This is not the only domain where people reject science: Many believe in the efficacy of unproven medical interventions; the mystical nature of out-of-body experiences; the existence of supernatural entities such as ghosts and fairies; and the legitimacy of astrology, ESP, and divination.

It all begins in childhood.

In a review titled “Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science”, two Yale professors of psychology, Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnik Weisberg, posit that the winter of our ignorance began in childhood. They review evidence from developmental psychology suggesting that some resistance to scientific ideas is a human universal. This resistance stems from two general facts about children, one having to do with what they know and the other having to do with how they learn.


5 Responses

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  1. mcoville said, on March 31, 2009 at 1:36 PM

    This post is so intellectually bankrupt. Most Christians that I know love science and what it shows us about the world God created. Rejecting the theory of evolution is not rejecting science.

    If evolutionists where not so narrow minded about their dogma of evolution they would be open minded to the fact they could be wrong. That is the only way we can get science to grow out of the old 19th century state of mind.

    • Skepdude said, on April 1, 2009 at 9:10 AM

      Rejecting the theory of evolution is rejecting science. Picking and choosing which bits of science to accept, based on your religious/moral beliefs does not equate to loving “science and what it shows us about the world God created”. Science can only be accepted or rejected on scientific evidence, not on what you like or dislike. The only reason someone like you opposes evolution so hard is that in your mind it diminishes the role of God in the universe, and don’t insult my intelligence to tell me that you reject it on scientific ground, because if you knew anything about evolution you would not say it is a dogma. I wonder why don’t you oppose the Theory of Gravity with the same ferocity you oppose the Theory of Evolution.

      Isn’t it ironic that you live according to a book written 2,000 years ago, yet complain that science is stuck in a “19th century state of mind”? Look up hypocrisy at

      • mcoville said, on April 1, 2009 at 11:46 AM

        “Rejecting the theory of evolution is rejecting science.” Keep saying it does not make it true.

        Evolutionists have been “Picking and choosing which bits of science to accept”, but of course you believe that evolution is true so its ok to do in that case.

        I oppose evolution because there is no evidence that has changed my opinion. Just like you don’t believe in creation because you have not accepted the evidence that shows the truth of creation.

        I live according to the Word of God, not the words of men as you do.

        • Rodibidably said, on April 1, 2009 at 1:35 PM

          I’m curious, and am hoping you could answer a few questions…

          You seem pretty certain of your belief in creationism and that evolutions is wrong, so I am hoping you’ll do me a favor and answer a few questions for me….

          I would re-post them here for you, but some of the questions are quite lengthy, so I hope you’ll take the time to check them out.

          Thanks in advance.

        • Skepdude said, on April 1, 2009 at 3:03 PM

          Evolutionary biology is an established branch of what we call science, just like physics and chemistry are branches of science. I don’t know what else do you need to at least agree that it is science. Go out and ask any scientist let them be chemist, physicist, biologist etc etc if Evolutionary Biology is science or not, then come back and we can continue this conversation.

          I don’t believe evolution to be true. I trust that scientists have done their due diligence on the issue. I am not a scientist and from your comments it is clear that neither are you. When my car brakes down I go to the mechanic and accept what he tells me, because I don’t know the first thing about fixing cars and so do you. When I am sick I go to a doctor because they are in the better position to fix whatever is wrong with me, and so do you. So when issues of science come up I am not arrogant enough to suppose I know better than the people that spend all their time doing science, and neither should you. Show some of your christian humility will you?

          You say you haven’t seen any evidence that changes your opinion. That’s fine, what have you read about the Fossil Record? How much do you know about genetics and molecular biology? Can you pretend to know enough biology and the scientific method to even begin to comprehend the intricacies of this scientific theory? I know I can’t, but because of that I have to put my trust on the people that are supposed to know.

          Our understanding as lay people is very basic, at least we must agree on that. We do not know and cannot comprehend the most advanced evidence about evolution, because we just haven’t spend enough time to be able to. But see I regard my ignorance as a lack of knowledge on my part. You seem to regard your ignorance as lack of knowledge, period. And therein my friend lies your problem. You are committing the typical fallacy known as the Argument from Ignorance.

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