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Why Be A Creationist? 
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Post Why Be A Creationist?
Why do people (the overwhelming majority of Americans for example) pursue an anti-evolutionism fundamentalist view of the world?

Must we reduce it to individual ignorance and social cowardice, or can we locate its source in oppressive political and disempowering economic systems? Noam Chomsky tries to explain the phenomenom by way of limited meaningful political activity: people are denied authentic communities where their choices matter and their presence is valued. If people can't find this kind of genuine polis in the secular world of politics and economy, they will turn to religious communitites that provide a cosmology of purpose and a politics of meaning. Thus, it seems, the real debate between Evolution and Creationism is more an issue of keeping people apart from genuine political and economic power.



From an interview with David Barsamian in Keeping the Rabble in Line (Common Courage, 1994):

Quote:
QUESTION: Historian Paul Boyer, in his book When Time Shall Be No More, writes, "Surveys show that," and I find this absolutely stunning, "from one third to one half of the population," he's talking about Americans, "believes that the future can be interpreted in biblical prophecies." Have you heard of these things?

CHOMSKY: I haven't seen that particular number, but I've seen plenty of things like it. I saw a cross-cultural study a couple of years ago, I think it was published in England, which compared a whole range of societies in terms of beliefs of that kind. The U.S. stood out. It was unique in the industrial world. In fact, the measures for the U.S. were similar to pre-industrial societies.

QUESTION: Why is that?

CHOMSKY: That's an interesting question, but it's certainly true. It's a very fundamentalist society. It's like Iran in the degree of fanatic religious commitment. You get extremely strange results. For example, I think about seventy-five percent of the population has a literal belief in the devil. There was a poll several years ago on evolution. People were asked their opinion on various theories of evolution, of how the world came to be what it is. The number of people who believed in Darwinian evolution was less than ten percent. About half the population believed in a church doctrine of divine-guided evolution. Most of the rest presumably believed that the world was created a couple of thousand years ago. This runs across the board. These are very unusual results. Why the U.S. should be off the spectrum on these issues has been discussed and debated for some time.

I remember reading something by a political scientist who writes about these things, Walter Dean Burnham, maybe ten or fifteen years ago. He had also done similar studies. He suggested that this may be a reflection of depoliticization, that is, inability to participate in a meaningful fashion in the political arena, which may have a rather important psychic effect, heightened by the striking disparity between the facts and the ideological depiction of them. What's sometimes called the ideal culture is so radically different from the real culture in terms of the theory of popular participation versus the reality of remoteness and impotence. That's not impossible. People will find some ways of identifying themselves, becoming associated with others, taking part in something. They're going to do it some way or other. If they don't have the options of participation in labor unions, political organizations that actually function, they'll find other ways. Religious fundamentalism is a classic example.

We see that happening in other parts of the world right now. The rise of what's called Islamic fundamentalism is to a significant extent a result of the collapse of secular nationalist alternatives which were either discredited internally or destroyed, leaving few other options. Something like that may be true of American society. This goes back to the nineteenth century. In fact, in the nineteenth century you even had some conscious efforts on the part of business leaders to promote and encourage fire and brimstone-type preachers who would lead people into looking in another way. The same thing happened in the early part of the Industrial Revolution in England. E.P. Thompson writes about this in his classic The Making of the English Working Class.

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 10/16/06 2:00 pm



Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:56 pm
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Post Re: Why Be A Creationist?
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Why do people (the overwhelming majority of Americans for example) pursue an anti-evolutionism fundamentalist view of the world?


In my opinion the answer is simple. People believe in Gods and in the associated nonsense of creationism because they were taught these things when their minds were young and sponge-like. They accepted these myths, and unlike the myth of Santa Claus, nobody ever let them know that it was just pretend.

I'm not joking. This exactly why the majority of people believe in Gods and creationism.

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 10/16/06 4:14 pm



Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:14 pm
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Post Re: Why Be A Creationist?
Chris: People believe in Gods and in the associated nonsense of creationism because they were taught these things when their minds were young and sponge-like.

This discounts the above quotation from Chomsky, and his reliance upon Walter Dean Burnham and E.P. Thompson, that highlights the absence of meaningful political and economic power as a key ingredient to the decision. Do you find any merit in their particular understanding of the issue?

Chris: They accepted these myths, and unlike the myth of Santa Claus, nobody ever let them know that it was just pretend.

So you think these vast tens of millions of people have never seriously considered the alternative the God doesn't exist? So, if someone were to simply explain this to them, they would let go of their delusion and join the ranks of the reasonable?




Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:23 pm
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Post Re: Why Be A Creationist?
I don't see politics as having anything to do with this subject so I'm not going to spend the time necessary to understand those quotes. I've read plenty of Chomsky quotes over the years and just don't find him that exciting.

Quote:
So you think these vast tens of millions of people have never seriously considered the alternative the God doesn't exist?
Most haven't considered it seriously. By "most" I mean well over 50% of the "believers" on this planet are on autopilot and just believe because they were programmed to believe. And MUCH higher than 50% don't understand the alternatives to belief in Gods.

Quote:
So, if someone were to simply explain this to them, they would let go of their delusion and join the ranks of the reasonable?
No, the damage is done. These people won't believe it if they are told that God is just pretend. Part of the sickness of Christian faith is that the faithful are threatened with burning in hell for all of eternity if they don't accept the fantasy. Believers are pretty much hooked for life out of fear and ignorance.

In my opinion we all have a "void" in our minds almost from birth. We're curious about where we came from, why we're here, and what happens to us after we die. This curiosity was selected for naturally, but it sometimes gets us into trouble. When we don't have the answers to these questions we have a burning in our minds where we're frustrated and confused and perpetually hungry for answers.

Religion is a means of filling the void. Oh, science education can be a means too, but science isn't digestible at 4 years old. "God" goes down easily. God answers all our questions, pacifies the curious mind of the child, and for the most part stunts their intellectual growth. The damage is done shortly after a child is spoon-fed bullshit answers. The void has been filled. That thirst for answers has been satisfied.

No amount of explaining can help the brainwashed. Massimo Pigliucci calls this the "rationalistic fallacy" and I have slowly begun to accept his theory. There is virtually nothing that can be done to help theists once the seed is planted. Yet I continually try. I know that our species longevity depends on keeping religion in check.




Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:39 pm
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Post Re: Why Be A Creationist?
Chris: I don't see politics as having anything to do with this subject

That's interesting, because when I approach Biblical literalists with this perspective, they agree with you. They don't see the political or economic systems of their world as having anything to do with their worldview or attitude towards God or the Bible. It's as though questions regarding God and the Bible exist "freeform" separate and untouched by the political struggles and economic systems that decide what is legal or valuable. As though these forces that impact every other element of one's life (social, familial, cultural, ecological, intellectual) have no bearing whatsoever on our attitudes towards and the conclusions we draw regarding God, religion and the Bible.

Chris: Most haven't considered it seriously.

Would serious consideration require leaving out all politcal and economic dimensions of the discussion?

Chris: Part of the sickness of Christian faith is that the faithful are threatened with burning in hell for all of eternity if they don't accept the fantasy. Believers are pretty much hooked for life out of fear and ignorance.

No doubt a good number of Christians are tied to their faith out of fear of hell. But I think this neglects the very many who are faithful out of joy and celebration of life, for whom hell is not the primary element...but rather love is. I argue the many tied to hell find that appraoch so appealing because they find so much of their everyday world hellish: alienated at work and terrified of poverty. If we took seriously their very real and very legitimate economic and political miseries, I think they might be far more willing to abandon their God of punishment and damnation...and more able to celebrate the God of jubilee and new life.

If it turns out the passion (or delusion) for God vanishes entirely upon genuine liberation from political oppression and economic injustices, then more power to the atheist and may all theists shut their mouths. Likewise, if it turns out that the passion (or wisdom) for God is given new life and shown as enlightened good sense, (upon liberation) then may the atheist show the same consideration.

Chris: No amount of explaining can help the brainwashed. Massimo Pigliucci calls this the "rationalistic fallacy" and I have slowly begun to accept his theory. There is virtually nothing that can be done to help theists once the seed is planted.

In a sense, I agree. Just a lot of talk, no matter how sensible, can rarely change a person's behavior and thinking....especially deep rooted attitudes and beliefs and well worn habits. What is usually required is radical lifestyle alteration and often geographic relocation. People require trustworthy relationships with people who matter in order to step out of long-standing roles and beliefs. These relationships require time and plenty of interaction: making, building, solving, engaging the day-to-day world in new ways. I think it requires an wholistic approach: the entire network of ideas, attitudes, habits and relationships need to be addressed; because they are all inter-related and impacting each other.

That's why I think politics and economics are crucial components to this discussion. And, I think Creationism is so enticing and valuable because it speaks directly to needs of political meaning and economic worth.




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Post Re: Why Be A Creationist?
DH: Why do people (the overwhelming majority of Americans for example) pursue an anti-evolutionism fundamentalist view of the world?
Chris: In my opinion the answer is simple. People believe in Gods and in the associated nonsense of creationism because they were taught these things when their minds were young and sponge-like. They accepted these myths, and unlike the myth of Santa Claus, nobody ever let them know that it was just pretend.

Two points:
a) I don't think (and Scott's book seems to confirm this) that anything near the majority of Americans qualify as either fundamentalists or antievolutionists;
and
b) I think it's a misleading simplification to think that people believe in God or creationism simply because that's what they were told and no one ever corrected them. Even if some children were trumped by malicious older kids who decided to disillusion them about the existence of Santa Claus, I think it's likely that most kids would have stopped believing in Santa Claus much the way I did -- they would have come to their own conclusion and found some way (like getting their parents to fess up) to confirm that conclusion. Whether or not it's a political motive (and DH sees morality and politics under every bed), I think people continue to believe things because they have some persistent motivation for maintaining that belief. And we can't expect that motivation to be consistent from one person to the next. So some people continue to believe in Creationism because they can't imagine any other way to ground the morality they want; some people continue to believe because it provides a point of connection with the community they're a part of; some people continue to believe because they have a certain perception of the sort of world envisioned by Darwinian evolution, and they don't want to accept that worldview; some people believe it because they see it as integral to other beliefs (the same way that evolution is justified in part by its status as the glue holding together modern biology); and so on and so forth.




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Post What do the Polls say?
Public view of creationism and evolution unchanged, says Gallup

A recent article from the Gallup News Service reports on the pollster's latest results concerning public opinion on the evidence for evolution, creationism, and biblical literalism. Because Gallup's polls on public opinion on creationism extend back to 1982, its data are particularly useful. The results are overall consistent with previous polls conducted by Gallup.

To assess public opinion on the evidence for evolution, Gallup asked,
Quote:
"Do you think that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well-supported by evidence, just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or don't you know enough about it to say?"
Polled in November 2004, 35% of the respondents said that evolution is well-supported by evidence, 35% said that it is not, 29% said that they didn't know enough about it to reply, and 1% expressed no opinion. These results are similar to those in 2001, the first year in which Gallup asked the question.

Demographically, the article reports, belief that evolution is well-supported by the evidence is strongest "among those with the most education, liberals, those living in the West, those who seldom attend church, and ... Catholics," and weakest among "those with the least education, older Americans ..., frequent church attendees, conservatives, Protestants, those living in the middle of the country, and Republicans."

To assess public opinion on creationism, Gallup asked:

Quote:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?
1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,
2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process,
3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?


Polled in November 2004, 38% of respondents chose (1), 13% chose (2), 45% chose (3), and 4% offered a different or no opinion. These results are also similar to those from previous Gallup polls, which extend back to 1982.

The article explains that the 10,000 year date was included in the 1982 poll question because "it roughly approximates the timeline used by biblical literalists who study the genealogy as laid out in the first books of the Old Testament." It is perhaps worth remarking that not all biblical literalists agree on interpreting the Bible as insisting on a young earth: there are old-earth creationists, for example, who accept the scientifically determined age of the earth and of the universe, but still accept a literal reading of the Bible and reject evolution.

To assess public opinion on biblical literalism, Gallup asked,
Quote:
"Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible -- the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man?"
Polled in November 2004, 34% of respondents regarded the Bible as to be taken literally, 48% regarded it as divinely inspired but not always to be taken literally, 15% regarded it as a collection of fables, etc., and 3% expressed no opinion. Again, these results are similar to those from previous Gallup polls.

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 10/17/06 3:33 pm



Tue Oct 17, 2006 2:29 pm
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Post Re: What do the Polls say?
Thanks for posting that Dissident. I found the stats to be quite interesting and somewhat frightening.




Tue Oct 17, 2006 3:54 pm
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Post Re: What do the Polls say?
Thanks Dissident. Nice post...Which shows that far too many people are still ignorant.

I object to the first question though...mention of Darwin's name can skew results IMO. Some people equate that name with Satan! lol

And anyway...much has been done to modify Darwin's Theory...so should the whole shebang be considered Darwin's still?


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Post Re: What do the Polls say?
Invoking Darwin definitely skews the poll, especially since, as described by Scott in chapter 6, emphasizing Darwin might lead some scientists to respond negatively as well.

The fact is, the way that question is set up, you'd be in line with most scientific views of evolution to say that Darwin's theory was incorrect on a lot of points. The modern view of evolution is a hybrid of Darwinian natural selection and Mendeleyan genetics. But the question as asked provides no way of qualifying one's answer, so a scrupulous naturalist would be forced to compromise his answer one way or another.

Either way, it looks to me like the results of the poll reveal that anti-evolutionists and Biblical literalists are a minority within the total population of the United States. They may be a startlingly large minority, but there are just as many pro-evolutionists, and almost as many people who defer the question to experts. There aren't as many Biblical literalists as Christians who read the Bible interpretively, and so long as you don't dismiss theistic evolution, the majority of Americans believe that biological evolution played a part in the development of human life.




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Post Re: What do the Polls say?
It seems the question regarding Darwin's theory requires defining what is meant by "well supported by evidence." Would most scientific views argue that Darwin's theory is well supported, or basically supported, or barely supported, or largely unsupported? Like most polls, it doesn't allow for qualifications that a more sophisticated understanding of the issues would require.

Likewise, I'm sure the 48% that defined the Bible as divinely inspired but not always literally interpreted would like more options in clearly articulating the importance of Scripture.

It looks like theistic evolution is claimed by a substantial portion of the population (38 %). I wonder how many of these folks would identify with, or at least be sympathetic towards the principles of Liberation Theology and more Progressive forms of Religious practice?

But 45% saying that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so, is nearly half of the population. It seems a bit misleading to call this a minority, even if you call it startingly large.




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