Thursday, August 30, 2007

Go Cardinals!

A friend points out the following article from Pew Research: How the Public Resolves Conflicts Between Faith and Science The article attempts to address some conflicting survey results: First: Americans approve of science:

(M)ost people (87%) think that scientific developments make society better. Among those who describe themselves as being very religious, the same number – 87% – share that opinion.

Second: Most Americans do not accept evolution:

42% of Americans reject the notion that life on earth evolved and believe instead that humans and other living things have always existed in their present form...Moreover, in the same poll, 21% of those surveyed say that although life has evolved, these changes were guided by a supreme being. Only a minority, about a quarter (26%) of respondents, say that they accept evolution through natural processes or natural selection alone. (emphasis mine)

And third, most Americans acknowledge that scientists accept evolution:

(N)early two-thirds of adults (62%) say that they believe that scientists agree on the validity of evolution.

How does the author try to reconcile these apparently conflicting beliefs?

The answer is that much of the general public simply chooses not to believe the scientific theories and discoveries that seem to contradict long-held religious or other important beliefs.

He appears to be right. He notes that only 14% of those who don't accept evolution do so because of evidence. Most do so because of religious convictions.

(O)nly 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin's theory.

All of this is well and good. People have a right to believe whatever they want, evidence be damned! As Stephen Colbert has noted, "The problem with evidence is that it doesn't always support your opinion." Still, are there any drawbacks to the fact that most Americans will ignore scientific evidence for faith? The author seems to think not:

These data once again show that, in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion. And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers.

But he ignores a very important point he himself brought up. He starts the article by noting:

(R)eligious convictions limit many Americans' willingness to accept...certain types of scientific research, such as the potential use of embryonic stem cells for medical treatments.

Here's where I get pissy. Believe whatever you want for whatever reason, but don't use those beliefs to impact my life. If your beliefs are going to impact my life, you oughta have some evidence. My family has a history of Alzheimer's. Some scientists believe stem cell research can offer insight to a potential cure. But many can't do the research they'd like due to the faith of most Americans. (I understand that it's possible to be opposed to stem cell research based on evidence or political principles, but the argument is probably better that most who oppose it are opposed due to religion.)

Let me give an example describing why I'm pissy about this: If I start failing students because my faith in voodoo dolls tells me it is "true" that they cheated on their exams, those students deserve to be pissy and have every right to demand evidence. If I were to say I have "faith" that they cheated despite any evidence, they oughta tell me the same thing I want to tell people whose beliefs impact the ability of scientists to do stem cell research: Kiss Hank's Ass! Ultimately, I think the author lays out some interesting data. I'm just not as convinced as he seems to be that there's little conflict between science and religion in the US. Especially as it relates to evolution. Obscure title reference: Sister Martha Carpenter of St. Peter Indian Mission School told fans of the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday, "God told me this year that the prayers are going to work." video

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