Evolution

Depending on the poll, it is estimated that somewhere between 50-75% of Americans believe that an omnipotent being created the earth and its organisms, and some subset of this embraces a literal interpretation of the bible in which God created all life in just six days. The evidence refuting such a notion and supporting evolution is so overwhelming and thorough that it is considered fact by those who understand it. Why so many people do not believe the theory of evolution, and more disturbingly, why so many believe that every species on Earth could have first appeared in just the first six days of the planet's existence, is a complex question with a number of possible influences.

First, the theory of evolution is not easy to understand and the body of evidence supporting it is vast and difficult to penetrate if one is not particularly motivated. Therefore, any alternative explanation that does not require much thinking will be attractive to many people. Furthermore, there are many misconceptions about evolution that make it seem implausible or, worse, disgusting. For example, the notion that we came from monkeys is a gross warping of the fact that we share a common ancestor with chimpanzees. This idea, though untrue, conjures up images of bestiality and miscegenation, and the fear that we are no better than dumb, ugly beasts.

Second, we live in a very religious country. Many Americans develop much of their understanding of the world, nature, and morality from within a religious milieu. If their preacher, family and friends all denigrate the theory of evolution and promote creationism, there may be no desire to question this belief or to try and understand the theory of evolution. In addition, many churches and religious organizations promote campaigns that attack evolution through law suits and by trying to bring creationism into the public schools, or by sowing doubt about the credibility of the theory or the scientists that support it. Some even lie about the facts or deliberately mystify the facts in order to promote their cause.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

Evolution

Depending on the poll, it is estimated that somewhere between 50-75% of Americans believe that an omnipotent being created the earth and its organisms, and some subset of this embraces a literal interpretation of the bible in which God created all life in just six days. The evidence refuting such a notion and supporting evolution is so overwhelming and thorough that it is considered fact by those who understand it. Why so many people do not believe the theory of evolution, and more disturbingly, why so many believe that every species on Earth could have first appeared in just the first six days of the planet's existence, is a complex question with a number of possible influences.

First, the theory of evolution is not easy to understand and the body of evidence supporting it is vast and difficult to penetrate if one is not particularly motivated. Therefore, any alternative explanation that does not require much thinking will be attractive to many people. Furthermore, there are many misconceptions about evolution that make it seem implausible or, worse, disgusting. For example, the notion that we came from monkeys is a gross warping of the fact that we share a common ancestor with chimpanzees. This idea, though untrue, conjures up images of bestiality and miscegenation, and the fear that we are no better than dumb, ugly beasts.

Second, we live in a very religious country. Many Americans develop much of their understanding of the world, nature, and morality from within a religious milieu. If their preacher, family and friends all denigrate the theory of evolution and promote creationism, there may be no desire to question this belief or to try and understand the theory of evolution. In addition, many churches and religious organizations promote campaigns that attack evolution through law suits and by trying to bring creationism into the public schools, or by sowing doubt about the credibility of the theory or the scientists that support it. Some even lie about the facts or deliberately mystify the facts in order to promote their cause.


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