This is a split board - You can return to the Split List for other boards.

Belief in Evolution and science literacy.

#1kts123Posted 5/28/2014 8:27:40 AM
First, there is zero correlation between saying one "believes" in evolution & understanding the rudiments of modern evolutionary science.

Those who say they do "believe" are no more likely to be able to be able to give a high-school-exam passing account of natural selection, genetic variance, and random mutation -- the basic elements of the modern synthesis -- than than those who say they "don't" believe.

In fact, neither is very likely to be able to, which means that those who "believe" in evolution are professing their assent to something they don't understand.

[ . . . ]

The National Science Foundation has been engaged in the project of trying to formulate and promote such a measure for quite some time. A few years ago it came to the conclusion that the item "human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals," shouldn't be included when computing "science literacy."

The reason was simple: the answer people give to this question doesn't measure their comprehension of science. People who score at or near the top on the remaining portions of the test aren't any more likely to get this item "correct" than those who do poorly on the remaining portions.

What the NSF's evolution item does measure, researchers have concluded, is test takers' cultural identities, and in particular the centrality of religion in their lives.


- Dan Kahan, the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law & Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School.

http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/5/24/weekend-update-youd-have-to-be-science-illiterate-to-think-b.html
---
Chess!
http://www.chess.com/members/view/KyleTS
#2kozlo100Posted 5/28/2014 8:51:02 AM
I can't decide whether or not I'm surprised by this. I guess I'm not terribly surprised that folks would affirm belief in something they only vaguely understand, but I am surprised that particular question gets wrapped up in cultural identity.

I guess the odd thing to me is that someone would feel a need to have affirmation of evolution as part of their identity, but not make the effort to actually acquire a working knowledge of the subject. The information is readily available, and it would only take a handful of hours.

Though I do agree that if such is the case, they ought take that question out of scientific literacy surveys. At best it's uninformative.
---
Time flies like the wind,
and fruit flies like a banana.
#3Moorish_IdolPosted 5/28/2014 9:22:12 AM(edited)
I don't think it's shocking to believe in something, or know something as true, and yet not be able to explain it. For instance, I don't know the intricacies of how the moon causes tides, but I know it does. I don't know how computers work, but I know they do. I don't know how 64gb of data fits on my little frickin thumbdrive, but I know it does.

Those same people who aren't able to explain evolution will likely each be able to explain something that you can't. It really just comes down to interest, and the forces that dictate that interest (like religion, as the article points out).

I'm not at all surprised that evolution has become an item of cultural identity given the (ridiculous) controversy regarding it. To many, it's almost an issue of morality.
#4Dathrowed1Posted 5/28/2014 9:25:02 AM
It is just the sign of the times. It seems like evolution might be gaining the same problems as religious belief.

Still much info is available that many people could learn even if it is practical. I know men who can't tie a tie, do anything with their cars or cook. Though that info is available.

Even learning a language is much easier, but most don't.
---
sig
#5kozlo100Posted 5/28/2014 9:58:51 AM
Moorish_Idol posted...
I don't think it's shocking to believe in something, or know something as true, and yet not be able to explain it. For instance, I don't know the intricacies of how the moon causes tides, but I know it does. I don't know how computers work, but I know they do. I don't know how 64gb of data fits on my little frickin thumbdrive, but I know it does.


Maybe I'm underestimating what they mean by being able to pass the high school test. I mean, if I pressed you, how much could you actually explain about the moon and tides, or about how computers work? I'm assuming it's not nothing at all.

I was kind of going with understanding that genes cause traits, they can mutate causing new traits, and traits that confer a survival advantage tend to get passed on where they might mutate further as being a passable knowledge of the subject. Maybe a sentence or two more on each of those points. My high school tests certainly weren't any more in depth than that on the subject. I have a hard time imagining someone affirming evolution but not being able to do that.
---
Time flies like the wind,
and fruit flies like a banana.
#6kts123(Topic Creator)Posted 5/28/2014 9:59:33 AM
The core problem, is that people have confused science comprehension with belief. The statement "all life shares common ancestry," is a question of belief, not of scientific comprehension. I can comprehend common ancestry all day long and not believe it actually happened.

E.g. If I ask if you agree "Photons are infidecimal points," you might have a deep understanding of Quantum Mechanics but simply have an inkling String Theory is true -- so you would say "no," even though you comprehend the science.

That's why this doesn't surprise me at all.
---
Chess!
http://www.chess.com/members/view/KyleTS
#7Moorish_IdolPosted 5/28/2014 10:16:23 AM
kozlo100 posted...
Moorish_Idol posted...
I don't think it's shocking to believe in something, or know something as true, and yet not be able to explain it. For instance, I don't know the intricacies of how the moon causes tides, but I know it does. I don't know how computers work, but I know they do. I don't know how 64gb of data fits on my little frickin thumbdrive, but I know it does.


Maybe I'm underestimating what they mean by being able to pass the high school test. I mean, if I pressed you, how much could you actually explain about the moon and tides, or about how computers work? I'm assuming it's not nothing at all.

I was kind of going with understanding that genes cause traits, they can mutate causing new traits, and traits that confer a survival advantage tend to get passed on where they might mutate further as being a passable knowledge of the subject. Maybe a sentence or two more on each of those points. My high school tests certainly weren't any more in depth than that on the subject. I have a hard time imagining someone affirming evolution but not being able to do that.

Yeah I suppose you're right. I took the article as meaning they expected an in-depth explanation -- maybe I've just been out of high school too long to remember how basic it was.

If they aren't able to even give a smidgen of information regarding evolution, I can see how that is a significant issue.

Also what kts said above this post makes a lot of sense. I personally don't see evolution as a matter of belief, but I know a lot of people do. So they could very well understand evolution and still answer "No" to the question.
#8kozlo100Posted 5/28/2014 10:30:10 AM
That's kind of a problem with all the questions though, or at least all the true/false phrased ones, it wouldn't be unique to this one.
---
Time flies like the wind,
and fruit flies like a banana.
#9kts123(Topic Creator)Posted 5/28/2014 10:42:49 AM
Quite right.

Researchers need to have a radical command of the language they use.
---
Chess!
http://www.chess.com/members/view/KyleTS
#10kts123(Topic Creator)Posted 5/28/2014 10:49:55 AM
(That includes being able to predict how the less literate may misinterpret questions.)
---
Chess!
http://www.chess.com/members/view/KyleTS