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Did Humans Evolve? No, Say Americans 2155

Posted by Zonk
from the i-do-not-think-that-word-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.
Stern Thinker writes "In a 2005 poll covering 33 countries, Americans are the least likely (except for Turkish respondents) to assert that 'humans developed ... from earlier species of animals.' Iceland, meanwhile, has an 85% acceptance rating for evolution." The blurb on the site for Science magazine is less circumspect about the findings: "The acceptance of evolution is lower in the United States than in Japan or Europe, largely because of widespread fundamentalism and the politicization of science in the United States."
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Did Humans Evolve? No, Say Americans

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  • by RunFatBoy.net (960072) * on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:33PM (#15912508)
    The current administration has been quite effective in keeping this issue in the public eye and billing it less as an issue of science and more of a threat to society. The issue has taken on the sentiment that if the concept of evolution becomes widely accepted then faith is voided and we enter moral decay (which is obviously wrong, thanks Bush). But it's definitely how a majority of Americans feel. Science threatens their faith.

    Jim
    http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net] -- Exercise for the rest of us.
    • by rackhamh (217889) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:41PM (#15912606)
      Science threatens their faith.

      On a related note, did you hear that the Bush administration now says that bird flu is nothing to worry about? More to the point, for bird flu to be a threat to humans, it would have to evolve, and everyone knows evolution is just a theory!
      • Not quite.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:17PM (#15913148)
        A fine anti-Bush troll/joke, but a few facts [chron.com] are in order....

        WASHINGTON - All year, the government has promised stepped-up testing to see if bird flu wings its way to the United States. On Monday, the Bush administration announced those tests got a hit -- but the suspect isn't the much-feared Asian strain of the virus.

        In almost the same breath, Agriculture Department officials announced that routine testing had turned up the possibility of the H5N1 virus in the two swans on the shore of Michigan's Lake Erie -- but that genetic testing has ruled out the so-called highly pathogenic version that has ravaged poultry and killed at least 138 people elsewhere in the world.

        "We do not believe this virus represents a risk to human health," declared Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. "This is not the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus that has spread through much of other parts of the world."


        • by Mister Whirly (964219) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:21PM (#15913219) Homepage
          And in other news....

          Global warming doesn't exist
          The earth is flat
          Microsoft Vista is out and universally loved by all
          The check is in the mail
        • Re:Not quite.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rackhamh (217889) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:27PM (#15913310)
          I'm a little confused by such a serious reply to a clearly non-serious post... still, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here. The fact that two swans don't have the particular strain of virus that people are worried about doesn't seem like much of a factual smack-down, as it were...
    • by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:41PM (#15912611)

      "Science threatens their faith"

      You say it as if it doesn't, but it does. Science inherently threatens any form of ill-founded blind belief, and seeks to find support and evidence for all ideas. While I say this is not inherently incompatible with faith in general, it seems to be incompatible with most people's faith.

      • by zerocool^ (112121) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:02PM (#15912899) Homepage Journal

        Which is why my god is the Scientific Method, and my religion the study of our suroundings.

        There's only two classifications of things in my religion.

        1.) Things we understand.
        2.) Things we don't understand yet.

        There isn't a "3.) Things we will never understand and aren't meant to understand, and must take on faith".

        ~X
        • by hackstraw (262471) * on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:15PM (#15913131)
          Which is why my god is the Scientific Method, and my religion the study of our suroundings.

          My god is the philosophy of epistemology -- the study of what, if anything, we can know.

          Rumsfeld should be fired, but I love this quote:

          "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

          -- Donald Rumsfeld

      • Threats to Faith (Score:5, Insightful)

        by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:22PM (#15913231)
        This line of thought reminded me of a post I made a while back. I got quite condemnatory about the biblical inerrantists.

        To my mind, they're as much idolaters as any Bronze Age primitive bowing before a golden statue. Their idol isn't a graven image in stone or metal, but in paper and ink, and no less false for it. They worship the Bible, not God.

        Ah, here it is: Biblical Literalism Is Idolatry [slashdot.org].

      • by g2devi (898503) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @05:12PM (#15914516)
        Nonsense.

        Science only inherently threatens any form of ill-founded *literal interpretation* of a religion's holy book. Most faiths of the world outside the US don't have such literal belief. They take their books as a mix of history, allegory, and moral rules and most assume that it's the inspired word of God and many assume infallibility of the books (if reality don't match the books, then your interpretation of the allegories are wrong). But those infallibility assumptions have more to do with morality than literal historical fact or literal scientific fact (which only have transitory value). To quote the bible (since that's what most americans believe in) "Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's, and to God what is God's." (Translation, the world has demands, God has demands. Respect both and don't mix up the two.)

        The Greeks and Vikings didn't believe in literalism. Buddists don't. Hindu's don't. Muslims (outside of the Wahabbists) don't. Jews don't. Catholics didn't originally, then slipped into literalism around the time of Galileo and the dark ages, and then came back to sanity around the time of the 2nd Vatican Council.

        Science and non-literal faith aren't incompatible. They're complementary.
    • The issue has taken on the sentiment that if the concept of evolution becomes widely accepted then faith is voided and we enter moral decay (which is obviously wrong, thanks Bush).

      If that's the case, then it tells that most Americans are more likely to believe what they find desirable to believe, rather than the truth. That's a scary notion, when you consider that the USA has by far the largest military in the world, and that the overall actions of the USA are mostly driven by American public opinion.

      • by Elemenope (905108) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:06PM (#15912978)

        it tells that most Americans are more likely to believe what they find desirable to believe, rather than the truth.

        Hey, buddy, that's everyone. The only thing that changes are the idiosyncrasies, the individual blind spots, usually about the things that we personally or culturally choose to care about. That my fellow countrymen happen to believe a particularly embarrassing one is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of things is hardly the ultimate sin against 'Truth'. It is a telling fact that in every stage of human history, a large portion of people believed that they had stumbled (by revelation or inductive practices or some combination thereof) onto the basic paradigm that accurately describes truth. They were all, every single one of them, wrong. Why do we believe we are different than them, that this age we are lucky enough to live in is somehow different than all those others? One need not believe in relative truth (and I don't) to believe that for the actual amount of truth that we can be honestly confident to presently hold, our current beliefs might as well be treated relatively.

        I agree that it sucks for people who live in an age defined by the scientific enterprise to be lorded over militarily and economically by a scientifically stunted nation. But then so was Greece by Rome, and yet life (historically speaking) goes on.

        P.S. Don't ever believe, in this age of media and relative concentration of power that the actions of the US are driven by the opinions of its citizens at large. It's very much the other way around; citizens are the played, not the players. That should be the far more terrifying realization than that rural Kansas doesn't know jack about Evolution.

    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:44PM (#15912634) Homepage Journal
      Science threatens their faith.


      And if science threatens your faith, perhaps you ought to re-examine your beliefs. Science and religion don't have to be mutually exclusive things. It's really just a handful of overly-dogmatic religious sects (read: fundies) that need science to be wrong on evolution (and a number of other things, for that matter), in order for their religious beliefs to be right.

    • I don't understand how it matters what people think?

      If evolution is the truth, then when you die you'll find out: You'll decay and turn back into dirt to help evolve the next super humans.
      If creation is the truth, then when you die you'll find out: You'll find out that when you die, life really isn't over, and you keep living.
      If something else is the truth, then when you die you'll find out.

      What does it matter what people think now, because thinking isn't going to change what happens.
    • by manno (848709) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:49PM (#15912701)
      The thing that cheeses me off the most is that this is a theological issue. It's the age old argument of literal vs. interpreted reading of the bible. It's a theological argument that has been going on between sects of Christianity for centuries. Yet they have managed to make it into a political argument some how. The literal interpretation doesn't just go against the scientific community, but also the beliefs of other Christians like Roman Catholics. It simply doesn't belong on the political stage.
    • by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:49PM (#15912703) Journal
      Devil's advocate.

      Your average non-scientist citizen is not likely to go and check all the sources to verify that, yes indeed, evolution is the most likely explanation for the diversity of species. So, to demand that this average citizen believe in evolution is to demand the same leap of faith as for that citizen to believe in creation. Either way, some "expert" is telling this citizen what to think about something s/he doesn't understand.

      Why don't these polls include an "I don't know, I don't have time to check the facts, and it really doesn't matter in my everyday life" option? I think that would be the best response for a thinking non-scientist.
    • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:50PM (#15912711)
      Science threatens their faith.

      It's sad that most Christians base their faith on The Bible and not the teachings of Christ. This is the same problem Fundamentalist Muslims are suffering from...they confuse the Qur'an(and subsequent mistranslations and commentaries) with the spiritual message of Mohammed. Both Mohammed and Jesus promoted love, tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding. None of which is in conflict with science(the pursuit of truth).

      If the direct teachings of these prophets were the focus of religious organizations(instead of using scriptures to control their followers through fear), science would be embraced by the world religions rather than shunned by it.
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:34PM (#15912516)
    ...the idea among Americans that humans didn't "evolve" from earlier forms of animals isn't new, and definitely hasn't changed markedly since 2000.

    I'd hope that would be obvious to most people. The figures are mostly unchanged for decades, so the assertion that this is because of "widespread fundamentalism" and the "politicization of science" seems to be somewhat of a politically motivated assertion in itself.

    Note that about one third of Americans reject the concept of evolution. It's unfortunate that even if people do want to have a religious or spiritual belief, they can't reconcile it with fairly firmly established scientific truth.

    Further note that "fundamentalist religions", as the study refers to them as, are also not new in the United States. A lot of people would like to think that these people have sprouted up from nowhere in the last 6 years, but that's simply not the case.
    • "It's unfortunate that even if people do want to have a religious or spiritual belief, they can't reconcile it with fairly firmly established scientific truth"

      You make an interesting point but maybe it is proving the counter point. If you asked me; is the following statement true 'humans developed ... from earlier species of animals.'? I would say "I don't know, but probably", would this put me down as an evolution denier? I think it is certainly the most plausable answer but I'm not going to say that
    • by tbone1 (309237) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:50PM (#15912705) Homepage
      It's certainly been around since 1620.

      One little-regarded fact is that the Pilgrims got to North America after the Jamestown colony started. The Pilgrims were such a pain in the gluteus that even the Dutch, the Dutch mind you, kicked them out. At the people of time Jamestown were leading a near subsistence living; the markets for cotton and tobacco would become important later. And here came a ship of fools whose beliefs were basically intolerant communists and religious radicals, bringing nothing to help the colony economically, and would expect to be fed. Oddly enough, when the Jamestown colonists heard this, they bribed the Mayflower captain to dump them off where all the cod fishing was going on up north.

      (For the record, I am descended from some of those Jamestown colonists.)

      And let's not forget the grand European tradition of sending their religious loons to North America; the results of this should be obvious.

  • by bunions (970377) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:36PM (#15912529)
    I can't believe I'm trying to defend America's honor by pointing out that we may still be better than Burma or Pakistan. :(
  • Praytell! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:36PM (#15912542)
    Some claim politization. I say Americans are simply observant. Take a look around in America lately, would you believe evolution?
  • by greenguy (162630) <estebandido@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:37PM (#15912549) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, consider George W evidence that we some of us have evolved very little from monkeys.
  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:38PM (#15912565) Journal
    Yea yea, we suck. Who were the last people to accept Coninental Drift? Americans. We don't believe in global warming, we don't believe in evolution, but 50% still believe we found WMDs in Iraq. If we couldn't brain drain scientists from other countries, we'd probably still be living in caves.

    I just don't get it. What is the deal with people never changing their minds, or letting in new information? Most people aren't stupid...I'm sure the average person in Iceland isn't any smarter than the average american (Kansas excluded). It could just be the religious thing; a lot of european social democracies are much less religious than we are. I mean, I understand we're not a pro-intellectual country, but there is a huge difference between not rhapsodising about your elite scientific tradition, and being completely averse to new knowledge.

    You can't even blame it on modern schools...We have a tradition of this type of mental blindness going back more than a century.
    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Informative)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:50PM (#15912716)

      I just don't get it. What is the deal with people never changing their minds, or letting in new information?

      Do you remember back in elementary school and then high school when you were taught critical thinking, logic, problem solving, and the scientific method as applied to making everyday decisions?

      Yeah, nobody else was taught any of that either. Instead we were all subjected to mindlessly memorizing facts by rote, day after day, year after year.

      You can't even blame it on modern schools...We have a tradition of this type of mental blindness going back more than a century.

      Public schools in this country were based upon the model of mental institutions, with a healthy dose of military brainwashing techniques. I can certainly blame them.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Random Utinni (208410) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:10PM (#15913047)
      The problem lies not with the people, as Americans are as smart as anyone else, but with the educational system. In the US, only those that get to college are taught to ask questions and challenge any preconceived notions that they have. Even then, not all colleges to an adequate job of it.

      Thus, the majority of the population that has a high school education at best has never been taught to change their minds. Instead, they are taught to learn material and repeat it. When what they are taught (at church, or on the TV/radio) that the world is 6000 years old, that global warming is a liberal hoax, or that we were divine creations dropped into the Garden of Eden, that's what they repeat. They were never told that they could question what they hear, nor that they should.

      You want to fix this problem? Be willing to pay higher property taxes, attend school board meetings, and push for changes to the curriculum that encourage curiosity and questioning... Then maintain the effort for a generation so that the kids who start with the program in kindergarden can progress through the system and go into politics.

      And you can blame it on modern schools... the problem is the definition of "modern". Schools have been focused on churning out industrial workers (factory-workers, etc.) for the last century. That's the "modern" model. Now that we're largely post-industrial, we notice the need for people who can reason and think, as opposed to people who only had to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. We need to take a long, hard look at what the current school curricula are designed to teach, and work from the ground up. Moreover, the more recent fixation on testing to academic standards only exacerbates the problem; we're telling schools that so long as kids can regurgitate information, they're okay.
  • Shocking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pr0nbot (313417) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:41PM (#15912605)
    That's pretty shocking. That 15% of any country would not believe in evolution I mean.
  • Rants (Score:5, Informative)

    by whitehatlurker (867714) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:46PM (#15912658) Journal
    Why wasn't the Science article [sciencemag.org] linked to, rather than a newspaper?

    The article is about the US, Japan and a whole swack of European countries (presuming that I can include Turkey as European). Okay, but what about the rest of the world?

    Where is the "OK, this is lame" selection?

  • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:47PM (#15912672) Journal

    And according to this study 64% [cnn.com] of respondents believed that aliens have contacted humans.

    Many, many people all of the world do not 'get' science. It has nothing to do with religion. This happens all over the world.

  • Proof (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:47PM (#15912674) Homepage Journal
    The roughly third percent of the US population who do not believe in the evolution of humans cited themselves as proof...
  • by billmaly (212308) <bill@maly.mcleodusa@net> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:48PM (#15912685)
    For the record, I'm conservative, I voted Republican in 2000 and 2004. Yes, it's all my fault, let's move on.

    I'm against the idea of abortion but think it should be legal. I don't like flag burning, but I think an amendment against it is a silly idea. I don't care about gay marraige, it shouldn't be banned, but before we allow it, we need to take a careful look at all the societal and economic consequences.

    All that said, I am also decidedly NON religious and think that Creationism and Intelligent Design are fairy tales for children. PLEASE do not color me and all the other conservative red stater's in with the religious right. They're not connecting with reality, and I feel bad for those people who continue to blindly follow the paths of organized religion (which has done OH SOOOO much good for the world over the last several years). <sp<sp>We don't ALL live in Je$u$land (perhaps geographically, but not mentally), and some of us choose to follow science, watch the Discovery Channel instead of Pat Robert$on, and sleep in on $unday morning rather than gathering to worship at the altar of Chri$t.

    Thus endeth my rant. Thanks for listening. Go Darwin.
    • by dR.fuZZo (187666) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @04:18PM (#15913948)

      I don't care about gay marraige, it shouldn't be banned, but before we allow it, we need to take a careful look at all the societal and economic consequences.

      This isn't building a highway, it's people's lives. Would you have told Abe Lincoln to make sure he fully understood all the societal and economic consequences before he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation? There's no way he could have known the full impact it would have. But, that doesn't matter, because it was the right thing to do. You don't do impact studies before you acknolwedge people's rights. You acknowledge and uphold people's rights because we (supposedly) live in a free society, and it is immoral to do otherwise.

  • News for Nerds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @02:51PM (#15912723) Homepage Journal
    You know those jocks that beat up nerds in highschool for being "too smart"? Those jocks are running America. And you are still the nerds.
  • I believe (Score:5, Funny)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:06PM (#15912965)
    in evolution because I personally evolved from a lower life form--I used to be a Republican.
  • by Tracer_Bullet82 (766262) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @03:06PM (#15912976)
    mind people rejecting evolution.

    as long as they're consistent.

    In the event of a bird flu outbreak in humans, they should not ever take a vaccine or medicine for it.

    There win-win.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @04:00PM (#15913757)
    Thank you for proving the point of the fucking article. Kudos.

    (yeah, I know this response is flamebait. I don't care. It needs saying.)

  • by ubergeek65536 (862868) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @06:22PM (#15915155)
    It's understandable why many Americans don't believe in evolution -- It's because evolution only happens outside of the US.

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