Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Evolution is “under attack” again — in a neuroscientist’s imagination


Dust this off, spruce it up and put it in a museum of popular culture:

Getting back to evolution, it is amazing that 150 years after the scientific theory was proposed and generally accepted by the scientific community, it is still controversial in many segments of the public. In the US we have made some modest gains, but belief in pure creationism remains high at 38%, with a further 38% believing that life evolved but with God’s help, and only 19% accepting pure evolution.

This puts the US near the bottom, only above Turkey. So recent reports of the teaching of evolution being opposed in Turkey is not surprising. It is more so in Israel, as those of Jewish faith tend to be near the top in terms of acceptance of evolution by religion. In Israel it is apparently just being quietly phased out.

That is a far more insidious problem – there is no specific law to challenge, or big public debate to be had. The teaching of evolution is simply not happening, presumably to avoid controversy.Steven Novella, “Evolution Under Attack” at Neurologica Blog

Popular culture provides the most useful account of why this stuff never gets old in the minds of some hearers: It makes them feel smarter than their neighbours.

The reality we are all adjusting to is that evolution turned out to be something quite other than we used to think, with a parade of news items going through this very blog every day that turn the whole story into a mammoth history with many exceptions to just about everything.

There are few propositions for which one couldn’t find evidence anywhere. Remember when animals couldn’t have wheels? When Neanderthals couldn’t do art? When eyes gradually grew in complexity instead of being complex back in the Cambrian era?

Remember when there were “simple” cells, the Biological Species Concept made sense, epigenetics (Lamarckism) was discredited, and horizontal gene transfer was unheard of outside a few circles in the academy?

What we have now is like a history of World War II cubed. That is, sorting through the explosion of information, it is not hard to find support for almost any coherent proposition.

The Israelis, who — like the Americans — win an unusually large number of Nobel Prizes, have probably guessed this, as we have. They don’t want to be bellowing “Evolution is fact, Fact, FACT!” at people. We are drowning in facts and we need to decide which parts of the picture to pull together for students. Anything like the Darwinian Tree of Life is just so last century that it might as well be Noah’s Ark.

Besides, that Fact approach teaches students to look for simple answers that are probably not there or if they are, they are probably somebody’s dogma that will be shown to be wrong, maybe sometime soon.

In fact, the picture is so broad that we can even find room for people who just want to feel smarter than their neighbours, though here at UD, we don’t propose to explain that tendency via evolutionary psychology.

One thing that really gets old is Americans trashing the U.S. because their fellow Americans feel freer than many people around the world to just disagree with what notables and pundits say.

As a Canadian*, I respond: That’s the United States. They like it that way. Get used to it or don’t live there. Anyway, it’s not that hard to find places in the world where no one questions any foolery that come out of a power broker’s mouth. – O’Leary for News)

* Canadians often do the same thing but we are much nicer about it.

See also: Horror in Israel: Schools don’t teach much “evolution”

Neuroscientist: Free will is an illusion but we should believe we have it (ref. Steven Novella)


Skeptic: Panspermia (life came from elsewhere than Earth) is “pseudoscience” (ref. Steven Novella)

Not to worry. Darwinists are working on a monster experiment that will prove everyone that "evolution" is totally not religion. Almost ready, almost... Nonlin.org

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