Here’s a 9-minute video featuring science educator Amanda Glaze, who’s deeply concerned with the rejection of evolution by students and their parents in the American South. It was featured on NPR’s Science Friday, and imparts two important lessons:
- How much students know about evolution doesn’t affect whether they accept it as true. I believe earlier studies have verified this, showing that the more you know about what scientists think about evolution, the less likely you are to accept it.
- Religious background has a huge influence on whether students accept evolution: far more than knowing anything about evolution itself.
Well that’s no surprise, is it? People worry about the proper teaching of evolution, or how to present it so that students will buy it, but the real problem is religion. And until the grip of those faiths that reject evolution lessens in the South, evolution will continue to be taboo. What we need is not more or better evolution education, but less religion. Everyone who’s studied the issue realizes this, but nobody wants to say it.
Even Amanda Glaze, at 5:50 in this video, argues that the “perceived conflict between religiosity and science” is a “false dichotomy.” Well, in the case of evolution, the dichotomy is very real, for both the facts and implications of evolution directly contradict the students’ religious upbringing. (For a very good discussion of why evolution makes people of faith bridle, read Steve Stewart-Williams’s 2010 book, Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew. It’s highly recommended by Professor Ceiling Cat, Emeritus.)
Further at 8:25 Glaze says, “This is not a war of evolution versus religion; to me, this is a war for science literacy.” On that count she’s also wrong, and her own data show that! Until religion is gone, we’ll still face a formidable problem of getting evolution accepted despite its palpable truth. And when religion is gone, there will be almost no problem with acceptance. Every creationist I’ve met or know about (with the exception of David Berlinski, who says he’s a non-believer) has a religious background that influences their view.
For more information, see the Vox interview with Glaze by Sean Illing.