Jesus Is the Answer

We Americans don’t have any confidence in evolution.  But we might if Jesus told us about it.  That’s the implication I get from Dan Kahan at the Cultural Cognition Project.

This fits with anecdotal evidence we hear from our evangelical friends and colleagues.  Many folks who grew up in strict young-earth creationist homes reported a life-changing experience at a Christian college.  When they heard about evolutionary theory from a science professor who was ALSO a devoted evangelical Christian, it changed the equation.  Instead of being forced to choose between their religious identity and evolutionary theory, they could accept both without facing a crisis.

Professor Kahan argued yesterday that Americans, in general, do not distrust science or scientists.  Skeptics who complain that Americans do not listen to scientific truth, Kahan says, simply don’t know what they’re talking about.  The evidence just doesn’t show it.  In case after case, Kahan shows, Americans love science.  We want more science and more funding for science.

With issues of climate change and vaccinations, people don’t argue against science.  Rather, Kahan says, people argue about who is a legitimate scientific expert.  People tend to trust more in the credentials of “experts” with whom they agree, or, more precisely, in the credentials of experts with whom they can identify.  As Kahan puts it,

If subjects observed the position that they were culturally predisposed to accept being advanced by the “expert” they were likely to perceive as having values akin to theirs, and the position they were predisposed to reject being advanced by the “expert” they were likely to perceive as having values alien to their own, then polarization was amplified all the more. . . . polarization disappeared when experts whom culturally diverse subjects trusted told them the position they were predisposed to accept was wrong.

When it comes to evolution, creationism, and evolution education, we can’t help but conclude that Jesus should do it.  That is, evangelical Christians and other resistant populations will be more amenable to learning about evolution if they can learn from someone who seems to share their religion.  It makes sense, then, to support the evangelical-friendly approach of organizations such as BioLogos.

On the other hand, Kahan’s argument implies that the angry-atheist approach will actually INCREASE creationist belief.  When evolutionary theory is associated with an anti-religious personality, religious people will tend to reject evolution entirely.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Interestingly, if you track the evolution of BioLogos, it appears as though there has been virtually no success with the hard-line evangelicals, and modest success with the larger evangelical communities. Both Falk and Giberson had troubles at their universities that eventually were resolved. But the evangelical universities are a far cry from the congregations. Many folks who are open to theistic evolution still demand a literal Adam and Even – and there are no data that support a biological affirmation of a two-person bottleneck.

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