Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Belief In Evolution Doesn't Measure Science Literacy

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the also-doesn't-measure-temperature-or-blood-pressure dept.

Education 772

cold fjord writes: "Dan Kahan at the Yale Law School Cultural Cognition Project says, 'Because imparting basic comprehension of science in citizens is so critical to enlightened democracy, it is essential that we develop valid measures of it, so that we can assess and improve the profession of teaching science to people. ... 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.' Kahan also had a previous, related post on the interaction between religiosity and scientific literacy."

cancel ×

772 comments

Wait a sec (5, Insightful)

eclectro (227083) | about 2 months ago | (#47106983)

There is no "belief" for evolutionary principles. It is not a system of religious thought.

Re:Wait a sec (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about 2 months ago | (#47107013)

There's the fact of evolution (that it occurs), and the belief of evolution (exactly what path it followed to get to the present). People often confuse the two, because they're grouped under "theory of evolution."

Re:Wait a sec (5, Informative)

dave420 (699308) | about a month ago | (#47107309)

No - evolution is the observed phenomenon, and the theory of evolution is the explanation of said phenomenon.

Re:Wait a sec (2)

drosboro (1046516) | about a month ago | (#47107545)

No, not really. “Belief” is just “holding something to be true” - and in general, most people believe things because they have “reason to believe”, in the form of evidence. It’s actually very difficult to believe something you have no evidence whatsoever for. Both the evolutionary scientist and the religious person may hold beliefs (things taken to be true) around evolution that are based on “reasons” or “evidence” - it’s just a question of which reasons or evidence one takes to be valid/trustworthy (e.g. “I can see this fossil of an extinct species in this rock”, “the Bible tells me the world was created in 7 days”, etc.).

Re:Wait a sec (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#47107025)

There is no "belief" for evolutionary principles. It is not a system of religious thought.

Not terribly relevant in most cases: virtually nobody can personally validate, or even hit the primary sources, for more than a tiny fraction of what we collectively know. Their relationship with the rest is pretty much a belief state (though, of course, there is a very significant difference between "I believe X because recognized X experts suggest that X is the best available theory, given their understanding of the data" and "I believe X because $HOLY_BOOK says so.")

Re:Wait a sec (1, Interesting)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a month ago | (#47107317)

Yes. Most folks who subscribe to the principle theory of man evolving from a more primitive state believe what they do in deference to the respect they have for the experts who have studied the science, not because they've studied the science themselves.

Once you are aware of evolution, it is easy to see it in everyday existence, but you subscribe to it because the information was made available to you. "Hmmm, that makes sense. I believe that." God worshippers undergo a similar belief in information presented to them.

And yes yes, there are loads of otherwise intelligent people who are deeply religious because of their nurturing environment. If the whole family respects and honors a belief, it can be difficult to overcomoe this early brainwashing, to the point of ignoring all Bayesian inference.

Re:Wait a sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107439)

there is a very significant difference between "I believe X because recognized X experts suggest that X is the best available theory, given their understanding of the data" and "I believe X because $HOLY_BOOK says so."

Wait, so you believe X experts on scientific theory but not X experts on HOLY_BOOK spiritual matters? You seem to be confusing two different things. The thing about science is I realistically should be able to go and see the evidence for myself with the basic understanding of the scientific method. The thing about HOLY_BOOK spiritual matters is I can go to the book and look for myself to see what it says and if it follows other parts of the book.

Re:Wait a sec (0, Flamebait)

JCHerbsleb (2881347) | about a month ago | (#47107077)

By definition evolution is a theory. While both sides argue the veracity of the claim; it has not been promoted to the level of law (in the sense of the law of gravity or the law of thermodynamics). With any theory; one must choose, ideally based upon a preponderance of evidence, to either believe or disbelieve. The scientists amongst us then take it a step further and attempt to validate that belief or disbelief through experiments based upon the scientific method.

Re:Wait a sec (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107175)

Scientific Theory = A model of how something works, able to make predictions.
Scientific Law = A set of equations, stating in mathematics what a Scientific Theory states in plain language.
Scientific Hypothesis = An idea of how something might work, without a way to make or test predictions. It will eventually move on to become a theory, or get shut down.

Contrast with:
Theory = An idea of how something MIGHT have happened
Law = A set of rules enforced by the police

Re:Wait a sec (2)

dcollins (135727) | about a month ago | (#47107529)

Disagree. What is "hypothesis testing" (a well-established element of inferential statistics) if a hypothesis is "without a way to make or test predictions" (according to you)? And other problems.

"For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it." [Wikipedia: Hypothesis]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothesis_test [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wait a sec (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a month ago | (#47107541)

P.S. The fact that GP got scored "5: Insightful" is among the worst signs for Slashdot that I've seen to date.

No. "Theory" is not "hypothesis". (4, Insightful)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about a month ago | (#47107205)

A scientific theory ties together a broad range of observations into a coherent model and makes testable predictions, that have since been tested and found to be accurate. It's still called the germ theory of disease, after all. Or the theory of Relativity, which you use every time you use a GPS. Without Relativistic corrections, the whole system would drift to the point of uselessness within six hours.

Re:No. "Theory" is not "hypothesis". (3, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a month ago | (#47107389)

Or the theory of Relativity, which you use every time you use a GPS. Without Relativistic corrections, the whole system would drift to the point of uselessness within six hours.

Crap! Thanks dude... now I have to spend time looking that up instead of working.

Re:Wait a sec (3, Insightful)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a month ago | (#47107231)

Selection of genetic traits over generations based on fitness/utility is a fact, not a theory. This process has been directly observed over time in the wild in various species, and is the entire foundation for selective breeding activities undertaken by humans for crop and livestock improvement over several thousand years. By pushing layman's version of the term "theory" and framing evolution as a single claim, you do a gross disservice to the scientific process and truth. Please educate yourself [wikipedia.org] , as the topic covers a tad more in breadth and depth than you're implying.

It's worth mentioning that special relativity [wikipedia.org] is a theory, and yet mass-energy equivalence [wikipedia.org] is a demonstrated fact. Again, please stop diluting the discourse.

Re:Wait a sec (2)

Biosci777 (2785273) | about a month ago | (#47107363)

You're trying to sell me half a horse. *Selection*, whether natural or artificial, is what you are describing, and is not controversial in any context. The process by which new information might be generated, in the form of new genes for example, is hotly debated by the experts. Random mutation is woefully inadequate, gene duplication simply kicks the can down the road (where did that first gene come from?), as does the increasingly popular panspermia hypothesis.

Re:Wait a sec (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a month ago | (#47107481)

I'm not trying to sell you anything. In fact, you just reinforced my point. Recognition of and debate on the specific mechanisms and historical data associated with a theory are critical to the process of scientific examination. Abusing the word "theory" to the point that the implication becomes minimization or outright dismissal is at best a poorly executed deflection, as handily demonstrated by the GP.

Again, thank you for supporting proper open discourse via notation of avenues for further research and debate, and by extension supporting my point. I greatly appreciate it.

Re:Wait a sec (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47107461)

Selection of genetic traits over generations based on fitness/utility is a fact

That's stretching it. Micro-evolution has been observed on a small scale, sure, but the fitness/utility part is an assumption, not a fact. There are plenty of cases where mutations passed-on are decidedly disadvantageous... usually excused as being caused by partner selection, too small of a breeding population, or similar, but that's an assumption, too. You don't get too far until you have to leave "facts" behind, and have to go with theories as to the how and why of it all.

Re:Wait a sec (5, Insightful)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a month ago | (#47107251)

it has not been promoted to the level of law (in the sense of the law of gravity or the law of thermodynamics

The funny thing is, we know less about gravity than we do about evolution.

We know that there is something that causes attraction between objects and can make predictions based on our observations of that effect, but we can't explain with any certainty how it actually works or why it exists. There are a variety of competing theories [wikipedia.org] , but we don't have enough evidence to determine if any of them is even close to correct.

Thanks to the development agriculture, selective breeding, the sacrifice of billions of fruit flies and the
abundance of fossil evidence we've uncovered, we actually understand evolution far better than we understand gravity.

The thing is... it's a lot harder to deny the existence of gravity when someone can throw you off a cliff to prove it.

Re:Wait a sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107295)

theories don't get promoted into laws. laws are not higher up the scientific ladder of credibility then theories.

This is a very common, and persistent, misconceptions.

Re:Wait a sec (1)

Sique (173459) | about a month ago | (#47107409)

Laws are structurally simple equations, which often are fundamental to the theory behind the equation. For instance, Ohm's law is fundamental to what we today understand about electrical resistance. We even call an electrical resistance that adheres to Ohm's law as "Ohm resistance" (because we found out that there are other forms of resistance that don't follow Ohm's law).

Re:Wait a sec (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about a month ago | (#47107081)

I think that is a rather limited view. It may not be a religious system of thought, but it is based on various philosophies and systems of thought. Empiricism, naturalism, and so forth are subjects of belief, like it or not. If you dig deep enough, belief is at the bottom of everything.

Re:Wait a sec (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a month ago | (#47107111)

There is no "belief" for evolutionary principles. It is not a system of religious thought.

You can still "believe" in true things. I fully expect the average Joe's belief in how electricity makes their lights work as substantially similar to belief in $Deity - They have no clue at all about the underlying principles at work, and just blindly repeat the same things their parents did out of indoctrinated habit.

Ask ten random people whether TVs "attract" lightning (as opposed to your antenna simply counting as the highest good conductor in the immediate area), and you'll probably weep for humanity at how many of them say "yes".

Re:Wait a sec (0)

tmosley (996283) | about a month ago | (#47107113)

There is belief in belief, that is, people feel that it is good to believe in God, and all the things associated with that. This is common to all humans, whether they are idiots or geniuses. Hence why a question of faith does not correlate to intellect.

Deep down, or maybe even just barely under the surface, 99.9% of people are likely atheists. They just go through the motions because that is how they grew up and they see the social benefit to the continued lie, like a child who learns that Santa isn't real, but pretends he believes in the hopes of getting more presents at Christmas (I did this as a child).

Re:Wait a sec (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47107125)

Actually, people can "believe" in science. Just as they can believe in anything else, including religion. Most people actually do that.

They hear that some scientist found out something awesome. Like, say, how a laser works. And they might use a DVD player which incidentally use a laser, without having the slightest clue just how that thing works, or what the science behind it is. For all they care, or know, it could as well work with pixie dust and magically operated by faeries.

The difference is that they have the option not to believe but to test what is scientifically produced. They can build their own laser (time, money and skill provided) and it WILL work.

It's not that easy for stuff that you can ONLY believe.

Science (1)

mfh (56) | about a month ago | (#47107235)

Science eliminates the need for believing -- holding an unsubstantiated opinion.

Re:Science (4, Insightful)

drosboro (1046516) | about a month ago | (#47107479)

I don’t think you’ve got your definition of “believing” quite right - there’s no reason to require “belief” to be unsubstantiated. In fact we very often hear scientists say things like “I believe that [x], and here’s why”. To “believe” just means to hold something to be true.

In fact, philosophers have long defined “knowledge” as “justified true belief”. There’s lots of variations on that theme, and arguing about whether that’s a right definition - but the argument is not about the “belief” part as much as the “justified” and “true" parts.

So, it is in fact incorrect to say that science eliminates the need for believing - what it does, however, is provide reasons or justification for our beliefs.

Re:Wait a sec (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month ago | (#47107269)

There is no "belief" for evolutionary principles. It is not a system of religious thought.

You can believe that evolution happened, or that we were all made by the magical sky wizard.

Just because you believe evolution is real and actually happened, you may or may not know a damn about science.

Some people do not believe evolution is a real thing or that it happened.

What part are you missing?

Re:Wait a sec (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a month ago | (#47107459)

What part are you missing?

They are apparently missing the part of the dictionary that contains the definition of the word "belief".

Re:Wait a sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107471)

Your use of the phrase 'sky wizard' shows that you have never taken the time or had the impetus to learn what our Lord and Savior Jesus H Christ died for on the cross and that you will be damned for all eternity in a blazing corona of flames. I hope that your smugness for the time your are here on earth in physical form provides adequate fodder to keep your mind occupied for your eternal damnation that is your future.

Re:Wait a sec (1)

butchersong (1222796) | about a month ago | (#47107377)

The majority of people do not approach such things in any kind of critical way. It has been pointed out for years that just because say Europe has a higher percentage of people that believe evolution to be correct than the states that doesn't mean those folks are any more intelligent or sophisticated. Most people just believe what they are taught and move on with their lives. All they need is some sort of model whether it be solid or undefendable and they are comfortable. That holds true for evolution and pretty much everything else.

Re:Wait a sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107519)

I'll do one better, there is not belief in evolution, it is observed. Yes, we've seen it happen a number of times in this lifetime. [talkorigins.org]

There is a theory of evolution, and we're pretty close to having this theory completely mapped to biochemistry in the large. Soon "not believing" in evolution will require not believing in Chemistry.

Re:Wait a sec (0)

richpoore (925284) | about a month ago | (#47107557)

As one who knows evolution happens but doesn't believe in evolution as is referenced in this article, I know evolution happens within a kind of animals. In my biology textbook I read of a lizard population in California which split and became two isolated populations which have become separate species. This is specialization and the formation of new species, I do not believe life came about from natural processes, and I do not believe that a lizard population will ever not be a lizard population.

Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#47106985)

But it sure measures the amount of faith people want to put into "a wizard did it" as a valid explanation of something.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1, Insightful)

Drethon (1445051) | about 2 months ago | (#47107055)

There is a certain amount of faith required that our models accurately show how things happened when it is over a time span that is impossible for us to actually observe. Though there is a difference between educated faith and blind faith.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47107183)

It's not really faith. I, coming from a mathematics background, would rather call it interpolation. You have a few findings that you have, these are (more or less) well dated and they tell you some kind of timeline. What you do now is fill in the blanks. As science progresses and we find more, fewer blanks need filling, and some of the stuff that people filled in will have to be erased and reworked because what we found contradicts what they envisioned.

That's the main difference between a scientific and a faith based system, not so much the steps "research" is done, but rather their order.

Science goes
observation of nature
pondering of meaning
formulation of theory
more observation of nature
adjustment of theory

Religion goes
creation of holy text (aka "truth")
observation of nature
pondering how observation can be interpreted to fit holy text
more observation of nature
discarding observations that don't fit holy text

The main difference is that science adjusts its theory to fit the findings, religion accepts or rejects the discoveries depending on whether they fit into the holy scriptures.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about a month ago | (#47107287)

Religion doesn;t really observe nature, if it did, it would find that its interpretation of it was at odds with reality i.e. its fucking cruel and it doesn;t care

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107467)

Everything requires some amount of faith. If nothing else, we must have faith that things outside of our own thoughts exist and logic will continue to work as we know it from one moment to the next. Unfortunately, there is no escaping a little faith in order to keep on functioning as a sane, cogent being.

Very true and that makes people uncomfortable (2, Insightful)

MillerHighLife21 (876240) | about a month ago | (#47107433)

Short of actually being able to understand and verify every single piece of data that has gone into proving it - like it or not you take it on faith. Faith is a measure of trust in your sources in the same way that people respond differently to news from different outlets. I can walk outside and prove gravity. I cannot do the same with evolution.

The basic fact of most information we receive on a daily basis is that we trust it until we have a reason to question it. Evolution has zero effect on the daily lives of anybody outside of investigative curiosity. If somebody has their life changed by God (and it happens all the time) they'll spend a huge part of the rest of their lives searching for answers and understanding...and that will give them cause to question evolution because the Bible makes a tremendous amount more sense when reading it AFTER something like that happens to you. If you're not the slightest bit religious, you have no reason not to simply accept it because it doesn't affect you at all. Plus you can use it as a cognitive tool to reinforce your belief that religious people are all simply dumber than you because they don't fully agree with something that you claim to know as a fact, even though you're simply trusting your sources.

I generally don't bother arguing the point because people don't accept information that contradicts their world view and being able to verifiably prove something from that perspective from one side or the other won't have any affect on the lives of...anyone. It's just something useless to argue about. Getting into "arguments" where nobody is going to change anyones mind and you believe you are correct serves no other purpose than to boost your own ego.

Try to wrap your mind around this and see it from another perspective. If you KNOW God is very real (not believe; God has directly impacted your life in a tangible way...you KNOW) then come at the question from that side. If you know God is real your entire perspective on the Bible and everything in it changes specifically because any questions you may be able to have about it to try to cast doubt on its text go out the window...because ultimately you know the most important part of it is very real and that changes your entire perspective on it.

One of my favorite quotes:
"The test of first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Many people like to assume that people just go sit in a service or read a book and are magically convinced to believe. That's naive. There is also this idea that people lack the critical thinking to question it. That's also naive since those questions are the first thing that everybody asks. It takes a lot of ego to assume every single person in those pews hasn't questioned it, strongly. Especially the ones who donate huge sums of money to it.

The reality is that life change happens much more often than most people would like to admit and hearing enough people you know give testimony about that life change creates trust in the information, even if it has not happened to you personally yet. This is buoyed by the fact that those people are telling you this because they want you to be able to receive the same help that they did. There is no financial motive. There is no other incentive than sharing their experience of something they didn't previously believe which they now feel obligated to express for the betterment of those around them.

Writing those people off, however, takes a tremendous amount of hubris. I never take any issue with a person who has questions. I only take issue with people who think they have all the answers.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

dubiago (841235) | about 2 months ago | (#47107069)

What if your explanation is "a wizard did it", and science is merely the exploration of how it was done?

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47107283)

Problem is, science doesn't need the wizard for its explanation. That's the main problem the religious have with the whole deal, from big bang to evolution.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107327)

Then science would try to disprove the hypothesis of a wizard and try to make predictions based on the wizard model to see if they hold true.
You know, critical thinking, the basis of all science?

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107415)

Because the wizard didn't really do anything.
Maybe he was there watching, maybe he wasn't.
But the religious nuts don't like that god may or may not have had anything to do with the creation of everything.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month ago | (#47107527)

What if your explanation is "a wizard did it", and science is merely the exploration of how it was done?

Lacking evidence to suggest the existence of a wizard, if science is exploring how a wizard did it, it has ceased to be science.

For the same reason that science doesn't start with the explanation that 16 drunken squirrels salsa dancing in yellow thong bikinis were the cause of the universe, and then try to explain how the hell that happened.

Science doesn't start with a premise that something external and unknown and for which there is no evidence exists and work backwards from there.

When science was new that was the case, Newton was a Christian, but nowadays, if you're assuming the wizard, you're stepping outside of what is properly called science.

If you do, well, there's just as much evidence for my 16 drunken squirrels salsa dancing in yellow thong bikinis as your wizard.

The large number of people who collectively believe in the wizard is not evidence for the existence of said wizard, no more than the number of people who believed the Earth was flat or the center of the universe was evidence for either of those things.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

malignant_minded (884324) | about a month ago | (#47107085)

While it may be flabbergasting that someone may believe they are here because a "wizard" this study seems to reveal that many sheeple don't believe in said "wizard" but have no true foundation for this other than that is what their peers believe. Many do not have any understanding of how evolution actually works yet believe in it therefore making the question less of a scientific question and more of a religious or lack of question.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

Morpf (2683099) | about a month ago | (#47107245)

The more abstract principles how evolution works were tough in the 7th grade or so (at least in Germany) when I went to school. Be it mutation, recombination and dominance of genes, DNA, RNA, transcription, cell division. Combine this with the just logical concept of "survival of the fittest" and you are mostly done with explaining/understanding evolution. How exactly the proteins work is another story.
But how hard can it be to grasp the abstract concept of evolution? Even more, when we use this knowledge for ages. Be it selectively breeding of plants, horses, cows, dogs, cats and so on.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

malignant_minded (884324) | about a month ago | (#47107355)

I think this quote from the first link sums things up nicely

That's really nothing to be embarrassed about: if one wants to live a decent life -- or just live, really --one has to accept much more as known by science than one can comprehend to any meaningful degree.
What is embarrassing, though, is for those who don't understand something to claim that their "belief" in it demonstrates that they have a greater comprehension of science than someone who says he or she "doesn't" believe it.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107147)

It does measure the ability to think in a logical fashion and how dissociative the mindset is.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a month ago | (#47107209)

But it sure measures the amount of faith people want to put into "a wizard did it" as a valid explanation of something.

No it doesn't. If you want to measure something like that, you take a poll on something like that. Here are some recent figures [harrisinteractive.com] :

74% of Americans say they believe in God, 72% believe in miracles, 68% believe in heaven and angels, 65% believe in the resurrection of Jesus, 58% believe in the devil, 57% believe in the Virgin birth, etc.

Meanwhile, the same poll found only 29% say they "don't believe in" evolution, and 25% "aren't sure." If you combine those responses, you still only get to 54%, which is less than all of the findings above. Specifically, it is MUCH less than the 72% who believe in miracles, which is, I assume, what you were getting at.

So -- if you want to find out about whether people accept non-scientific explanations for things, it would be more accurate to do a poll actually asking that -- since it's clear that the evolution question doesn't adequately assess that.

In other words: the evolution question is neither a good measure of science literacy overall, nor a good measure of whether people accept religious or other alternative explanations.

(For the record, the poll also asked how many people believed in witches, and only 24% said yes -- so that's perhaps a more valid measurement of your specific question of specifically how many people might believe in "a wizard did it" as an explanation.)

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a month ago | (#47107221)

Sorry, typo -- 26% (not 24%) believe in witches... not that it matters much.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47107405)

Statistics are very dependent on how you ask, what you ask, and what ELSE you ask. If they really asked the whole bunch in the same survey (i.e. UFOs, miracles, astrology, witchcraft, etc), I don't doubt that you'd get a higher turnout of people believing in god than when simply only asking that question. This is due to some psychological effect where people don't want to give one "kind" of answer to a whole survey (people don't like to say "yes" or "no" to every question asked). I'd take that whole thing with a unhealthy dose of salt.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47107257)

But it sure measures the amount of faith people want to put into "a wizard did it" as a valid explanation of something.

I think this is a flawed perception of how people think. Religious people's thinking is the product of cultural and familial influences that are proven to have great impact on the way one perceives the world. Its not as simple as "want to put" a wizard in as an explanation, like its some multiple choice decision. Its more like a lens through which things are viewed. Their choices are not the same as yours.

I know some firmly religious people that are off the charts smart. I'm not religious, but I don't think that is nearly enough information to come to any conclusion about my relative intelligence, and when I see those that assume they are smarter than religious people simply on the basis of a belief in a god, I sometimes assume those people really don't have a grasp on how the human mind develops and perceives.

Educational background of the individual as well as the family that raised him/her is also a big influence.

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (2)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47107263)

But it sure measures the amount of faith people want to put into "a wizard did it" as a valid explanation of something.

Not completely accepting one scientific theory, does NOT imply that you default to supernatural explanations...

Hell, how did intelligent people *LIVE* before Darwin came along? Did their heads explode when someone asked them how humans came to exist? Or was Darwin the first atheist EVER, and scientists came to exist only after he was born?

Re:Maybe it doesn't measure science literacy (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a month ago | (#47107423)

In this case I'd like to invite you to present your theory, I'd really be interested in it. Any theory should be heard and tested, so that we can pick the one that fits best to what we found.

That's what science is about. So please, present your theory.

Evolution (1)

Teranolist (3658793) | about 2 months ago | (#47106987)

There is no way a bunch of mutated apes would be able to slingshot each other to the moon, so everything must be wrong. No kind of measurement, of course...

Go to your local church. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47106989)

Or religious affiliated school. They will explain how this all started.

Go to your local church. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47107035)

Yeah, Satan planted evidence of evolution like fossils to test your faith. If you believe in evolution, you falling for his evil tricks and will spend eternity in hell.

(I really hope this doesn't need a sarcasm tag...)

Re:Go to your local church. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#47107049)

I could also go to a 3 year old and ask him, the main difference would probably be that his explanation is very likely more entertaining.

From many points of data (4, Interesting)

alphatel (1450715) | about 2 months ago | (#47107007)

While Dan has certainly taken pains to show the many correlations between one subset and another, I think the most important one to consider is this:

Those who firmly believe that a "God" was involved in the universe/mankind, were less likely to score at the upper tier [culturalcognition.net] of scientific knowledge. Everyone else drew mixed results.

I also like this quote here:
Nevertheless, the subgroup of such students who did back away from two particular beliefs hostile to naturalistic evolution (that the “living world is controlled by a force greater than humans” and that “all events in nature occur as part of a predetermined master plan”) consisted of the students who scored the lowest in critical reasoning skills.

Re:From many points of data (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 months ago | (#47107017)

The point of a multi-question test is that the questions should measure different things - they won't all necessarily correlate well with each other. Measuring someone's inclination to believe religion over science would seem to be a valuable part of assessing their scientific literacy.

Re:From many points of data (2)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a month ago | (#47107115)

Um, you've just ignored the data in front of you - the data collected shows no correlation between "someone's inclination to believe religion over science" (ie their position on the evolution v creationism debate) and scientific literacy. There is no value in that measurement - it has no predictive power of the scientific literacy.

Re:From many points of data (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a month ago | (#47107243)

No, you've misrepresented the data. Right in the summary:

"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."

They're trying to measure "scientific literacy" (which is a stupid term). The answers to the evolution question don't correlate with the answers to the other questions because it's measuring something different. They've concluded it's measuring people's inclination to believe in religion, presumably over science. That would seem to be an important factor in scientific literacy, so the evolution question is actually capturing something that is missed by the other questions.

Re:From many points of data (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | about a month ago | (#47107383)

Yes, isn't believing in the truth of something that has been rigorously proved part of scientific literacy?

What would happen if the ones that don't believe humans evolved were forced to deal with some of the unequivocal data that backs it up, like genetics, would they still deny it and cause practical problems?

Further it raises the question as to who is trying to change the test, and why ;)

Re:From many points of data (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a month ago | (#47107549)

They've concluded it's measuring people's inclination to believe in religion, presumably over science.

Nope -- they didn't conclude that at all. They concluded that it is correlated with people's "religiosity." Specifically, their measures of "religiosity" were self-reported "frequency of church attendance, frequency of prayer, and importance of God."

They didn't say it was an accurate measure of religious belief, nor does it specifically target the willingness of people to accept supernatural explanations for things. (Statistics on how many Americans believe in God or miracles or whatever are always higher than those who don't believe in evolution in polls -- so clearly this isn't a good measure for whether people are willing to accept non-scientific explanations.)

That would seem to be an important factor in scientific literacy, so the evolution question is actually capturing something that is missed by the other questions.

I think the typical religious arguments against evolution are pretty stupid, but I have mixed feelings about this. I understand what you're saying. And I'll admit that much of the science education taught in primary and secondary schools is about making kids memorize facts handed down from scientists without questioning them.

But is "scientific literacy" really about measuring how much people trust their science teacher vs. their priest? If so, and we wanted to really measure this, we need the priest to start proposing alternative theories of gravity or chemistry or whatever, and then see which kids choose. Because right now this question is only measuring the role of faith or religion (if it's measuring that at all) in reference to one specific element of historical truth, namely a creation myth, which is of primary importance to many religions. I'm not sure that it would be an accurate measure of whether a person would be more likely to believe a science teacher vs. a priest who proposed an alternative theory of gravity, for example. So, is this really that relevant to "scientific literacy," or just a weird measurement of an outlier data point where scientific explanation comes in conflict with other things?

Re:From many points of data (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 months ago | (#47107067)

The main difference, independent of how "well" religious vs. non-religious people scored, would probably be how they accept those "scientific facts".

I'm inclined to think that a non-religious person is more inclined to doubt what is presented to them if they see some kind of discrepancy with their own findings and hence more likely to make new discoveries.

Re:From many points of data (2)

dinfinity (2300094) | about a month ago | (#47107455)

Looking at the actual data ( http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/... [nsf.gov] ), it seems that answering the question in TFS with true is very much correlated positively with 'verbal ability', 'family income', 'formal education', 'science mathematics education', 'trend factual knowledge of science scale' (whatever that may be) and negatively with 'age'.
The same pattern is visible in the other questions, just more pronounced.

Considering the retarded way the 'uncorrelated' questions were posed, I can imagine that respondents just didn't want to answer them or gave the 'wrong' answer. 'The universe started with a big explosion' is a ridiculous (almost pejorative) mischaracterization of the Big Bang and I would feel very uncomfortable answering 'true' to it.

'Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals' is also questionable, especially due to the addition 'as we know them today' combined with 'of animals'. It implies that the question specifically addresses homo sapiens. Technically, home sapiens evolved from species that most educated people wouldn't regard as 'animals', but as proto-humans. This interpretation correctly renders the statement false.

In other news: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47107029)

Belief in God doesn't measure biblical literacy.

"That's in there?" "No shit."

Re:In other news: (1)

halivar (535827) | about a month ago | (#47107271)

That's correct, belief in God does not measure biblical literacy. A good many atheists are very well acquainted with the bible, and can offer cogent exegesis of its contents, even if they don't believe a word of it.

Why would it? (1)

pla (258480) | about 2 months ago | (#47107031)

What an amazingly stupid TFA... In what world does belief in anything have scientific literacy as a prerequisite?

A person can "believe" in evolution or general relativity or the Higgs boson the same way they can believe in Zeus or Jesus or the Easter Bunny. In the former set of cases, they hold true beliefs entirely by coincidence, with no more solid basis than those who adhere to the latter set.

The difference between the two domains of belief comes from the demonstrability of the former as viable hypotheses, not yet disproven (or more accurately, "not yet rejected for the null hypothesis") by experiment. The latter have pretty much exhaustively had all but the most untestable of their predictions thoroughly trounced. And where science grows as the gaps shrink, well, the gaps necessarily shrink.

taboo consept (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47107057)

May we say that human origin is a kind of a taboo subject for those who do not accept evolution but are literate scientifically. Although I really cannot see were the border is located: do these people accept archaeology and till what time; do they accept galactic and intergalactic distance measurements or confine to near-stars?

"Belief" in Evolution?! (1)

gnesterenko (1457631) | about 2 months ago | (#47107061)

The belief that evolution requires "belief" to be factual is in itself a measure of science literacy.

Re:"Belief" in Evolution?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107553)

The belief that God requires "belief" to be factual is in itself a measure of science literacy. Nothing about the universe matters if we believe in it. The sun didn't revolve around the earth when scientists believed that any more than Zeus was atop a mountain raining lightning bolts when man believed in him.

momkind spirit based (r)evolution wake up call (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47107065)

our fictional history & heritage promotion has failed us miserably.. new clear options remain on the rise,,, no bomb us more mom us,,, feed the starving innocents (our charter) etc.... obsoletely fatal WMD on credit corepirate nazis continue grooming us http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=moregellons for deception acceptance http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=WMD+weather+finance+media... better days ahead guaranteed once the shooting bleeding & starving stops... we'll thank mom our earth based spiritual centerpeace & creational connection here... still no word from ms. god....

little miss dna cannot be wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107143)

see for ourselves http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mom+spirit+healing+dna or just keep pretending...

Here's an inconvenient question (1)

CajunArson (465943) | about 2 months ago | (#47107071)

Inconvenient question:

You need brain surgery. Who would you want to have perform brain surgery:
1. Good party-line atheist who recites a firm belief in evolution but has shaky hands.. but who cares, after all your brain is just a randomized mix of mutations, so why should it matter? Don't you BELIEVE in evolution?

2. Religious whackjob (gasp! he may even attend a non-atheist church!) who has a detailed understanding of the brain structure and functions. After years of studying the brain, he may even secretly harbor the politically incorrect belief that your brain isn't just a random hodge-podge of mutations.

P.S. --> This doesn't necessarily mean that he disagrees with evolution and mutation as a mechanism for change or that there is common DNA across a large number of species.

Oh, and for those of you who think that anybody who has any religious beliefs is obviously too stupid to be a brain surgeon, you obviously haven't met very many brain surgeons.

Azimov even wrote a story about a similar situation involving robots and an orbiting solar power station back in the 1940s.

This question is not inconvenient but senseless (1)

Morpf (2683099) | about a month ago | (#47107329)

This is like asking:
What would like being hit by?
a) A bus in your favorite color.
b) A banana. (You don't like yellow.)

Believing in evolution doesn't mean thinking "it's without a consequence to mess with anatomy / genes" actually it means the complete opposite. We actually think that the human brain evolved into something very powerful but also very delicate, you know?

But one inconvenient question for you:
How do you think selective breeding of plants and animals works?

Re:Here's an inconvenient question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107345)

That question's not inconvenient; it's just dumb.

Re:Here's an inconvenient question (0)

dave420 (699308) | about a month ago | (#47107445)

What is that supposed to prove, other than you can make things up?

It's only an inconvenient question to you, who it outed as some sort of muppet. Scientists don't believe the brain to be a "random hodge-podge of mutations", so the fact you'd claim that is very illustrative of your knowledge of science, which is then amplified by your pathetic signature. Your education must have sucked.

You don't need theory to be a technician (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about a month ago | (#47107517)

You're absolutely right. You don't need to have much theoretical knowledge to practice a particular skilled trade. It's only when trying to develop beyond the current state of the art that a good grasp of theory helps. If you're not interested in that, go ahead and don't worry about the whys and wherefores.

stop calling it a "belief." (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a month ago | (#47107075)

a belief is confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. the scientific theory of evolution is grounded upon a mountain of scientific research so overwhelmingly exhaustive as to render it a fact of life, no different than gravity. What the study is comparing is overall scientific literacy as a product of the comprehension of a single scientific concept. those who willfully choose to disregard the science will, of course, be marred with an incredible blind spot in their science comprehension. inferential logic would suggest that, yes, their scientific comprehension of everything from mutagenic bacteria to human reproduction will be degraded. They will be left empty handed when challenged to explain things like the shape of the human ear and the color of a persons skin.

the fact remains that so long as we recoil upon realization that doing science has offended the well-mannered intentions of the clergy and its congregation, we will forever remain as a species one heel in the well from which we shared company with the four humors and ritual sacrifice.

Re:stop calling it a "belief." (1)

Biosci777 (2785273) | about a month ago | (#47107555)

Did you actually read the summary above, which states that the belief or non-belief in evolution was no predictor of scientific comprehension? That means they did not find the "incredible blind spot" you mention. Or perhaps you are trying to say that you believe the findings of the study are incorrect?

Also, you are comparing apples and oranges: it is one thing to explain skin pigment differences by deactivation/deletion of pigment genes -- then proceed to knock out pigment genes in a gray mouse and get white progeny; but it is quite another to stipulate that that mouse arose from a lizard by many tiny changes over eons. The latter cannot be tested as the former can; instead one examines evidence, then builds his theory on the foundation of his assumptions.

And if you try to tell me you start with no assumptions, your "blind spot" is greater than you think...

Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiteracy (1)

Emmi59 (971727) | about a month ago | (#47107107)

How can one be considered scientifically literate if he still believes in creatism!?

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | about a month ago | (#47107141)

The belief of a creation event and the existence of evolution are not mutually exclusive.

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (2)

rossdee (243626) | about a month ago | (#47107371)

Indeed

Science doesn't disprove "Creation" although scientific evidence does suggest that the event of Creation was 13 and a bit billion years ago.
And the fossil evidence suggests that life on this planet has evolved over the last couple of billion years or so.

But both of those facts are contrary to the words of Genesis. So many Bible literalists refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Its easy enough to prove that the universe was around for way longer than 6,000 to 10,000 years, just look at other galaxies that are millions of light years away.

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107501)

An issue with your statement about using the galaxies as a point of proof about the age of the universe is that it doesn't help you. If God put all of the light there at the time so that the galaxies were visible to a young earth, there is no one to disprove that. For example, in Skyrim, everything looks old. The mountains are weathered. There are large trees. There are aged Giants and there mastodons. To me the observer, Skyrim is at least older than the 3 seconds it's been in computer RAM.

Now did the game marker lie to use about Skyrim? No, they made no such claim that the environment is millions of years old. The simply made a world that didn't have to grow at each game boot or initial install. The same could be true of a creation-based world. God wanted to make galaxies. He wanted man to enjoy them, at least at a distance. Therefore he pre-populated the system with a sense of age because that is simply how something had to be. It's no big thing since, according to creationists, the universe is in God. So the ability to be like the Skyrim makers is not beyond him.

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | about a month ago | (#47107503)

Yep.

Literalists have a hard time with the mythic stories from the various cultures of our planet and what exists on our tiny ball for all to see. Ultimately, none of us from this tiny backwater of a planet have a clue how this universe came about. What the nature of the universe is or its ultimate origins are will likely remain somewhat of a mystery far beyond the existence of us as a species.

But a bold statement about belief in creationism preventing folks from scientific literacy seems a stretch. I know many fantastic scientists who have strong religious beliefs. Generally, they are not literalists, but they have a firm knowledge of science and its methodology.

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (3, Interesting)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a month ago | (#47107173)

Literally or figuratively. The only way they can't work together is if you believe the Bible is a literal document. If you have any basic ability to read literature as symbolism you can easily see the creationist story as a story of evolution. If you believe everything happened in six literal 24 hour days not so much so.

Again society is pitted against literalists with no imagination and those that can think beyond the rigid parallel lines. It's always the same thing.

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107227)

Creationism is not inconsistent with most of science. Why shouldn't an omnipotent God be able to make a perfect running start into billions of years of history whenever he likes? Why shouldn't he be able to have created a world 6000 years ago or five minutes ago that his creations cannot tell apart from one that has existed myriads of years, because of perfectly consistent mental and factual memories of a longer history?

Occam's razor is not a method of proof. That a God had the grace to provide even the atheists with a never-exhausting supply of consistency does not disprove his mercy. Actually, this consistency of creation is a boon to everyone.

But it does not provide meaning and purpose, no matter how many millions of years you put under your scope. A story can be new and tell a tale of a billion years.

Re:Disbelief in evolution=proof of science illiter (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a month ago | (#47107313)

Because for everyday life, and the science which applies to it, evolution (the idea that all current creatures are descended from single-cell organisms which came into being by spontaneous generation) is irrelevant. For that matter, most people who say that they do not believe in evolution are saying that they do not believe that everything which exists and happens is a result of the interaction of random chance and the laws of physics.

another "Science" questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107117)

Can anyone be brought back after being dead for three days?
Is there such a thing as Evil?
Does an "image" of a human imbue it with any special attributes that must not be allowed?

I'd imagine if you tested historic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107119)

literacy, Holocaust denial would be similarly situated. Cranks who deny fact tend to bone up on facts in their area of crankitude. The problem is with their judgment, not their knowledge.

Missing the point (3, Insightful)

conquistadorst (2759585) | about a month ago | (#47107137)

His point on this item:

What is embarrassing, though, is for those who don't understand something to claim that their "belief" in it demonstrates that they have a greater comprehension of science than someone who says he or she "doesn't" believe it.

I've witnessed and do witness over and over. Whether it's about evolution, dark matter, global warming, etc. It's just a basic fallacy of human nature. I know something you don't (even though I'm not privy to a complete understanding of how it works) therefore I must be smarter than you and you must be dumb... but don't you dare challenge me any questions on it because I will get super pissed. Kind of the applied definition of "ignorance" in action.

Or in other words, believing in science others have painstakingly proven for you is not an automatic cure for ignorance. When you put it that way, it's common sense isn't it?

Science literacy sans the philosophy of science? (1)

engun (1234934) | about a month ago | (#47107151)

What is the point in a test that measures scientific literacy, if that test does not measure a person's commitment to the philosophy of science? A key indicator of an understanding of science is one's commitment to the scientific method. Evolution is a direct result of that commitment. When one eschews that commitment, what kind of literacy are we left with?

Re:Science literacy sans the philosophy of science (1)

tomhath (637240) | about a month ago | (#47107343)

As I read it, some people let their religious beliefs trump the answers to questions about their scientific literacy. I don't think means they're less committed to the scientific method, just that they're more committed to something else (or want to appear that they're more committed).

Because Mommy Said It Was So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107215)

This is like saying the fact that you don't believe in geometry doesn't influence your understanding of math because you can still do arithmetic. Evolution is an underlying principle. If you don't get it, you don't get a lot of science, and your understanding of genetics is sure suspect, you are at best parroting answers without understanding them.

I've seen it happen.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107303)

A student I was proctoring took an inordinately long time on the science section of a standardized test because she was conflicted between answering according to her beliefs or according to widely accepted scientific understanding. Personally, I think it should have been obvious what answer was appropriate- it said "SCIENCE SECTION" right at the top of each page...

In regards to high stakes testing- we should probably focus on asking questions that really assess what a student has been taught/learned about science, rather than their views on subjects where they have a lifetime of conflicting indoctrination.

Not so surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107319)

There are a lot of people who call themselves atheists but believe that we were created by aliens. They simply replaced God with grey men.

what it computes (1)

l3v1 (787564) | about a month ago | (#47107417)

"human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals," shouldn't be included when computing "science literacy."

Very roughly, IMHO, believing in someting based on available provable facts, data and information stands closer to science, and believing in something even without (or despite of) them stands closer to religion [*]. However, without definitive proof for the quoted statement, if only yes-no can be chosen one might answer 'no' even when not being a religious fanatic. Thus, I'd say not asking the question is a good compromise (vs. starting yet another religion-science debate).

That said, the above question could've been left to be part of the test, if formulated more correctly [i.e. scientifically, yes], e.g. including something like 'based on currently available scientific data and information, human beings, as we know them today, likely developed/originated from earlier species of animals' - or something similar, you hopefully you get my point.

Tradition (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47107437)

Being able to learn and transmit tradition has survival advantages for humans. A question that directly challenges a known tradition may not be the best test of how well someone learns in areas where tradition does not exist. School knowledge and parental lap knowledge may have different ways of registering for evolutionary reasons.

Does not compute (1)

fiendie (934679) | about a month ago | (#47107465)

It's like saying how people spell "Mississippi" shouldn't be included in overall spelling ability because it doesn't predict their ability to spell "Banana".

flawed project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47107523)

The whole study is flawed. Look at the question phrasing:
https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-HlvYI8AKLow/U4SvgtxcZDI/AAAAAAAAWoI/twS1Pb7j3bA/s1600/tmp.bmp

He turns the question about whether someone believes man evolved from earlier species of animals to one about whether the theory of evolution states that man evolved from earlier species of animals. Does not make sense on so many levels:
http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2014/05/science-literacy-and-belief-in-evolution.html

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...