45% of the people in the United States don’t believe in evolution, and believe that the world is less then 10,000 years old. (1)
99.9% of scientists accept evolution. (2)
To say that I find the former number to be disturbing is a profound understatement, particularly given the latter.
I have spent my spare time over the last several days watching creationist and anti-creationist videos on YouTube, and while I find the support for the anti-creationist videos to be heartening, I still can’t get over the fact that 45 percent of Americans are totally, mind-bogglingly ignorant of one of the most basic tenants of science.
I was introduced to these disturbing numbers after I read a post on another blog site, called Always Tilting, in which the author, whom I otherwise considered to be a reasonably intelligent man, made a rather bald-faced post that proclaimed evolution to be effectively dead as a concept. It shows the degree of my own naivete that I found the statement to be jaw-dropping and put me into a state best described as apoplectic confusion. I knew that people held such views, but I considered the percentage of those who prescribed to them to be at best 5% of the population. I was appalled to find out exactly how wrong I was.
Thus I began my quest to learn the arguments used on both sides of the debate, if it can be characterized as such. I say this in this way as each side approach the argument from two completely different sides. Those who believe Darwin and natural selection support their facts through the scientific evidence and through vehement support of the scientific method. Those on the Creationist/Intelligent Design side of the argument reject outright or do not understand the fundamentals and, more importantly, the REASONS behind the strict methodology of the scientific method.
Many on the Creationist side state that science is merely a faith and a religion in and of itself. This it most decidedly is not. Science is merely a rigorous method for abstracting truth, in whatever form that truth may take. Humans are fallible, very subject to faulty logic, and are prone to out and out lying to obtain desired results. The methods of science take these factors into account and do their best to counteract these human tendencies. In bypassing the scientific method, you also bypass these controls, and thus you find creationist literature and argument laced with exactly the kind of errors for which science exists to prevent.
Science does possess one single element of faith (although most scientists fail to realize this), and that is that science relies on the idea that the universe and reality is truly as it presents itself to us, and that no deliberate deception is involved within the nature of the universe itself. Deliberate deception implies a conscious God. If God is indeed deliberately deceiving us, it could be for one of two reasons. One: God is a deliberate liar and wishes us to believe His inerrant holy book despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. Two, and more generously: God has created a universe which suggests a history deliberately different then that of what really happened because God wants us to believe in the alternate history.
Putting this aside, we are left with the Creationist using arguments that were either rejected by scientists over a century ago, using arguments based on the inerrancy of the Bible (i.e. not really an argument at all), or using arguments that are not submitted for peer review in scientific literature because they reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is all about and are either never submitted or summarily rejected by the literature in question because they are not phrased in a scientific manner.
As the word ‘science’ is so fundamentally vilified and misunderstood by so many, I will use the synonymous phrase, “the accepted truth evaluation methodology” when I refer to it henceforth.
I must thank Mike, the author of Always Tilting, for staying calm and friendly on his side of the argument, and also for ultimately introducing me to the disturbing discrepency between the facts derived from the accepted truth evaluation methodology and the beliefs of 45% of the American people. I will do my part to try to heal this discrepency.