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Belief In Evolution Doesn't Measure Science Literacy 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."
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Belief In Evolution Doesn't Measure Science Literacy

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  • by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:19AM (#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 [] 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.
  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:38AM (#47107173) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:39AM (#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:Wait a sec (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:54AM (#47107317) Journal
    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.

  • Willfull blindness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @09:28AM (#47107653)

    What this says is people will accept science except where they feel it contradicts with their beliefs.

    Gravity - ok
    Electricity - ok
    Evolution - nope

    I think this says it all. Even with the one nope they have proven themselves not to be scientifically literate. They have proven that they have a rational space that cannot be challenged by science. No matter how rational you might otherwise be if there is a think-space where you refuse to be rational you are at root irrational.

  • Re: Wait a sec (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tysonedwards ( 969693 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @12:42PM (#47110041)
    It doesn't matter the amount of evidence available, there will always be deniers. Hell, there is photographic and some video evidence of the holocaust and yet there are still swarms of people saying that it never happened. 9/11, swarms of people saying 'the jets weren't even commercial airliners but were military cargo planes' and yet hundreds of millions of people if not billions watched it live with plenty of recordings available today. Some people just like to take confrontational standpoints because they find them fun.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"