So Rafi Letzter, writing in Business Insider, wonders “why so many smart people don’t believe in evolution.” He rightly questions a study suggesting if you’re smart, you should believe in evolution. But he then fails to follow through with what his own analysis suggests.
This paper, from Dan Kahan of Yale University and Keith Stanovich of the University of Toronto, started the trouble. The authors re-examined a study from a year ago correlating Cognitive Reflection Test scores with belief in evolution. The original authors suggested the better you are at cognitive reflection, the more likely you will reject design for the origin of life.
What is cognitive reflection?
The two papers give three examples—riddles, actually. To solve them, you must see beyond the obvious and work out the logical. For instance: a bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? If you answer ten cents, the obvious answer, you flunk. If the bat costs a dollar more than the ball, then the bat costs $1.10 and the two items cost $1.20. Instead: let x represent the cost of the ball. Then x + ($1.00 + x) = $1.10. Working it through, 2x = $0.10, and x = $0.05.
Take another riddle the social scientists did not use in their test. You live in a house having all southern exposure. A bear walks past your house. What color is the bear? White—because where else, except at the North Pole, would a house have all southern exposure?
Two kinds of rationality
The authors of that first paper suggested people accept evolution because strict reason demands it. In other words, only intuition suggests that “all functional systems, including living beings, originate in intentional agency.” If you can’t get past that, you have set a limit on your rationality. Not so fast, say Kahan and Stanovich. They broke the original sample down by the holding, and the strength, of religious convictions.
Kahan and Stanovich concluded many “smart” people will still insist life starts with an intention to build it. Such people will stand firm in their convictions, and use all the logic tools they have to express those convictions. (Social scientists call these opposing concepts “bounded rationality” and “expressive rationality,” respectively.) And whether those convictions are religious or secularistic, doesn’t matter. So people who score higher at solving such riddles won’t necessarily abandon creation (or intelligent design) for evolution. Instead, whatever they believe, they will defend the more militantly.
What this means
Mr. Letzter, commenting on this, wrote:
Folks who reject science, like the brilliant, infuriating Talmud scholars in my life, might not simply do so because they lack the brainpower to grasp it. Instead, they seem to arrive at their religious skepticism by their own extreme powers of persuasion — a highly developed ability to convince oneself that, rationally, the thing you believe is right. Oddly enough, that’s the very same route that leads many secular people to place their faith in science.
What a scary thought.
Mr. Letzter gets it half right. That thought should scare people. Those who believe in evolution can no more defend their position as “rational” than can those who believe in creation. Earlier in his article, Mr. Letzter confidently holds that “evolution is the foundation of all modern biology [and] medicine.” He cites this reference – from the United States Public Broadcasting Service. (More particularly, it comes from that bastion of Boston Brahmindom, PBS Television Station WGBH.) But the paper he cited should have warned him to consider this possibility: that is a matter of opinion.
Why people really believe in evolution
Mr. Letzter laments that “only 50% [of US adults] believe in evolution” in the latest Gallup poll. Why, he asks? Don’t people “realize” that “evolution is the foundation of all modern biology [and] medicine”? Can’t they see the results of 157 years of “thorough investigation”?
What thorough investigation? The only investigation we have seen, is an application of the “expressive rationality” of Kahan and Stanovich. People want to reject God, so they will seize upon any teaching that discredits and obviates Him. Aldous Huxley expressed it up-front in his essay Ends and Means:
I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do.
For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.
To paraphrase the great actress Katharine Hepburn, as Amanda Bonner, Attorney-at-law, in Adam’s Rib:
Now you have it! Judge it so!
To continue: a strong belief system stands behind a creation advocate. Apply that same rule to an evolution advocate, to be intellectually honest.
Look at the facts
Does evolution really found all modern biology and medicine? First, how living systems work does not derive from how living systems came to exist. Evolution might inform how biologists classify living things. But no biologist can point to a single insight in how things live, that they had to change because someone found a link in the chain of life “out of order” in the fossil record. Current news abounds with stories of new findings “forcing a rewrite” on human evolution. That will not change a single diagnosis, treatment model, or treatment plan.
Furthermore, if evolution founds modern medicine, then all doctors should agree on how to treat common diseases. They don’t. At least two schools of human physiology have sprung up. Though both claim a foundation in evolution, the two sides oppose one another. In fact they oppose one another as bitterly as do “global warming” alarmists and “denialists.” Conventional or allopathic theorists and practitioners think they can improve on evolution. Alternative practitioners, like Joseph R. Mercola, D.O., heap scorn on that idea. Don’t tamper with a system that has stood the test of time, they warn. Creation-advocating doctors, by the way, say: don’t mess with the work of the Master!
And who has “investigated” evolution? Never has any evolution advocate had to defend the proposition as rigorously as a PhD candidate must defend his dissertation. In fact, the fundamental proposition doesn’t even stand the test one applies to a master’s thesis. The world has, instead, seen fraud after fraud after fraud after fraud after fraud after fraud after fraud. Piltdown and Peking “Men” spring to mind. So do the Ernst Haeckel comparative embryology drawings. Whether these frauds still inform the discussion of life origins, doesn’t matter. (By the way, the Prentice-Hall Biology textbook still has the Haeckel Drawings, at last report.) What does matter is that no creation advocate has ever perpetrated such a fraud. This reviewer challenges any evolution advocate to show any creation-supporting fraud as great as Piltdown or Peking “Man” or the Haeckel Drawings.
Fraud aside, evolution has only opinion to support it. Consider this profound statement: “all functional systems, including living beings, originate in intentional agency.” Why shouldn’t living beings originate in intentional agency? How did this become mere irrational intuition, something to get past to prove one is smart? For answer, turn to Aldous Huxley. Then consider: not one scientist has ever defended the notion that living things can come about by chance alone. No one has shown how life would inevitably arise, under the “right” conditions. Never mind that living beings are the most complex functional systems, by several orders of magnitude, by any reasonable standard whatsoever. So what makes them exceptional? James Perloff, writing in Tornado in a Junkyard, uses the analogy of a tornado ripping through a junkyard and assembling a modern airliner. In fact, something as simple as a cell is still more complex than any airliner.
Why don’t they test it on themselves?
One thing more that Mr. Perloff did not notice: an evolution advocate “basking in x-rays in hopes of ‘mutating to a higher state.’” We see that in comic books and cheap science fiction. From The Incredible Hulk (Marvel Comics Group) to Protector (Larry Niven’s Known Space), entertainers exploit this theme. But no scientist has ever defended it. And still fewer real scientists would dare test the proposition on themselves or their families.
We can settle this
Let’s repeat that: we can settle this debate now. Walter T. Brown, of Phoenix, Arizona, has put forth the most comprehensive, and comprehensible, theory on the most violent event this earth, and the solar system, have ever known. This theory explains many of the same things those expressive hyper-rationalists we call “evolutionists” cite as “proof” of evolution per se and the long time frames their theory assumes. And unlike those who advocate for evolution, Brown offers to defend his theory against any detractor, or even a tag team of detractors. He also offers the sum of one thousand United States dollars to anyone who will accept his challenge, or find someone who will.
So let an advocate for evolution come forward, to explain why living beings, alone among functional systems, indeed the most complex of functional systems, not only need not but cannot have originated in intentional agency. Let him (or her) then explain why life had to arise, in the wild, on some world, but cannot arise today, on this world. (Even panspermia, of either kind, needs another origin world, if not our own Earth.) While they’re at it, let them explain how dust clouds can converge from three or more directions, then collide and accrete to form our own solar system or any other. Let them explain why the “giant impactor” that “produced” the Moon did not simply destroy the Earth. (But first let them explain where it came from!)
But let’s have an end to the facile notion that believing in evolution makes you smart or shows you are smart. Because it does neither.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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