2005-10-04

Pharyngula::Why are people against evolution?

Pharyngula::Why are people against evolution?: "I'd add one other minor component to why people reject evolution, though: fear. One message of evolutionary history is that in addition to human beings not being the end target of evolution, we are just like every other species on the planet�and species go extinct. Only 0.1% of all the species that have existed are currently extant, and the average lifetime of a species is roughly 10 million years. Add to those fears of personal mortality the awareness that the whole human clade will someday go extinct (unless we calve off another species or two, which many would find even more horrifying), and I can sympathize with the dread biology might instill in some people.
Both Abhay and Lindsay are trying too hard to see the rejection of evolution as a rational decision driven by common personal biases. As a Gouldian, I have a different explanation: contingency. People follow a faith because of history and tradition. Most of us follow a particular religion largely because it is the one our parents followed, or that our current trusted social network follows. Rarely is it because they've been consciously shopping for a faith that fits their preferences�if that were the case, we'd see far fewer people adopting some of these crazy ideas. All this talk about chance and purpose and predictions and reason is mere rationalization after the fact.
Ultimately, what brings people together to reject evolution is a sense of identity and belonging to a group that has a non-rational anti-evolutionary dogma as a part of their social toolkit. It's not assessment of the evidence that drives them away from science, it's entirely because the evidence challenges a facet of the beliefs they recognize as distinguishing elements of their tribe. In a war between reality and their social group, they cling to their subculture. It actually makes sense, in an evolutionary and biological way: an isolated human being is not a particularly viable unit, and it's the cohesion of the clan and tribe that is more important for long-term success."

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