Acceptance of evolution in the US, Canada, and Australia

There’s a pertinent piece of legislation in the house now:

hamptonroads.com/2011/03/forbes- … full-house

By the way, if anyone is interested I recommend signing up with the Secular Coalition for America, they are a pretty straightforward political organization, and send out valuable emails about relevant pending legislation.

I find it incredibly high. Literally true! I’m guessing here, but I think that’s an all-time low and will only get lower however. In that sense, the religious right is railing against the wind.

Disbelief in evolution in the US is much more a reflection of prevailing opinions than of any action by the religious right. The religious right is basically an extreme reflection of those same opinions. They shouldn’t be underestimated however, as has been suggested they wield disproportionate influence on Republican party affairs. As you say Fortigurn, they are perfectly within their rights to exercise their opinions through the democratic process. The problem is that, unlike more centrist or leftist elements in US politics, they tend to wish to apply their own mores to the population as a whole. This makes them dangerous beyond their numbers and well worthy of fighting against. This “In God we trust” business is a pretty good example. It’s not enough that there is freedom of religion, but the country has to be stamped, literally chiseled upon, as a religious nation, regardless of the opinions of non-religious people. Note that most people could really give a flying ##@*& at a rolling doughnut about reaffirming the motto. It’s a non-issue. But fear of alienating the 15% will get republicans behind it. Here’s the guy behind the legislation:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Forbes. Check out some of his positions. This is a congressman! This is an obvious example of important influence by the religious right, and I didn’t dig too deeply.

There’s the answer to Fortigurn’s question. The Religious Right, as a political movement, has repeatedly failed to impose Creationism in public schools. But the rejection of evolution among evangelical Christians long predates the Religious Right, and accounts for the disparity between the percentage of Americans who consider themselves members of the Religious Right and those that reject evolution. I would hazard a guess that the revival movements of 19th century America aided the popular rejection of evolutionary theory.

[quote=“BigJohn”]@Fortigurn:

Do you dispute the facts and inferences of this article, or can you find similar figures in support of teaching creationism in the other countries you cited?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/21/creationism-in-us-high-sc_n_102853.html[/quote]

No I don’t. There’s almost nothing there which wasn’t already stated in the paper I cited. Did you read the paper I cited? I suspect you did not read the paper I cited. I suspect no one did. Jaboney, there’s an interesting post here and another here which are relevant to this thread; Petrichor also makes a good point about confirmation bias. These critical thinking skills are what we all learned in university. They’re the standard skills of inquiry, investigation, verification, and analysis with which our education is supposed to equip us for daily life. We were supposed to retain them after graduation, not simply abandon them.

[quote=“Fortigurn”][quote=“BigJohn”]@Fortigurn:

Do you dispute the facts and inferences of this article, or can you find similar figures in support of teaching creationism in the other countries you cited?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/21/creationism-in-us-high-sc_n_102853.html[/quote]

No I don’t. There’s almost nothing there which wasn’t already stated in the paper I cited. Did you read the paper I cited? I suspect you did not read the paper I cited. I suspect no one did. Jaboney, there’s an interesting post here and another here which are relevant to this thread; Petrichor also makes a good point about confirmation bias. These critical thinking skills are what we all learned in university. They’re the standard skills of inquiry, investigation, verification, and analysis with which our education is supposed to equip us for daily life. We were supposed to retain them after graduation, not simply abandon them.[/quote]

You have lots of links. Which paper? Give me a link.

BTW, you have done NOTHING to refute any of the data in the Huffpost article, other than say other people have attacked this or that, which you allege is part of our argument. You actually have trouble making a clear argument, you just kind of yawn wearily at the rest of us. I’d have to say your style sucks.

[quote=“Fortigurn”]

No I don’t. There’s almost nothing there which wasn’t already stated in the paper I cited. Did you read the paper I cited? I suspect you did not read the paper I cited. I suspect no one did. Jaboney, there’s an interesting post here and another here which are relevant to this thread; Petrichor also makes a good point about confirmation bias. These critical thinking skills are what we all learned in university. They’re the standard skills of inquiry, investigation, verification, and analysis with which our education is supposed to equip us for daily life. We were supposed to retain them after graduation, not simply abandon them.[/quote]

I did (now lol), it’s roughly saying what GBH and I have been; disbelief in evolution has deep roots in the US. That the religious right isn’t largely responsible for it is in no way remarkable or surprising, however that doesn’t make the phenomenon, (or the religious right) any less disturbing.

[quote=“Fortigurn”][quote=“BigJohn”]@Fortigurn:

Do you dispute the facts and inferences of this article, or can you find similar figures in support of teaching creationism in the other countries you cited?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/21/creationism-in-us-high-sc_n_102853.html[/quote]

No I don’t. There’s almost nothing there which wasn’t already stated in the paper I cited. Did you read the paper I cited? I suspect you did not read the paper I cited. I suspect no one did. Jaboney, there’s an interesting post here and another here which are relevant to this thread; Petrichor also makes a good point about confirmation bias. These critical thinking skills are what we all learned in university. They’re the standard skills of inquiry, investigation, verification, and analysis with which our education is supposed to equip us for daily life. We were supposed to retain them after graduation, not simply abandon them.[/quote]

Likewise the lessons of Sunday school about being kind to others and tolerant weren’t supposed to be abandoned when one got on the web. :unamused:

Look, here’s the skinny. Every day in America one can see the religious right trying to exert itself in policy at the school, municipality, state and federal level. When they get on school boards they attempt to change the science curriculum, or bring in prayer (whether they are successful in the long wrong is a different matter). At the state and federal level the influence of groups such as Focus on the Family bring anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion issues to the fore. These groups are well organized, loud, and influential, as can be seen by the fact that among advanced nations America is lagging in gay rights, and is alone in having potential presidential candidates (in particular Republicans) required to declare that they are anti-abortion if they want a chance at nomination.

Whether these groups, and members of what we call the religious right, are responsible for the anti-evolutionary bias in America they are certainly part of what keeps the bias strong in modern times. Your whole argument comes down to making this one minor distinction. Big deal. All you had to do was say, “Actually, it doesn’t look like the fundamentalism explains the bias in America” and then given a few reasons. Instead you had to extend this to saying they have no influence, or a minor one because their numbers are relatively small (thus confusing voting with lobbying), all of which shows you know nothing about American life.

The first part of your argument rests on facts; the latter is just idle speculation. So no, you aren’t encountering confirmation bias, except in the sense that most people learn in adulthood not to argue with those who have facts only and no perspective. :laughing:

Jaboney, I have not claimed an interest in truth rather than fact. I have claimed an interest in truth rather than truthiness. I’m all for facts; let’s bring them on.

The reason why I consider the figure of 1/3 of American adults believing the Bible is literally true to be incredibly low, is that 40% of Americans still don’t believe in evolution. Yet among religious people Biblical literalism is a strong predictor of rejection of evolution, and rejection of literalism is a strong predictor of acceptance of evolution.

So apparently 40% of Americans reject evolution even though only about 33% of them believe the Bible is literally true. Something other than Christian Fundamentalism appears to be influencing that other 7%, and that’s where the study I cited comes in, by demonstrating that lack of properly articulated edudcation about evolution is a significant contributing factor to lack of acceptance of evolution.

Yes, undoubtedly. Now given this fact, who is more obviously influential on people at present, the Christian Right or other groups?

I certainly agree with that, but lack of proper education is a major contributing factor.

I understand what you say here, but which lobby groups don’t want to apply their own mores to the population as a whole? That’s the whole point of lobbying, to have your personal views legitimized politically and enforced nationally. Virtually everyone claims their position occupies the moral high ground and should therefore prevail in society.

Indeed!

Yes, the rejection of evolution among evangelical Christians does predate the Religious Right, by decades. However, the history is surprisingly complex. In England and Europe evolution was rapidly accepted by mainstream Christianity and Judaism, due in part because the idea that Adam was not the first human had already been accepted and explored extensively by mainstream Christian theologians for almost 100 years before Darwin.

The US Fundamentalist movement was the product of the North American Bible conferences at the end of the 19th century, but when they published their dogmatic multi-volume work ‘The Fundamentals’ (for whic hthe movement was named), between 1910 and 1915, sonme of the early volumes contained pro-evolution commentary (James Orr, George Wright, and Reuben Torrey; Torrey later rejected evolution, but still belived it compatible with Fundamentalism), though this was followed a little later by anti-evolution commentary. So even among the first Fundamentalists, there were mainstream theologians who were pro-evolution. The turning point appears to have taken place almost another 10 years later, with the revolutionary Butler Act and ensuing Scopes Trial publicizing, politicizing, and polarizing what had previously been a non-issue. I would hesitantly indicate this as the flashpoint, though the subsequent history is difficult to unravel.

What is certain is that belief in evolution over the last 29 years from 1982 to 2011 has steadily increased in the US, while belief in the divine creation of humans without the involvement of evolution has waxed and waned over the same duration, but ended up declining. Over that 29 years or so, belief in human evolution without any divine intervention has actually increased significantly, from 9% to 16%. That shows without any doubt that in that time the Christian Right has struggled to maintain this belief even among its own members, whilst belief in purely secular materialist evolution has almost doubled during the same time. When I see this, it is clear to me that the Christian Right has had approximately zero influence on the belief in evolution of anyone outside the religious right, while secular influences on people’s belief in evolution have not only been strong but have been the most influential on society. There is no denying it; secular influences remain the strongest influence on people’s belief in evolution.

The study to which I linked in this post. I actually quoted from it directly as well. As I have pointed out, its conclusion is substantiated by this study cited by antarcticbeech.

Morever, in this map of the quality of evolution teaching in the US (published by Scientific American in 2002, analysis here), we find that:

  • The best quality of education is found in states including Indiana (‘Exemplary’), North Carolina (‘Model of good organization’), and South Carolina (‘Thorough and challenging treatment’), though these are conservatively religious states

  • States in which evolution is taught satisfactorily are found across the nation, not confined to the liberal states (strangely, in New York, which is surely not a Fundamentalist stronghold, evolution teaching suffers from ‘inclusion of creationist jargon’)

  • States in which evolution is taught unacceptably badly also range across the nation

This concurs with the study to which I linked earlier, as well as the study linked by antarcticbeech and the study to which you linked.

Er, I haven’t done anything to refute any of the data in the Huffpost article because I agreed with the Huffpost article. You asked me ‘Do you dispute the facts and inferences of this article, or can you find similar figures in support of teaching creationism in the other countries you cited?’, and I replied ‘No I don’t’. You can hardly expect me to refute an article with which I agree. Not only did I agree with the article you cited, I pointed out that there was almost nothing in that article which wasn’t already stated in the paper I had cited previously.

So once again, I have done nothing to refute the Huffpost article because I agreed with it, and I told you I agreed with it. If you’re having problems following my argument, I suggest you start by reading my posts.

Well thanks for your honesty. The article says a little more than that ‘disbelief in evolution has deep roots in the US’; it identifies the poor quality of education provided by 60% of teachers as the primary contributing factor. I agree that the Religious Right isn’t largely responsible for this, and I agree that this doesn’t make the phenomenon, (or the religious right) any less disturbing.

But take heart, the overall trend is a steady increase in the belief in completely secular evolution (without any divine involvement). The Religious Right is clearly not a signifcant contributor to this trend.

Well I try to avoid statements such as ‘What a seriously assholish post’. :smiley: But if you consider any of my posts here to have been unkind or lacking in tolerance (and I do believe I’ve exercised considerable patience in this thread), please do let me know. I have been dismissive of statements which remain unsubstantiated after requests for evidence (especially where evidence to the contrary is easy to find), but I believe that’s reasonable.

I agree with enough of this paragraph of yours to not bother quibbling over the little with which I don’t agree.

They’re part of what keeps the bias strong within their own group, in modern times. There is still no evidence that they have influence beyond their own echo chamber. Let’s look at the relevant statistics.

  • We see that belief in evolution plus God has remained more or less stable over the last 20 years, so the Religious Right isn’t influencing Christian liberals to give up their belief in evolution

  • We have also seen that over the same 20 years belief has fallen by an overall 4% from where it was 20 years ago, so the Religious Right doesn’t even have sufficient influence to maintain its anti-evolution stance within those most sympathetic to it

  • We see that over the same 20 years belief in entirely secular evolution without any divine involvement has risen by 7%

That last statistic is most significant. Belief in entirely secular evolution is on the rise in the US, and has been rising steadily over the last 20 years. It has experienced far and away the most growth of any of these three positions.

Careful, let’s note precisely what I actually said. I didn’t say they had no influence or a minor one because their numbers are relatively small (and the difference between lobbying and voting has already been noted in this discussion, and I don’t believe I’ve confused the two). In my second post in this thread I said this:

  • The US religious right has approximately zero influence on the belief in evolution of any one outside the religious right

I did not say simply that the US religious right had zero influence on anything at all. In this post I asked this:

  • ‘Everyone keeps telling me how powerful they are, but no one can actually show me the influence they have on secular people, or how they convince secular people to do their will.’

Note once more that this is a very specific influence I’m talking about; I did not claim that the Christian Right has no influence on anything. In the same post I contested that the Christian Right is not the prevailing influence on US culture.

It does not rest on idle speculation; I cited six key defeats of the Christian Right on a range of political and legal issues which they have targeted over the years. In this post I provided further evidence for the ineffectiveness of the Christian Right, from an article which listed their consistent record of failure. That article also notes that in the last 20 years the number of Americans self-identifying as Christian has fallen by 11%. This is not persuasive evidence for the successful influence of the Christian Right.

If you want more, you could look at the many studies specifically on the topic of the failure of the Christian Right, which is a well documented topic. I’ll quote from now from Bruce, ‘The Inevitable Failure of the New Christian Right’ (Sociology of Religion 1994, 55:3 229-242). This article, old as it is, provides an interesting historical review.

His coverage.

On teaching creation in schools.

On legislating behaviour.

On abortion.

On the lack of major electoral victories.

On its marginalization.

[quote=“p. 2333”]'In 1989 a reporter for the Wall Street Journal quoted NCR activists saying “The Falwell-Robertson phenomenon was the first wave. The second wave is forming. It’s grass roots activistm. It’s not co-ordinated; it’s not national” (Schribman 1989). This shift is itself good evidence that the NCR has failed to make much impact in the major league.

There is also agreement that efforts are now being directed to “infiltrating” the Republican party by turning NCR activists into Republican party activists. To the extent that this trend continues and endures, it is likely to produce at best a Pyrrhic victory.’[/quote]

On its comprehensive failure and lack of political influence.

[quote=“p. 234”]'Nonetheless, the considered judgment of most uncommitted observers is that the movement has failed to achieve significant progress on items that were specific to its agenda (as distinct from those ambitions, such as increased defense spending, that were shared with mainstream conservatives).

Ed Mate, a former political director of the Republican National Committee concluded: “The evangelicals’ impact on Washington politics has been minimal. The things they have been disappointed with have greatly outnumbered the things they have been pleased with” (in Aikman 1988:23).’[/quote]

This isn’t a success story of influence.

[quote=“Fortigurn”]
I’ll quote from now from Bruce, 'The Inevitable Failure of the New Christian Right…[/quote]

I don’t know, man, I got all the albums and most of the bootlegs, even without the E Street Band, and I’ve never even heard that song…

[quote=“the chief”][quote=“Fortigurn”]
I’ll quote from now from Bruce, 'The Inevitable Failure of the New Christian Right…[/quote]

I don’t know, man, I got all the albums and most of the bootlegs, even without the E Street Band, and I’ve never even heard that song…[/quote]

Gold star for you for lightening up the thread! :notworthy:

Jesus Christ Fortigurn! That’s a long post!

Then what’s your point in a nutshell? My conclusions were based on information basically substantiated by the article, but you disagree with me but not the article?

[quote=“Fortigurn”]
The reason why I consider the figure of 1/3 of American adults believing the Bible is literally true to be incredibly low, is that 40% of Americans still don’t believe in evolution. Yet among religious people Biblical literalism is a strong predictor of rejection of evolution, and rejection of literalism is a strong predictor of acceptance of evolution.

So apparently 40% of Americans reject evolution even though only about 33% of them believe the Bible is literally true. Something other than Christian Fundamentalism appears to be influencing that other 7%, and that’s where the study I cited comes in, by demonstrating that lack of properly articulated edudcation about evolution is a significant contributing factor to lack of acceptance of evolution.[/quote]

That 7% gap is interesting.

gallup.com/poll/21814/evolut … esign.aspx

This shows a pretty consistent 45% or so over recent years saying “god created man in his present form” (with a new 40% low in 2010 however.)

The poll I linked to previously says this:

[quote]
Americans’ views on the Bible have not changed materially over the past 16 years. Gallup has asked this question about personal views of the Bible nine times since 1991. The percentage saying the Bible is the actual, literal word of God has remained in a relatively narrow range between 27% and 35% across this time period, with the average being 31%.

Prior to that point, however, the data suggest that Americans’ belief in a literal Bible was slightly higher. Gallup asked the question seven times between 1976 and 1984, during which time an average of 38% said that the Bible is the actual word of God. At two points during this time period, 40% of Americans agreed with the literal interpretation view of the Bible.[/quote]

So this dichotomy is increasing. I’m not sure a failure in the education system can explain this. It seems to me we have two longstanding attitudes here, and that one is breaking down a bit faster, perhaps by being rather more indefensible on the surface.

Better education would help those rates merge, but reading between the lines in your study however, why is there a lack of effectiveness? From what I read there I can imagine a lack of confidence being caused by societal pressures more than unqualified biology teachers, which which would come back to longstanding attitudes about evolution in society. I’d like to get a look at their book to see the findings in more detail, perhaps I’m wrong, though I find it a bit hard to imagine a biology teacher would find it hard to teach it if they put their mind to it.

Yes, undoubtedly. Now given this fact, who is more obviously influential on people at present, the Christian Right or other groups?[/quote]

Surely the Christian Right is not the most influential group in American society.

I understand what you say here, but which lobby groups don’t want to apply their own mores to the population as a whole? That’s the whole point of lobbying, to have your personal views legitimized politically and enforced nationally. Virtually everyone claims their position occupies the moral high ground and should therefore prevail in society.[/quote]

FWIW, I anticipated you saying this, and I understand what you mean, but I mean something quite specific here. You may not agree with me here, but I don’t feel most lobbying groups seek to force all the citizens of the country to conform to their opinions, in the way the Christian right would like to. Take this “in God We Trust” thing. This is a case of seeking to force a particular set of mores on the country as a whole, regardless of whether they believe in God or not. I can’t think of an analogous bit of leftist legislation, if I’m wrong I welcome you to set me right. If I took as an example say a homosexual marriage amendment, which the religious right is obviously well against, it’s opening up a freedom to a group who would like it and who have previously been denied it. The problem is from religious people, who complain loudly when they feel their mores are being offended, from a law that wouldn’t directly affect them at all. Of course they have no problem directly forcing their mores upon me.

[quote]
When I see this, it is clear to me that the Christian Right has had approximately zero influence on the belief in evolution of anyone outside the religious right, while secular influences on people’s belief in evolution have not only been strong but have been the most influential on society. There is no denying it; secular influences remain the strongest influence on people’s belief in evolution.[/quote]

The statistics do seem to bear that out. They know this and are trying hard to do something about it though. They are not without weapons in that fight as of today.

Don’t get carried away, I don’t necessarily click on every link in every facet of a thread. :idunno:

[quote]
But take heart, the overall trend is a steady increase in the belief in completely secular evolution (without any divine involvement). The Religious Right is clearly not a signifcant contributor to this trend.[/quote]

True for sure.

40% not believing in evolution and 33% believing in the Bible literally is only somewhat suggestive that factors other than religious fundamentalism account for the relative lack of belief in evolution vis a vis other countries. The Bible contains many things that fly totally in the face of conventional day-to-day reason: rising from the dead, the parting of the Red Sea and other miracles, people with lifespans of hundreds of years, or living for years inside a whale etc. Many people, even very religious people with limited education, might choose to believe these are allegorical, because they just seem highly improbable.

Evolution is also far from people’s experience: billions of years ago, lightning gave energy to complex molecules in a primordial soup, causing the existence of self-replicating molecules, which naturally selected until they became us! I mean, I know the science is there, but the whole idea is very weird; it’s not at all a day-to-day kind of thing. On the other hand, it doesn’t fly in the face of everyday experience, per se.

Hence, it makes sense that more people believe the Bible is not literal than believe that evolution is not true, whether they are religious or otherwise.

[quote=“BigJohn”]40% not believing in evolution and 33% believing in the Bible literally is only somewhat suggestive that factors other than religious fundamentalism account for the relative lack of belief in evolution vis a vis other countries. The Bible contains many things that fly totally in the face of conventional day-to-day reason: rising from the dead, the parting of the Red Sea and other miracles, people with lifespans of hundreds of years, or living for years inside a whale etc. Many people, even very religious people with limited education, might choose to believe these are allegorical, because they just seem highly improbable.

But postulating evolution is also far from people’s experience: billions of years ago, lightning gave energy to complex molecules in a primordial soup, causing the existence of self-replicating molecules, which naturally selected until they became us! I mean, I know the science is there, but the whole idea is very weird; it’s not at all a day-to-day kind of thing. It’s much easier to reject than the notion that the Bible is not literal.[/quote]

[quote=“Tempo Gain”]

[quote]
Americans’ views on the Bible have not changed materially over the past 16 years. Gallup has asked this question about personal views of the Bible nine times since 1991. The percentage saying the Bible is the actual, literal word of God has remained in a relatively narrow range between 27% and 35% across this time period, with the average being 31%.

Prior to that point, however, the data suggest that Americans’ belief in a literal Bible was slightly higher. Gallup asked the question seven times between 1976 and 1984, during which time an average of 38% said that the Bible is the actual word of God. At two points during this time period, 40% of Americans agreed with the literal interpretation view of the Bible.[/quote]

Surely the Christian Right is not the most influential group in American society.[/quote]

In all of the above cases, It’s probably worth remembering that there’s actually a choice C, to wit:

C. 31% of Americans believe that the Bible (do we capitalise the “the”? Not my team, so I’m not sure) is the literal word of G_d, but they probably wouldn’t if they were more familiar with it.

Never underestimate the potential for the masses in any Western society to not really know what they think they know, like the folks in that Michael Moore (?) movie who, standing in front of the Capitol dome, couldn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance but knew the Big Mac jingle cold.

Or Canookistanian National Treasure Rick Mercer.

And another example.

Precisely my point about people’s understanding of genetics and biology. Ask people to tell you the probability of a particular phenotype based upon each parent carrying both a dominant and recessive gene (for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Punnett_square_mendel_flowers.svg) and you’ll get a lot of people refusing to believe (as per a Punnett square) that 25% of the offspring will probably exhibit a different phenotype, or you’ll get a lot of people saying there will actually be three phenotypes. If they can’t get beyond that really, really basic level of genetics, they’re hardly in a position to profess evolution as truth.

[quote=“Fortigurn”]Jaboney, I have not claimed an interest in truth rather than fact. I have claimed an interest in truth rather than truthiness. I’m all for facts; let’s bring them on.[/quote]Thank you, no. As I said, I give up. I only returned to the thread to see what others might have said.

I realize you made no such claim. Unfortunately, I believe that there’s no point engaging in the argument, in hopes of learning something. I’m sure you mean well, but this is all over the map. Your language is inconsistent, point… elusive, willingness to consider points offered, dubious.

I give up.

You asked this:[quote=“Fortigurn”]Any ideas on the reason for this disparity of belief between the three nations?[/quote]

You then came back with this:[quote=“Fortigurn”] When posed with the question in the OP, a number of people leaped directly into an answer without any research, verification, or validation procedure whatsoever. They did so immediately on the basis of their own personal dogma, on the basis of what they ‘think’ is true. When challenged, instead of attempting to investigate the subject and put their argument to the test of verification, they simply invented ad hoc arguments intended to support a case for which they still had no evidence.[/quote]

You ask for one thing, then presume to castigate posters who bothered to respond because they didn’t do so in a particular manner (one that is in no way typical in the forum, nor the community). Bad form, sir. If not confused, the approach is fundamentally dishonest.

Anyone can throw out a topic for discussion: there’s no obligation on the audience – community members – to respond. (I ought to know; I suspect only tommy525 has authored more single-post threads.) I give up.

Precisely my point about people’s understanding of genetics and biology. Ask people to tell you the probability of a particular phenotype based upon each parent carrying both a dominant and recessive gene (for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Punnett_square_mendel_flowers.svg) and you’ll get a lot of people refusing to believe (as per a Punnett square) that 25% of the offspring will probably exhibit a different phenotype, or you’ll get a lot of people saying there will actually be three phenotypes. If they can’t get beyond that really, really basic level of genetics, they’re hardly in a position to profess evolution as truth.[/quote]

I’m pretty sure Darwin’s theory predates the science of genetics (ready to be corrected about that, though, if I’m wrong), but I don’t think knowledge of genetics is necessary to a basic understanding of evolution.

I don’t know beans about genetics, but I copped to evolution probably around age 12 or 13 at the latest. I accepted it without criticism, and I was attending church and Sunday school at the time (although not always willingly–when the preacher wasn’t scaring the hell out of me, he was boring the hell out of me, and Sunday school wasn’t much better). I don’t think it was taught at the schools I attended, but I probably shouldn’t be relied on for that one, because I was such a bad student.

I think I picked up evolution from comic books, the smattering of science fiction I’d read, maybe some brief conversations with my father, and intuition in the older sense of that word (that is, thoughts that spring readily to mind upon perceiving something relatively obvious)–you know, from looking at monkeys and apes and even animals that didn’t look related to us. Maybe newspapers and magazines played a role, and maybe encyclopedias. I remember reading 'way back there–in the papers? magazines? I don’t remember exactly where–that birds evolved from reptiles. Oh, and I remember reading about aquatic mammals and about fish that could breath on land, bats, etc. Those kinds of things are pretty strongly suggestive of evolution.

Part of the reason I became a professed communist at age 14 (other than that it was cool and would piss off my dad) was that I believed we were all evolving into one organism. Maybe George Harrison was to partially blame for that one (just kidding–he probably influenced my thinking, but not in a blameworthy way):

[quote]And the time will come
When you see we’re all one. . . .[/quote]

I’ve written about this before on the board:
The problem was, my evolution was Lamarckian (as was my father’s). I’d never read Lamarck (and I don’t think my father had), but again, it’s intuitive, the idea that organisms sort of “pick up” traits and pass them on. We didn’t know we were Lamarckians. :laughing:

After a while, that idea sort of bugged me. It got to where I was like, “How, how do they pick up traits and pass them on?” One day, at about age 16 I think, I was at my friend’s house, and I casually pulled out his mom’s copy of Origin of Species from the bookshelf, hoping that might somehow help out, :laughing: and I started flipping through it. Somewhere in my flippings, I saw the phrase “natural selection” (meaning, among other things, they don’t pick up traits and pass them on) and some explanatory words around the phrase, and it just clicked. I was like, “Oh.”

I believe a pretty good number of people are like my dad and me–unwitting Lamarckians.

Now, I’m sure that the way natural selection operates on a population of organisms over time can be quite complex, and I’m also pretty sure Darwin’s original ideas have been modified to some extent over the years, especially by knowledge of genetics. But the basic notion is not that difficult. And I figure if I can get it, just about anybody can.

About the religious right thing:
Things must have really changed since I was a boy. If there were a lot of fundamentalists when I was growing up (I mean, you’d think there’d have been even more fundamentalists back then than there are now, whether or not they were called fundamentalists), how come the kids I hung out with–not my atheist-household best friends, but the other kids, the churchgoing-household ones–didn’t talk about religion much? In fact, for the most part, they didn’t seem to want to talk about religion. I have the strong impression that if one of us had wanted to discuss religion with the rest of us, he would probably have been scoffed at. I remember at about age 13, I was in Sunday school, and the teacher briefly left the room for some reason (to take a whiz, or get a book, I don’t know why). After that Sunday school teacher left, the guys didn’t become Satan’s minions or anything, but they became, you know, thirteen-year-old boys, making dirty wisecracks, and so on. I remember thinking something like, “Wow, when the Sunday school teacher left, God must have left with him.” I mean, it’s like there was no God unless the teacher was there. :laughing: In other words, those kids didn’t take all that stuff too seriously.

It was a little bit of a different story when we got into our mid-teens. We talked about religion, but that’s largely because we were learning new modes of social interaction, and examining ideas. Of course we disputed with each other, too. And we began to talk about politics. I don’t think many of the teenagers I hung out with would have been very tolerant of a “preachy” sort of person. Also, a lot of them came from churchgoing households but were atheists, or were agnostics, or were into socialism, or libertarianism, or Ayn Rand, or were experimenting or tinkering with other religious ideas (a mishmash of hippie stuff, a touch of Hinduism, attendance at a few Baha’i firesides, as they were called, Catholic coffeehouse meetings, where all kinds of things were discussed, etc.), or just weren’t religious–it seemed to be irrelevant to a lot of them.

But maybe things have changed in that regard since I was a kid.

Evolution as an idea was around long before genetics, Mendel or Punnett or whomever notwithstanding.

Evolution as an idea was actually around long before Charles Darwin too.

[quote=“urodacus”]Evolution as an idea was around long before genetics, Mendel or Punnett or whomever notwithstanding.[/quote] Figured that, but I said I was pretty sure, rather than absolutely sure, because I’m old, and I don’t trust my memory so much anymore.

[quote=“urodacus”]Evolution as an idea was actually around long before Charles Darwin too.[/quote] Knew that. Said I was a teenage (unwitting) Lamarckian: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarck#La … _evolution

But maybe it predates Lamarck? I mean, as a published idea. Just asking.

In fact, I once posted the speculation that it’s possible people had some notion of Darwin’s idea of natural selection long before Darwin, a notion derived from extrapolating observations about animal breeding to the natural world around them, but that they may have been afraid of expressing that notion:

[quote]Adding my own two cents to what Fortigurn said earlier about someone coming up with the idea before Darwin (I think it was Fortigurn who said it–I hope it was Fortigurn–I’d hate to put words in his mouth): I believe that it’s quite possible, even likely, that at least some person or persons living quite a while before Darwin had some ideas along the lines of natural selection. The word selection is a term of art in animal breeding. I can’t help but think that some exceptionally bright breeder of animals understood how we got different breeds of animal, observed the natural realm, and applied his understanding of breeding to nature.

As to why this person wouldn’t tell the world about it, well, maybe he was illiterate, or modest and shy like Darwin, or maybe, depending on how long ago he lived, he was afraid of being “Menocchioed.”[/quote]

In fact, I think I read that there’s some written evidence of that (pre-Darwinian, maybe 'way pre-Darwinian ideas, about natural selection, that is), but it may have had to do with plants (again, the old memory might not be reliable).

Edit: Well, I couldn’t find the example(s) that I thought I saw earlier on the 'net (about plants), but I stumbled on this one, which I don’t think I’ve seen before, and which is probably better than the example(s) I was thinking of:

[quote]And in the ages after monsters died,
Perforce there perished many a stock, unable
By propagation to forge a progeny.
For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest
Breathing the breath of life, the same have been
Even from their earliest age preserved alive
By cunning, or by valour, or at least
By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock
Remaineth yet, because of use to man . . . [/quote]–Titus Lucretius Carus (99-55 B.C.E.), On The Nature of Things, Book V, from “Evolution and Paleontology in the Ancient World,” article on the University of California Museum of Paleontology Web site

Walt Whitman seems to be suggesting evolution here, in “Song of Myself” (first written in 1855, but maybe revised over the years, so I don’t know when these particular lines were written–Wikipedia says Origin of Species came out in 1859; I’d have to look at a variorum edition of Leaves of Grass in order to say whether Whitman wrote the “huge times ago” line before Origin of Species came out–I’m aware Darwin’s theory predates Origin of Species, and anyway, Whitman may have had the Lamarckian idea):

[quote]So they [i. e., animals] show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their
possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?[/quote]
gutenberg.org/files/1322/1322-h/1322-h.htm

(My personal opinion is that the “I,” “me,” “Myself,” etc., in the poem is the poet’s concept of something different from–or considerably more than–the entity that people typically refer to as “Walt Whitman”–you know, maybe kind of an Atman-Brahman thing; but who knows? It’s Whitman.)

Charlie Jack: My point about people not understanding genetics is that it is necessary to an understanding of evolution. So is understanding what happens in organisms at a cellular level and how DNA reproduces itself. So is the role of mutation. Simply relying on intuition alone isn’t enough because there’s a lot that seems pretty obvious, but there’s also a lot that is quite baffling and it’s always very easy for a sceptic to ask for someone to explain how evolution explains the existence of a particularly odd animal, or a very complex part of that organism or its behaviour. Then the person answering the question can’t adequately explain it and the theory of evolution looks like a kook theory to others.

we don’t have to explain every feature of the world around us to be certain that evolution exists. Entropy swirls in eddies and waves, so there are some counter-selective remnants that persist, as a lot of reproductive success is blind luck, especially for small populations. Dig hard enough and most things can be explained, but for the majority of species out there, it’s easy enough to chart their evolutionary history, and getting easier as we accumulate more knowledge about everything.

But the general principles of evolution are absolutely concretely real. It should not be forgotten that it is not just genes that are responsible for heritable variation, but also the way that those inherited genes are expressed. The control of genetic expression in future descendants of a cell can be modified by changes to the genes themselves or changes to the gene packaging material (the chromatin) or changes to the environment that favor certain expression combinations or patterns, etc. Evolution happens in many dimensions, and there is a gathering swell of evidence that some environmental factors can have a strong influence on future gene expression in descendants. This is the modern field of epigenetics, and it is turning some previously long-held tenets of the central dogma of evolution on their head (not dismissing them, but putting them into a more generalist, comprehensive background). Like Einstein did to Newton.

find and read some Eva Jablonka if you are interested in this.