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Man encounters uncertainty in his daily life, and typically it's an unpleasant experience. A new scientific study shows that fear of the theory of evolution may largely be due to peoples' negative feelings about unpredictable or random behavior.  (Source: Best of Media Blog)
Personal experiences may drive disbelief in evolution, as much or more so than religious beliefs

Today, most Ph.D instructors in life-science related fields conclude based on the overwhelming body of evidence that evolution was the process of changes that took life on Earth from unicellular life, to multicellular life in all its grandeur -- including man.  Yet, 44 percent of respondents to a recent 2007 Gallop Poll of U.S. citizens stated that they believed that God created man in its current form (pure creationism) and  44 percent stated they believed God guided human evolution (intelligent design).

A new behavioral science study performed at the University of Amsterdam and published in the peer-reviewed 
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology offers fascinating clues as to why some people may disavow evolution.

Intriguingly, while many people believe religious reasons to be the driving factor, for many people it appears that fear of randomness and uncontrolled circumstances is one of the major motivations for people to deny the theory of evolution.

In the study, a set of 140 undergraduate students were broken into two categories.  The first were told nothing before a questionnaire, but the second set were "primed" by asking them to recall a past threatening situation in their lives over which they had no control, and then asking them to give three reasons why the future is uncontrollable.

The students were then asked to pick which theory they felt was most valid among three popular theories of evolution -- traditional evolution, intelligent design (a religious-based theory that a deity guided evolution), and a newer secular theory of non-random evolution:

  1. The standard theory of evolution which "emphasized that natural selection is generally a random process in which unpredictable features of the natural environment determine the outcomes."

  2. An "intelligent design" theory which, "explained how a controlling designer, not random processes, provides the best way to explain the world."

  3. A view of evolution by natural selection which, "described how evolution of life is not random but orderly and predictable; replayed, evolution would inevitably result is a similar world as the present one," described in 2006 by the paleontologist Simon Conway-Morris.

The non-primed volunteers mostly preferred the traditional theory of evolution.  But the primed subjects, who had the topic of uncertainty in their lives fresh in their minds, were 15 percent more likely to pick intelligent design (#2), and 25 percent more likely to support a non-religious theory of ordered evolution (#3).

The study's authors, Professor Bastiaan Rutjens, et. al, conclude:

In sum, although it has been argued that science and religion are fundamentally opposed explanations of life, it seems that they can be deployed interchangeably to restore order. As we have seen in this study, framing Darwin's Theory of Evolution as depicting an orderly and predictable process reduced the need to bolster belief in a supernatural agent. In other words, increases in religious belief under threat are nullified when other (even science-based) options to restore order are present.

So perhaps resistance to evolutionary theory is based less on one's beliefs and more on an inherent human fear of uncertainty.  

That conclusion brings to mind the infamous quote by renowned physicist Albert Einstein, "I, at any rate, am convinced that [God] does not throw dice."

While it's easy to dismiss such research as trivial or inconsequential, it's important to bear in mind that the swing of the evolution debate determines a slew of measures, including public schools curriculum, college research grants, and more.  By determining that part of the mental roadblock to evolution is in the uncertainty, college and public schools instructors may be able to present the theory in a less threatening way, and at last convince the skeptical public of this theory that the majority of professional scientists believe there is conclusive evidence to support.





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