Sunday, April 10, 2011

A few passing thoughts, #6

Updated Speaking of lizard brains and thinking, the right-wing war of the former on the latter continues apace.
In the first three months of 2011, nine creationism-related bills have been introduced in seven states—that's more than in any year in recent memory.
The states are Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, along with Oklahoma and Tennessee with two bills each. Four of the nine, covering three of the states, died in committee but the rest are still moving through the various state legislatures and some are given good chances of passing.

The level of understanding of the science involved can be seen in the words of Texas state Rep. Bill Zedler, who defended his bill to enable the teaching of so-called "intelligent design" (by banning "discrimination" against those who advocate it) by asking when was the last time someone found that a tornado had made a watch.

And there is Florida state Sen. Stephen Wise, who asked "Why do we still have apes if we came from them?"

I've often wondered why the fact of evolution is so hard for right-wingers to accept. It can't really be just the bizarre notion of Biblical inerrancy when the number of such true believers is clearly surpassed by those who deny the scientific facts. It seems to me, ultimately, that a lot of it is just an old-fashioned "ick" factor: They are so tied to the idea of a unique specialness in being human, so emotionally invested in the concept of their own separate, superior station, that they just can't abide the notion that we are in any way connected to other animals, even if any direct link exists in pre-history. It's a matter of "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"

On the other hand, it could be that they just can't help it, the poor dears. A study at University College, London, compared the brains of people who self-identify as liberals and conservatives. The liberal brains tended to be bigger in an area that deals with processing conflicting information while the conservative brains tended to be bigger in an area that processes fear and recognizes threats. So all the rejection of evolution is kind of like a grown-up - well, make that "older" - version of being afraid of the dark.

Footnote: The National Center for Science Education is a good resource.

Updated with the paragraph about different brain structures.


Larkspur said...

Evolution is so brilliant that it always amazes me when people who claim to believe in God run from the idea. Like today, I was doing some odd jobs for a little extra cash, and among other things, I was scrubbing off some planters and a deck. It's been a wet Northern California winter, and there's moss and other stuff growing everywhere, in the grout, in all the concrete crevices. And I'm scrubbing it off, and I'm laughing, because it's so damn brilliant. Rain splashes up dirt; moss and weeds see dirt and think, Hey I can grow there!

I'm totally agnostic, but if I were inclined to religion, seeing the cheerful opportunism of moss would just reinforce it. Same with evolution, with anything that keeps pushing forward into the future.

So yeah, it's hard for me to see the source of the anxiety too. But I think apes, regardless of whether they are damned or dirty, are pretty brilliant too.

BTW, thanks for these passing thoughts.

Lotus said...

Thanks for the comment! I think evolution is brilliant, too. Such an amazingly complex but still quite elegant process.

I know what you mean about wondering why religious people run from the idea of evolution. I remember a time some years back when during a classroom debate I asked a minister who was a creationist why, when he could conceive of a God who could create all of existence right down to the subatomic, who could design the physical forces that define our universe, who could set down the laws of physics, he could not conceive of a God who created evolution.

I got in reply a Bible quotation (I don't remember what it was) which didn't answer the question.

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