Posted: 25 Oct 2010 11:03 AM PDT
Do you ever get the feeling that one reason a lot of people can’t stomach the theory of natural selection is that they hate the idea that everything we see around us is the result of blind chance? Hostility to the notion of chance is certainly a recurrent theme in creationist objections.
Of course, evolution by natural selection is not really evolution by chance, as the creationists claim. But even so chance does play a role. Stephen Gould, in many of his essays, repeatedly drove home the importance of chance (or rather, contingency) in evolution. As he argued in the essay “Eight little piggies“, there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason that we have five fingers, rather than 6, or 7, or 8. That’s just the cards we drew.
I say all this by way of introduction to a rather intriguing study by Bastiaan Rutjens, at the
He takes his inspiration from Aaron Kay, at the
What Rutjens did was to prime students (140 in total) by asking half of them to write about a bad experience when they did not feel in control, and also to give three reasons why the future is not controllable. The other half did a similar task, but emphasising and reinforcing their sense of control.
Next, they were given three short descriptions of various theories of evolution, and asked which one they thought more likely to be true. The three theories were Intelligent Design (ID), the Theory of Evolution but emphasising its randomness (TE), and the “Conway Morris” Theory of Evolution (CMTE).
The graph shows what they found. Now, remember this is The Netherlands, so most of the students were pretty godless. Without the ‘loss of control’ priming, almost none of them approve of ID – or, for that matter, CMTE.
But when primed to feel loss of control, the students were much more likely to prefer either ID or CMTE (although still a large majority accepted evolution).
So the students seem to compensate for their feeling of anxiety and uncertainty induced by their loss of control by turning to theories about life that reassure them that there is some kind of plan in place.
All this may help explain why evolution is unpopular in parts of the world where life is full of uncertainty. And it might help explain why religion and rejection of evolution so often go hand in hand. Both are tools that provide compensatory control.
But what’s really interesting is that ID and CMTE seem to be interchangeable. I wonder if presenting Darwinian evolution in CMTE terms might help to get religious people on board. After all, Conway Morris is himself a Christian, which has perhaps influenced his views on evolution!
Rutjens, B., van der Pligt, J., & van Harreveld, F. (2010). Deus or Darwin: Randomness and belief in theories about the origin of life Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46 (6), 1078-1080 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.07.009
Posted: 25 Oct 2010 10:55 AM PDT
Posted: 25 Oct 2010 10:53 AM PDT
The debate on abortion is too often polarised and ill-informed, and should be about better education and not focused on religion, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has said today. The BHA has called for open and objective discussion in this week which marks the 43rd anniversary of the Abortion Act, which legalised abortion in
Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, ‘The debate around abortion is often polarised and ill-informed, with very vocal and strongly anti-choice Christian groups seeking to change the law and take away women’s legal right to access safe abortion. Those views, however, are not representative and surveys often show that there is large agreement in the population towards social, ethical and medical issues such as abortion, regardless of respondents’ religious or non-religious beliefs, with majorities supporting more progressive, liberal perspectives.
‘If there is misunderstanding about the facts on abortion it is not really surprising, given the lack of quality education on it. The inclusion of compulsory Sex and Relationships Education in the curriculum for all state-funded schools was dropped from legislation just before the election. For many students the only information they receive about abortion in schools is highly subjective and provided by well-funded, anti-choice organisations. Moreover, it was only earlier this year that the first television advert was broadcast to give women information about the options they have following an unwanted pregnancy.
‘Women in Great Britain have been able to access safe and legal abortions from the NHS or privately since the 1970s and the anniversary this week of the Abortion Act should be used to promote honest, open and objective discussion of issues about abortion.’
Posted: 24 Oct 2010 06:47 PM PDT
If you read and listen to only American news sources, you missed some important information about the meaning of your life that appeared the Israeli press last week. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, one of the most influential God experts in
If Rabbi Yosef were just a lone wacko, that would be one thing. But he’s not. He’s the “spiritual advisor” to the Shas party, a critical component of the coalition keeping Prime Minister Netanyahu in power, holding no less than four Israeli cabinet posts (an impressive ratio for a party that only won 11 Knesset seats). He served for ten years as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of
Rabbi Yosef knows his Bible. The ninth chapter of the book of Joshua is God’s commandment for the Gentiles of the world to serve the Jews. When Joshua led his armies through
God also dictated helpful rules about how Gentile slaves should be treated: “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.”
Though the Jews lost political control of
• If a Gentile strikes a Jew, the Gentile must be killed.
Today we are in a new era of Jewish rule over
Rabbi Yosef tells it like it is.
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