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Dinosaurs and Humans! Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

02.18.10

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll (you know how much I love these*):

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals.

For those keeping score at home, that means that 50% of Texans don’t believe in the theory of evolution.  (It also means that they consider the theory of evolution a belief system, which means that they don’t understand the definition of scientific theory.)  And that about 30% think that Grok had a pet Triceratops and had to avoid being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex when out hunting.

If this were contained simply within the Bible Belt, it would still be intellectually depressing but somewhat understandable.  But when  the Texas Board of Education essentially determines what gets taught in history textbooks that become the standard for nearly every public school across the country, this ignorance cannot be ignored.

…the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years

(My emphasis.)  Note that these changes to the textbooks – including changing the previously established language describing the U.S. Constitution as “living” to “enduring”; requiring teachers to go over the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution; and pushing forth their main goal of establishing the U.S. as a “Christian nation” by revisionist accounts of the Founding Fathers and a unique interpretation of the First Amendment – will end up in nearly 48 million textbooks distributed to at least 46 of the 50 states to use in their public school systems.

And we wonder why so many people don’t believe in evolution.  Or in climate change.  Or who think that the earth is 6,000 years old.  Or that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

* With regard to polls, I feel that the associated NY Times article lends this data some weight.  The questions asked are also much more straight forward than some polls that I’ve seen – like the ones Rasmussen conducts where they ask people “Do you like the health care bill?” or “Are you happy with the current government’s policies?” that provide no context for people’s discontent or allow them to provides reasons that might clarify just what they don’t like about policies, which is the important information to know.  This poll asks value questions on purpose rather than skewing value questions as policy questions.  Also – this isn’t the only poll that has found these kind of numbers.  According to this article by the Pew Research Center from 2009:

Opinion polls over the past two decades have found the American public deeply divided in its beliefs about the origins and development of life on earth. Surveys are fairly consistent in their estimates of how many Americans believe in evolution or creationism. Approximately 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life, while comparable or slightly larger numbers accept the idea that humans evolved over time. The wording of survey questions generally makes little systematic difference in this division of opinion, and there has been little change in the percentage of the public who reject the idea of evolution.

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12 comments

  1. Wait, so you believe in dinosaurs?


    • Yup. I’m a Dinosaurist.


  2. Aside from this theory, (and yes everything that isn’t creationism is a theory) that humans and dinosaurs did or did not live together is bunk is ridiculous. You get discouraged because so many people believe in creation. Why? Maybe the majority of people don’t want to put their faith in a bunch of imperfect humans who speculate and propose theories because so much evidence is left open-ended. To even fathom that the world was created because a couple particles bumped into each other is insane! This world is more complex and deeper than any human can imagine or dream up theories about.

    I think it’s just too difficult for evolutionist accept that more people would rather believe in a sound truth (The Bible) and not have to speculate or ask how. It’s all right there from God himself telling us exactly how it happened.

    I do believe things evolve and we as human evolve and adapt to our surroundings, but there is absolutely no evidence confirming these “theories” that we have evolved from simple organisms or monkeys for that matter.

    All you evolutionist think we are so close minded and we complete discredit science. Science has done wonders for this world and has made many things possible, but why spend all this time and energy on pure speculation of something simply because a group of people (the minority) don’t want to accept the truth.


    • It’s amazing how little you can say with so many words. Sam, I hate to be elitist, but your comment has shown me you know nothing of science and therefore your opinions are essentially garbage.

      My advice is to get a good popular book that describes REAL evolutionary theory (ex. Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish”), read it, UNDERSTAND IT, and then come back to have a conversation on the subject of evolution. A basic understanding of these principles is necessary to have any educated stance on the subject. So read up and then come back if you want to learn more.


    • Evolution is a theory not because there is no way to prove it, but more so because we don’t have direct knowledge of the precise path taken to get to our current state of events. Nobody in the intellectual world debates the concept of evolution, they are all in agreement that a single organism spawned all of life as we know it. This can be shown via DNA and RNA evidence, as well as countless experiments done over the last century showing how evolution plays a key role in species survival (Galapagos finches, for example).

      Those that deny evolution generally do so out of either ignorance, or their fundamentalist mentality. The idea of a creator opens up a pandora’s box of unanswerable questions, most obviously who created the creator?

      As chadwick has already stated, before arguing this point, I highly recommend reading up on the subject. Origin of the species is extremely dry, but the best starting point because it is so obvious in its simplicity. There are countless others, never read Your Inner Fish, that can do the trick. It is easy to deny something you know little about, but once you understand Evolution, going beyond it to the creation of the Universe is actually a simple feat.


    • Sam –

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Based on what you’ve said, I’m assuming that you take the Bible (namely the Old Testament) literally. If that’s the case, then I have no doubt that we will never see eye-to-eye on the topic of evolution. You think that it’s insane to think that the universe was created by the Big Bang; I think that it’s insane to believe every word of an ancient collection of writings by numerous men (put together into what we now know as The Bible over the course of hundreds of years by different church leaders who – as mortal, imperfect men – chose which stories to keep in the canon) about an invisible yet all-powerful being named God who created everything that we know as the world, including Himself.

      That being said, I don’t think you’re closed-minded for having faith. Religion is an enormous part of human culture and your beliefs are yours to keep. I do think you’re ignorant of what evolution really is. It’s not a belief system. It’s not taken on faith. It’s easily the most scrutinized scientific theory in the history of humanity. See, you consider the word “theory” to mean “pure speculation.” This is an error on your part. While in colloquial usage, yes, theory tends to mean some far-fetched, hair-brained explanation that just spurts from someone’s head – maybe because of its association with the term “conspiracy theory.” Regardless, scientific theory is taken as fact. It’s the factual explanation of a process and like Zhann said above – it’s not called a theory because of a lack of evidence. Quite the contrary.

      You say that The Bible is “sound truth” but the only evidence whatsoever is simply The Bible itself. There are no tests, no experiments to run that could ever prove your claim that The Bible is the truth. Simply saying that “it’s all right there from God himself telling us exactly how it happened” proves nothing. You take it on faith, which is, by definition, is believing something without proof or evidence. Just because this information comes from a supposedly perfect being doesn’t mean you can trust it if you can’t prove that it was written by the perfect being or even that the perfect being exists.

      It just comes down to the difference between religion and science. They have distinctly different duties: one to explain why we’re here; the other to explain how we’re here. My issue is with people who conflate the two.


  3. I am not arguing that I am ignorant on the subject. I honestly have a hard time reading most of it because it is quickly discredited based on my beliefs in creation. There is no more supporting evidence about the Big Bang for me than there is about creation for you.

    Zhann, you stated “The idea of a creator opens up a pandora’s box of unanswerable questions, most obviously who created the creator?”

    God exists outside of time. Since we live in a universe of cause and effect, we naturally assume that this is the only way in which any kind of existence can function.

    Without the dimension of time, there is no cause and effect, and all things that could exist would have no need of being caused, but would have always existed. Therefore, God has no need of being created, but, in fact, created the time dimension of our universe specifically for a reason – so that cause and effect would exist for us. However, since God created time, cause and effect would never apply to His existence.

    I find myself feeling frustrated because both sides want evidence and it’s simply not there. I don’t think it ever will be or is intended to be.

    Scientist are constantly trying to discredit the idea of creation based on a lack of evidence. They want proof of God’s fingerprint somewhere to prove otherwise. For a Christian, we see that proof everyday when we look at the sky or look at the trees. All of the world around us is proof of intelligent design. We as humans are so complex the idea that we evolved from simplistic organisms is just and extreme notion to me.

    It’s just as difficult for me to believe in these theories when so much of it is a hodgepodge of ideas based on one little fossil finding. The people find some evidence and spend the next 5 years trying to fill in the blanks to fit into the evolution story so they don’t’ have to believe the alternative.

    I will read the books recommended to gain a better understanding towards evolution. I am not opposed to a better understanding of it, I just know it’s not going to be a huge paradigm shift in what I believe in.


    • You have no idea how sad it makes me when anyone says something as profoundly idiotic as “I honestly have a hard time reading most of it because it is quickly discredited based on my beliefs…” Essentially, you are stating that your beliefs trump empirical evidence because you don’t want to give up your beliefs. That isn’t seeking truth, that’s ignoring a possible truth simply due to the fact that not changing your position is easier/makes you feel more comfortable/whatever.

      I am evidence based. So is evolution, and there is LOADS of evidence for it for anyone who is willing to do something as simple as a google search. It wouldn’t be so strong a theory if it weren’t held up by multiple lines of evidence: molecular, paleontological, developmental, anatomical, physiological, etc. In fact, it’s a STAGGERING amount of evidence that no one yet has proposed a better theory for explaining how it all came about. Your theory is that some supernatural being just made it the way it is, end of story.

      Show me your evidence. I’m actually willing to take a look at it because that’s what scientists do, we look for better understanding through better ideas. Unless you’ve stumbled on something scholars have missed over the past few hundred years I’m sorry to say that your idea has been thoroughly discredited. Not like that will stop you from believing it though…


  4. re: “And we wonder why so many people don’t believe in evolution. Or in climate change. Or who think that the earth is 6,000 years old. Or that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.”

    No I don’t believe in evolution.

    Yes the earth is about 6000 years old according to the Bible. http://youngearth.wordpress.com/

    Yes dinosaurs and human’s co-existed (it’s so obvious).

    Apparently many Texans also read their Bible and prefer to rely on it as a better historical account of man than Darwin’s numerous and unverified presuppostions.

    People of faith who believe that God is the Creator of man as the Bible teaches have this personal choice: a) toss out the Bible b) toss out the book of Darwin and the theory of evolution or c) attempt to reconcile both under one irreconciable philosophy.

    Both belief systems require some amount of faith; one pits faith in the theories of Darwin and his followers against the ancient Biblical text declaring that God alone is Creator of heavan, earth and man.

    Both belief systems are in in opposition to the other; athiests and agnostics fit comfortably into one camp and fundamental Christians are comfortably separated into another camp.

    Both belief systems are imcompatable and cannot be reconciled. The Darwinist get to publish his pet theory of the day as science and even in children’s textboooks. Christians on the other hand are excluded from mentioning the Bible in a school setting because of so called separation of church and state.

    This separation between evolutionists and creationists is profound as the difference between day and night.


    • Again, evolution is not a belief system; it’s not a faith. Because it doesn’t line up exactly with your beliefs, you dismiss scientific fact. That’s your prerogative and you’re completely entitled to your beliefs. But, it doesn’t make you right – especially not in the scientific realm. It also doesn’t mean that your beliefs should be taught alongside science.

      I actually don’t think that the numbers from that poll indicate that a large percentage of Texans are fundamentalist Christians. I think they’re misinformed partly due to the the work of some fundamentalist Christians and just plain ignorance. You are a fundamentalist who disregards what you can plainly see in front of you in favor of an ancient text written by a bunch of men barely out of the cave who were trying to explain their world. Men who didn’t know that germs make you sick. Or that the earth revolves around the sun. Or that we’re all made up of atoms.

      The Bible can be mentioned in a school setting. It should be taught in philosophy, history, and theology courses. It just has no business whatsoever being in a science course. This isn’t because of some discrimination. It’s just the same reason you don’t teach physics in a language course or chemistry in a creative writing class. They seek to teach different subjects.


      • I really want to call a Poe on youngearth, but I actually think he may be serious. Now my brain hurts.


  5. Sam, your faith does in fact blind you, which chadwick has already mentioned. I don’t want to reiterate his point, but it is important that you do not let your faith dissuade you from learning facts.

    Youngearth, and Sam to some part … the Bible, in all its glory, is a book of a great deal of fiction. Very few Bible scholars take the book literally in its entirety. Many of its books, Esther for example, are obvious fabrications. The pentateuch has never been taken overly literally by the original writers, the Jews, who have instead looked at it as a cryptic metaphor for our existence. The Christians, at some point, decided that the Bible is the literal truth and began executing all those that didn’t believe … a great way to start a religion, no?

    Putting your faith in the Bible and ignoring the countless ancient texts that contradict many of its statements is a futile exercise. Going back to the Jews, most Jewish scholars accept evolution as fact, noting that the first creation story in Genesis is obviously not meant to be taken literally … how can the first 3 days have been a Day when the sun was only created on the third day? Jewish scholars take the first 7 days as metaphor, and only begin tracing humanities history after the day of rest.

    While I would love to debate the Tanakh, this would deviate from the original point of this thread. Denying evolution, or scientific creation theory in general, is a sign of ignorance rather than intellectual prowess. There are endless creationist theories outside of the ones you believe in, what makes yours special? (obviously, a rhetorical question)



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