22 August 2011

Evolution Belief A Function of Ideology, Not Brains and Education

While there is a correlation between evolution belief and inteligence, and between evolution belief and education, these correlations become statistically insignificant once you control for political ideology and religious beliefs. This supports the notion that your education and intelligence may influence your religious and political beliefs, but that once you have adopted as set of religious and political beliefs, those ideologies trump your intelligence and education when it comes to the issue of evolution.

I suspect that the political ideology component would also disappear if you could control for different flavors of religion and political ideology better. Hence, non-Christian political conservatives like Razib at Gene Expression and a lot of neo-conservatives are probably pretty similar in evolution belief to other non-Christians, while Christian liberals tend to have different theologies from Christian conservatives to the point that calling both religions "Christian" loses almost all descriptive power regarding how they interact with the world and live their lives and shape their beliefs about non-religious topics (and even which topics they consider to be religious).

Put another way, you first decide if you will listen or not listen to science on questions where religion arguably offers an answer, and then you put on your scientist hat only with regard to non-religious questions.

This sounds almost schizophrenic. But, it really isn't so much different from adopting one set of beliefs to try to understand the plot of a fantasy novel where magic is real, and another one to understand real life. Evolution is so far removed from the every day experience of the average person that the events it recounts may just as well be a fairy tale; unless you do science professionally, the downside of an inaccurate belief on this score (or even more in a yet more remote from experience field like cosmology) is almost nil, except for the social prices you pay for publicly holding or not holding that belief in your immediate social circle.

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