Why People Reject Evolution

Why People Reject Evolution November 8, 2013

From Tyler Francke’s God of Evolution blog, where you will also find the top ten signs that you don’t understand evolution at all.

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  • Joshua Smith

    This same pie chart could also represent “Why People Reject Religion”.

    • David Evans

      Or, indeed, “Why People Reject Islam” (feel free to substitute any religion you believe to be false)

      The difference being that there is much more evidence for evolution than for any religion.

      I’m not happy with the total absence of blue in the Evolution chart. I think there are people who have a good general concept of evolution, and accept that it happens, but regard the step from non-human animals to humans as qualitatively different. I believe that was the last Pope’s position.

      • TomS

        As a person who has no problem with accepting the reality of evolution, I find this “chart” puzzling, if not offensive.

        It certainly does nothing to convince someone about evolution. What is it supposed to do, make us feel comfortable that we understand evolution and all of those people don’t? How many of the people who “believe in” evolution have good reasons? (For that matter, how about heliocentrism?) How many, for example, think that evolution is all about fossils?

        • I am aware that people may accept evolution for poor reasons. Such people are not mentioned on this chart. The chart tries to jolt people into realizing that they may be rejecting a caricature or misrepresentation of evolution.

          • Joshua Smith

            …Which is what I was implying with my comment above. Most people who reject religion outright do not bother with spending years and years studying it at a university and working through the complicated arguments of serious scholars. Rather, many tend to reject an oversimplification or caricature of religion. Not that I think science and religion are the same. Just that the same argument can be applied to almost anything.

          • David Evans

            Religion is not a single, undifferentiated entity. How much time have you spent studying all the religions that you reject?

            Many people reject the concept of an omnipotent and all-loving god because of the problem of evil. Is that concept an oversimplification or caricature? How many proposed solutions to the problem am I obliged to consider?

          • A Pew Study reports that atheists are among the highest scoring groups in a survey of religious knowledge, outperforming Christians by a wide margin. Of course, such a survey is, by no means, and in-depth theological study, but the idea that one must spend “years and years studying it at a university”, before one is priviledged to reject a religion is, frankly, silly.

            Would one have the same expectation before rejecting the plethora of religions, philosophies, or political ideologies available to us. You could suggest, as is the case with sciences such as evolution, that we should defer to the opinions of experts; but with religion, who do you listen to? The majority of theologians who embrace religion, the majority of philosophers who do not, the majority of scientists who do not, the majority of the population who do?

      • Jakeithus

        As someone who likes to consider himself as falling within the blue on the chart, I too am not completely happy with the total absence of the colour.

        Of course, it’s probably not completely accurate to say that I “reject evolution” either, as I often think it overreaches more than I reject the concept itself.

    • Herro

      So everyone rejects religion because “they don’t understand it”? What part of religion is so hard for the irreligious to understand?

  • Herro

    I suspect that many people reject evolution not because they don’t understand it, but becaue it contradicts their religious beliefs. So this pie chart is rather silly.

    • Joshua Smith

      Those two are not mutually exclusive. I would argue that people who reject evolution because it contradicts their religious beliefs don’t understand evolution OR religion.

      • Herro

        I agree that they aren’t mutually exclusive. But the basic idea behind evolution isn’t that complicated. All the famous creationists (e.g. Jonathan Wells, Dembski and so on) understand it. How many of the deniers understand it I don’t know, but at least some.

        Why do you say that they don’t understand religion? :S

        • Joshua Smith

          Because religion is complicated. It’s not as simple as rejecting the notion that “some dude lives in the sky and will let you live forever if you believe in his only son whom he demanded to die” etc.

          Religion—any religion, not just Christianity—is a vastly complex interplay of philosophy, history, cultural anthropology, psychology, and, in some cases, literary interpretation. It involves serious inquiry into the origins of the universe and the rise of human ethics systems. Granted, there are a lot of ignorant religious people out there who reject things without understanding them. But there are also people who reject religion irrationally, as well.

        • If Jonathan Wells and William Dembski understand evolution, then they deliberately misrepresent it. That is of course a possibility. But that they don’t understand it is also a possible explanation.

    • spinkham

      I’d say it’s not only silly, it’s dangerous. If you don’t appreciate that evolution is one of the prime examples of cultural cognition, where you refuse to accept things that challenge your cultural identity, you will do all the wrong things to try to fight it.

      I realize it’s an attempt at humor, but as it reinforces a common and rather counterproductive misconception of why people reject evolution it’s just notnot numerous to me.

  • Whoa, there! Some people reject Evolution even though they understand it because they’re stubborn fundamentalists.

  • arcseconds

    It rather depends on what you mean by rejecting and understanding evolution, doesn’t it?

    Biological evolution means a lot of different things: descent with modification, descent with modification over a long period of time from simple organisms, and random mutation and natural selection being the main (or only!) mechanisms. If you accept all of that, you clearly accept evolution, and if you reject all of it categorically, you reject evolution, but there’s a lot of distance between those points.

    If ‘understanding evolution’ means believing in the current orthodox mainstream view of the evolutionary biology community, and ‘rejecting evolution’ means deviating one iota from this orthodoxy, then I certainly hope there are many evolutionary biologists who understand yet reject evolution! If not, the discipline is in a bad way.

    That’s almost certainly not what was intended, of course, but how much deviation from the orthdoxy counts as ‘rejecting’? Does it include intelligent design? Claiming that some features of living beings had the hand of a designer involved is quite compatible with belief in an old earth, descent with modification, and random variation and natural selection being the primary mechanisms involved. Someone holding to this view could certainly understand orthodox evolution well enough, and actually for the most part embrace it, but think it’s not the whole story.

    Similarly for the ‘humans are different’ people that David mentions.

    However, it seems to me that Young Earth Creationists who understand evolution yet reject it must be very rare. I’ve never met one who showed any real understanding of evolution and the evidence for it. To understand the evidence would include understanding why people find it compelling, and to do this yet reject it outright would be an unusual, and dare I say it, bold thing to do.

    I’d like to meet such a person, if indeed they exist.

    (I have a vague idea that one such was mentioned somewhere on talk.origins)

    • radpet

      The issue has to do with life. Science has studied life, but no scientist has ever made something alive from inert matter. This is the realm of the living God who created everything that is alive. The lack of understanding of evolution is that no one can believe it without adding to it great expanses of time. So how long does the primordial soup have to cook for a living organism to crawl out? It makes more sense to me to believe that the Bible is a revealed account from God as the only witness to creation.
      As for Bible secrets, do you believe someone is finally uncovering secrets about a book that has been continuously published since the invention of the printing press?

      • You seem to think that this post was about abiogenesis. It wasn’t. It was about evolution. If you are not sure what the distinction is between the two, it is obviously something about which you ought to be informed before commenting in a way that suggests that all Christians are poorly informed in the way you are.

        Genesis has some interesting things to say about the sea and earth bringing forth life at God’s command. Why do people who say they are defending Genesis rarely seem to have read it carefully?

      • arcseconds

        There are an awful lot of reasons for believing in the great expanses of time apart from evolution. So this isn’t an ad hoc stipulation introduced just to shore up evolution, but rather something that’s well attested to.

        As for scientists not having made anything from inert matter — what does that matter? You can understand much about something without being able to make it yourself.

      • I always find it odd when someone thinks it’s somehow meaningful to say that scientists can’t create life. Scientists study the universe; they rarely try to “recreate” it. Would you say that no scientist has ever created a star in the laboratory, therefore all that we know about stars must be wrong?

        • TomS

          What I find interesting about that observation is that it is used to show that life must be “intelligently designed”. Because life is so unlike things that we know are intelligently designed, it must be intelligently designed?