Did we evolve?

The NYT reports on a new survey of opinions about evolution with an amusing headline:

"Did humans evolve? Not us, say Americans"

(Original article in Science).

These surveys tend to reflect the same findings as the ones that find Americans way down the list of geographical knowledge.

In his book What it means to be 98% chimpanzee, Jonathan Marks offers an interesting explanation for these kind of findings. He says that it's not surprising when you present evolution as soulless and ridden with fatalistic overtones ("we are our genes"). Interesting for an anthropologist, anyway. By contrast the authors of this study argue that it's Americans own fault: the rise of fundamentalism and the politicization of science are their causes.

These two different interpretations suggest two very different solutions. Marks: scientists (esp. geneticists), get over yourselves! Science: Americans, become more secular and believe that science occurs without politics!

The scientist says: "Science has explained many things about the universe. Your life has no meaning. Have a nice day." And then he is surprised and appalled at the public rejection of that philosophy. (Marks, p. 283).
Support for Marks might come from the fact that the only country below the USA is Turkey, presumably because of Islamic fundamentalism. Also, Marks will no doubt groan at the interpretation of the scientists.

However, many of the other countries on the list above the USA presumably also hear the soulless-fatal view of science and they haven't rejected evolution.

Marks suggests that a better approach against the aggressiveness of science is to teach people "a humanistic, anthropological approach to science...to present science not so much as the one true answer in opposition to the many false ones (which has a famuiliar evangelical ring to it) but as an answer constructed within a particular cultural framework" (284-5).

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