Barriers to understanding evolution
Why creationism is popular, Why belief in evolution is difficult
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA structure, said "Anybody who believes that the earth is less than 10,000 years old needs psychiatric help." While I disagree, it accurately reflects feelings of many of our best scientists. James Watson, another co-discoverer, said "Today, evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are not based on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles." To biologists who use evolutionary concepts in everyday work, both statements are eminently reasonable and creationism is as plausible as the flat Earth.
Evolution is remote from everyday life and may escape notice unless encountered during education. It's a complex process which at first seems virtually impossible. Considering evolution holistically, the "argument from incredulity" is a major barrier to understanding. Scientists however consider matters analytically, i.e. they break them into parts (reductionism). The "parts" of evolution include variation within species, correlations in geographical distribution of species, selection, and change in species over time. Individual parts are analyzed, tested and finally assembled into a plausible picture of evolution. Most recently these same "parts" have been examined and tested at the level of DNA sequence. Once again they make a plausible picture of evolution. Furthermore the individual parts make testable predictions which biologists use in everyday research. It is prediction and testing that make science. Creationism makes no useful predictions and is therefore not useful to scientists.
Although evolution is firmly established (since 1873 in the American biological community) it's a very general process and details will remain sketchy for centuries. Biologists, like all of us, tend to "fill in" unknown details. It's easy for those who begin with the argument from incredulity to assume that evolution as a whole is therefore a fable.
1- The bible is a book of science.
- The bible ignores the basic principles of biology (e.g. cells, genes, microbes, etc), chemistry (atoms, molecules, conservation of mass, etc.) and physics (mechanics, heat, light, etc.). It's ambiguous on such fundamentals as Earth's shape and structure of the Solar System. In short the Bible has neither the content nor the clarity expected of a science book. Note that Henry Morris believes otherwise.
2- The bible contradicts evolution.
- Job 26:10 says the Earth is a circle. Therefore it cannot be a sphere.
3- Evolution is the root of the world's evils.
- There's no evidence that on average evolutionary biologists are less moral than "true believers". One finds scoundrels in all social groups. Nor is there evidence that biologists weaken the moral fabric of society.
4- Since Genesis is the basis of Christianity its literal interpretation is critical.
- Conversely, does reading Genesis as science obscure its important messages?
5- If people believe we're descended from monkeys, they'll behave like monkeys.
- Casual observation contradicts this.
6- Evolution is satanic.
- The theory of evolution is the product of empirical observation and hypothetico-deductive reasoning. These are the accepted methods for studying nature.
7- Evolution is a threat to religious beliefs.
- It is, especially if they're dogmatic and exclusive.
8- Evolution is only a theory.
- Evolution is a scientific theory (not a vernacular "theory").
9- There's too much missing evidence to accept evolution.
- The nature of gravitational force is obscure - should we abandon gravity?
10- I know many disproofs of evolution.
- Have these been tested experimentally or are they rationalizing?
11- Evolution doesn't stand up to propositional logic
- Probabilistic reasoning is far more useful in science than propositional logic.
12- Evolution has been disproved
- Beware of unreliable sources and miseducation
13- Good people don't believe in evolution
- You need to expand your social horizons