Creationists are just too far away , Good, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1571)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Richard,

We are all indebted to you for your indefatigable fight against the enemies of reason. I fear, however, that this is a lost battle if we try to convince them to use reason, and I will try to explain why. Believers in general are out of reach for any argument based on evidence. Science is all about looking at facts and applying the powerful resoning abilities of the human mind. But believers, while using all their capacities to the full to guide their decisions, simply refuse to use them when in contradiction with Revelation. This poses no particular problem for them in their lives. Take the fossil record, for example. Just looking at a fossil dug out from the sand on a beach will not convince them, nor should it. The importance of that fossil relies on a number of combined observation and a complex reasoning thread which prove how old they really are. It is all too easy to be lazy or stubborn and refuse to follow it all. And they have no intellectual incentive to do that. In the extreme, a creationist will might well say that the world was created like this by God, with fake evidence, fossils and all, as a trap to non-believers that choose to follow reason over Revelation.

Then, what?

I think it is worthwhile to consider the why. Creationists are not stupid, since they are usually as adept at surviving in a complex world as the next person. This survival takes quite a lot of reasoning and evidence-awareness. So, why do they refuse to use it when it brings contradiction with their beliefs?

I think the surge in irrationality should be studied using evidence and reason. Like all irrational beliefs, religion has many more chances to be passed on to the next generation if it is installed in the child’s mind early, when it is more pliable and vulnerable, as you well know and have repeatedly pointed out. Because one of the features of religion (at least in Christian denominations) is the promotion of reproduction, it seems highly likely that religious people have more offspring than unbelievers. Could that explain the surge in creationism? I don’t know if you have the data, but the percentage of creationists whose parents were also creationists is probably quite high, and the average number of children in creationists families ahould also be considerably higher than that of the general population. If so, a few generations could make all the difference. If the data did not support this view, then another explanation has to be sought. We then would expect to find a significant number of people that have become creationists by choice, possibly in their adulthood. If this were the case, furrther research would need to be made about the age and circumstances of their ‘conversion’: when it happened, level of education, numeracy and literacy, average income, exposure to difficult personal life conditions, and all the rest.

To summarize, only by understanding their reasons to embrace irrationality it is possible to fight this phenomenon.

Yours truly,
Enrique Povo

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