Denying Darwin: Views on science in the rejection of evolution

Denying Darwin: Views on science in the rejection of evolution by Dutch Protestants

From Public Understanding of Science

Since its publication (1859), the evolution theory of Charles Darwin has met with considerable opposition, notably from religious circles. Although scientific opposition decreased soon after, public rejection of evolution never died down. Recent research shows that a substantial part of the western world does not accept the idea of evolution. This article tries to understand the evolution controversy by reframing it as a phenomenon of public understanding of science. Interviews with Dutch Protestant Christians found that the main reason for rejecting evolution was ana priori decision to trust the Bible more than science. Findings suggest that the decision to reject evolution does not involve scientific knowledge. Arguments drawn from science are merely viewed as an addition to a decision that is already made and serve as a rationale to a non-rational decision. The respondents use different levels of knowledge to think about the world. In this case, there is religious knowledge, which says that God created the world. There is also scientific knowledge, which explains the world in scientific terms. The scientific way of thinking does not replace the religious way of thinking about the world, but coexists with it.  However as for the implication for debates concerning evolution and creation, it can be concluded that a scientific discussion about the validity of evolution with Christians who reject evolution can be expected to have limited success.

Abstract

Evolution has met with considerable religious opposition for 150 years and is still controversial among various religious groups. This article tries to understand the evolution controversy by reframing it as a phenomenon of public understanding of science. Three paradigms were used as hypotheses for the rejection of evolution by Dutch Protestant Christians: knowledge deficit, attitude deficit and trust deficit. Ten Dutch Protestants rejecting evolution were interviewed about their views concerning evolution and science. It was found that the main reason for rejecting evolution was ana priori decision to trust the Bible more than science. Any views on science and evolution were based on this decision, so all three hypotheses, which suggest an a posteriori decision, were found to be not sufficient to explain the rejection of evolution, even though both a knowledge deficit and a trust deficit were found for some participants. However, all respondents felt that their a priori decision was supported by scientific facts. All respondents stated that evolution does not meet the criteria for good science and is therefore as unscientific as the belief in creation. Excluding evolution from science allows the respondents to retain their positive attitudes towards science.

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Article details
Hildering, P., Consoli, L., & van den Born, R. (2012). Denying Darwin: Views on science in the rejection of evolution by Dutch Protestants Public Understanding of Science DOI: 10.1177/0963662512437328

     
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