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Monday
Jan112016

The (non)relationship between "believing in" evolution and being engaged by evolutionary science

Are Americans who “disbelieve in” human evolution as likely as those who “believe in” it to be interested in a science documentary on our species’ natural history? Would they accept the evidence in such a documentary as valid and convincing?

“No” and “no” would seem to be the obvious answers.  It’s not as if those who reject human evolution just haven’t been shown the proof yet. However skillfully presented, then, another exposition of evolutionary science, one might think, would be more likely to antagonize them than to pique their interest.

But Study 1 in CCP’s Evidence-based Science Filmmaking Initiative suggests that things aren’t that simple.

The study involved a nationally representative sample of 2500 U.S. adults.  In line with national survey findings that haven't changed for decades (Newport 2014), about 40% of the subjects selected “false” in response to the survey item “Human beings evolved from an earlier species of animal.”

Study subjects were instructed to view as much or as little as they chose of a 10-minute science documentary segment.  The segment was excerpted from Your Inner Fish, an award-winning documentary on evolution that was produced by ESFI collaborator Tangled Bank Studios and that was broadcast on PBS in 2014. The excerpt in question examined the origins of color vision in humans.

The study also measured subjects’ science curiosity and science comprehension. Both of these dispositions were positively correlated with subjects’ acceptance of evolution. But the strength of the relationships was quite modest .  Among those who “believed” in evolution and among those who did not, there were ample numbers of study subjects high in science comprehension and science curiosity, and ample numbers of people who were high in neither.

Unsurprisingly, those subjects who ranked highest in science curiosity were substantially more engaged by the segment.  The more curious subjects were, the more likely they were to watch all or a substantial portion of it; to report finding it interesting; and to supply the information necessary to receive free access to the remainder of the documentary (responses aggregated to form an "Engagement Index").

The intensity of the relationship between curiosity and engagement was no less pronounced, moreover, in subjects who said they did not “believe in” evolution than it was among those who said they did.  Low-curiosity  evolution “disbelievers” were in fact slightly less engaged than low-curiosity “believers.”  But neither of those low-curiosity subgroups was nearly as engaged by the clip as were evolution “nonbelievers” who scored high on the science curiosity scale. 

This is evidence, then, that yes, an evolution “nonbeliever” can enjoy an evolution-science documentary—one that uses experiments on monkeys no less to support inferences about the impact of random mutation, natural selection, and genetic variance on modern humans’ perception of color. 

How much an evolution “nonbeliever” will enjoy this documentary depends, the study suggests, on exactly the same thing that an evolution “believer’s” level of enjoyment does: how motivated he or she is to seek out and consume information on science for personal satisfaction--or in a word, how curious that person is about science.

Can an evolution “nonbeliever” find the evidence presented in such a documentary both valid and convincing?

The answer to this question is also "yes"—particularly if he or she is generally curious about science

A low-curiosity evolution “nonbeliever” was about as likely to disagree as he was to agree that the clip was “convincing,” and that it “supplied strong evidence of how humans acquired color vision.”  But the probability a high-curiosity “nonbeliever” would agree with these characterizations of the validity of the information in the segment was well over 75%.

Note, though, that the curious “nonbelievers” who indicated that they found the evidence “strong” and “convincing” did not “change their minds” on human evolution. 

Is that surprising? It won’t be to anyone familiar with empirical study of the relationship between professions of “belief” in evolution and comprehension of science.

That research consistently finds no correlation between how people respond to “true-false” human-evolution survey items and their ability to give a cogent account of natural selection, genetic variance, and random mutation (Shtulman 2006; Demastes, Settlage & Good 1995; Bishop & Anderson 1990). 

Researchers also find that students who say they don’t believe in evolution can learn these important insights just as readily as those who say they do believe in it—as long as the teacher doesn’t make the mistake of conveying that the point of the instruction is to extract a profession of “belief” from the former, a style of pedagogy that needlessly pits students’ interest in learning against their interest in being faithful to their cultural identities (Lawson & Worsnop 1999).

What people say they “believe” about human evolution doesn’t indicate what people know; it expresses who they are, culturally speaking (Long 2011). 

Professing rejection of evolution coheres with a cultural style that features religiosity (Roos 2012). It is precisely because the answer “false” signifies their defining commitments that individuals with this identity balk when educators make the mistake (itself a sign of inattention to empirical research) of conflating transmission of knowledge with extracting professions of “belief” in it. 

When put in the position of having to choose between being who they are and expressing what they know, free, reasoning people understandably opt for the former (Hameed 2015). Indeed, they can be expected to dedicate all of their reasoning proficiency to doing so: the higher the science literacy score of someone who subscribes to a religious cultural identity, the more likely he or she is to respond negatively to the “true-false” survey item “human beings evolved from an earlier species of animal” (Kahan 2015).

Our study captured this form of of identity-protective cognition, too.   

Again, science curiosity was positively correlated with levels of engagement and with levels of perceived validity for both evolution believers and evolution nonbelievers.  But this was not the case for science comprehension: as subjects’ scores on the Ordinary Science Intelligence assessment test (Kahan in press; Kahan, Peters et al. 2012) increased, evolution believers became more engaged and more convinced by the clip, while evolution disbelievers became less so.

This result was driven by the negative reactions of evolution nonbelievers who were simultaneously high in science comprehension and low in science curiosity. These study subjects were by far the least engaged by the clip and the least likely to view the evidence it presented as valid.

Nonbelievers who scored high on both the science curiosity and science comprehension scales, in contrast, were highly engaged by the documentary segment and highly likely to deem it a strong and convincing account of the origins of human color vision.

People use their reason for multiple ends. One of these is to form the dispositions and attitudes that enable them to reliably experience and express their commitment to a shared way of life.  Another of these is to attain goals—from personal health to professional success—that can be effectively achieved only with what science knows (Kahan 2015).

People who are curious about science have a goal that those who aren’t curious don’t: to satisfy their appetite to understand the insights generated by use of science’s signature methods of observation, measurement, and inference. EFSI Study 1 shows that such a person can satisfy that goal by enjoying a skillfully made science documentary about evolution even if she has an identity that is itself enabled by professing “disbelief” in it. 

In this respect, the results of the study are in line with those that show that individuals who hold a religious identity associated with disbelief in evolution can still learn what science knows about the natural history of human beings and, if they choose, even use that knowledge to engage in activities, such as the practice of medicine or scientific research, that are uniquely enabled by such knowledge (Lawson & Worsnop 1999; Everhart & Hameed 2013).

People who are low in science curiosity can be expected to engage information on it for one purpose only: to be the sorts of persons, culturally speaking, enabled by their respective states of “belief” or “disbelief.”  Making use of information for that end is another one of things people can do even better if they possess the sort of reasoning proficiency associated with high science comprehension.  Accordingly, individuals who scored high in science comprehension but low in science curiosity (the two dispositions are only weakly correlated) predictably formed attitudes—of “engagement” and “acceptance”—that accurately manifested their cultural identities.

What to make of all this?

Well, for one thing, it is very much worth acknowledging that this interpretation of the data from ESFI Study No. 1, like all interpretations of any data, is provisional.  Additional studies, additional evidence might well furnish grounds for revising this understanding.

But it’s also very worth pointing out that the engagement enjoyed by science-curious evolution “nonbelievers,” as well as the experience of edification reflected in their response to the study's “accuracy” items, belies the simple—indeed simplistic—picture of how those who profess any particular “position” on evolution feel about science. 

In particular, it is wrong to infer that those who profess nonacceptance necessarily lack either the desire to know or the capacity to experience awe and wonder at the knowledge human beings have acquired through science, including the astonishing insights into their own natural history.

Because science curiosity does not discriminate on the basis of cultural identity, it would be a mistake for anyone who is genuinely committed to communicating science in culturally pluralistic society to adopt a style of  discourse that forces curious, reflective people to choose between  satisfying their appetite to know what’s known to science and being the sort of person that they are.

References

Bishop, B.A. & Anderson, C.W. Student conceptions of natural selection and its role in evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 27, 415-427 (1990).

Cultural Cognition Project, Evidence-based Science Filmaking Initiative Study No. 1 (2015).

Everhart, D. & Hameed, S. Muslims and evolution: a study of Pakistani physicians in the United States. Evolution: Educ. & Outreach 6, 1-8 (2013).

Hameed, S. Making sense of Islamic creationism in Europe. Public Understanding of Science 24, 388-399 (2015).

Kahan, D.M. Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem. Advances in Political Psychology 36, 1-43 (2015).

 Kahan, D.M. "Ordinary Science Intelligence": A Science Comprehension Measure for the Study of Risk and Science Communication. J. Risk Res. (in press).

Kahan, D.M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L.L., Braman, D. & Mandel, G. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change 2, 732-735 (2012).

Long, D.E. Evolution and religion in American education : an ethnography (Springer, Dordrecht, 2011).


Lawson, A.E. & Worsnop, W.A. Learning about evolution and rejecting a belief in special creation: Effects of reflective reasoning skill, prior knowledge, prior belief and religious commitment. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 29, 143-166 (1992).

Newport, F. In U.S. 42% Believe in Creationist View of Human Origins. Gallup. (June 14, 2014),http://www.gallup.com/poll/170822/believe-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx.

Roos, J.M. Measuring science or religion? A measurement analysis of the National Science Foundation sponsored science literacy scale 2006–2010. Public Understanding of Science  (2012).

Shtulman, A. Qualitative differences between naïve and scientific theories of evolution. Cognitive Psychology 52, 170-194 (2006). 

 

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Reader Comments (19)

@Dan, is your major aim to use ideas such as Identity Protective Cognition to define better strategies for communicating science -- perhaps more aporetic ways, or "overdetermined" -- in a way that does not get so tangled up in people's identities?

Are you or anyone else interested in drilling down into the way IPC (or IdPC) works, and making that a major bit of science communication?

I'm reading a book called Just Listen about effective communication, and one thing that came up is You're going to have these automatic ways of forming impressions; that just won't go away, but you can think about what you're thinking, with some awareness of how some of your certainties were probably formed in some arbitrary way, and use this awareness to develop a habit of challenging some of these preconceptions.

January 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHal Morris

Interesting piece, which I will be adding to my #TIP project on the methodology of creationism. You may be bumping into a phenomenon that I dub the "Tortucan" mindset. Some people have the natural ability not to think about things they don't think about, and if that turns to defending an idea of desire, they can end up with resilient mindshells that are impervious to contrary evidence. It would be related to such issues as cognitive dissonance resolution and confirmation bias, but not necessarily identical.

I came at the subject from my #TIP "Troubles in Paradise: The Methodology of Creationism" project (which finally has online resources up, at www.tortucan.wordpress.com and www.tortucan.com) where, based on study of some 1900 antievolutionists producing nearly 6900 citations, four main underlying methodological problems were emerging:

1) Antievolutionists are overly reliant on secondary sources (only 5% so far even try to cite primary science works, and often those are obtained secondarily via the quote mining of other antievolutionists). Antievolutionary apologetics is also heavily skewed to a small number of activists. In my survey, over half of the 6900 atievolutionist works are generaed by only around 70 people. And even narrow set of around 30 people are the "fact claimants" whose views on the data filter out through the larger apologetic framework.

2) Those antievolutionists who do cite primary science works (whether directly or by secondary copying) are drawing on only a narrow slice of the relevant data. Only some 2000 technical papers have been cited through the entire range of antievolutionist apologetics studied so far (that includes Young Earth creationists on cosmological topics). That is only about 10% of the 17,000 relevant technical papers I have assembled to discuss the subjects they raise. Many of those 2000 papers are dated, or are not cited for their content but only for quote mining out of context (a pathologically common feature among antievolutionists, which I delve into in http://www.tortucan.com/chapter1/parasitical-authority-quoting-the-crack-addiction-of-sloppy-secondary-scholarship.html, a survey of all the antievolutionist discussion of the Punctuated Equilibrium example).

3) Antievolutionists do not progress to present a detailed explanation of what they think happened, even with the narrow 10% data slice they are aware of. I call this the "Map of Time" problem, and it is equally applicable to Intelligent Design advocates who accept standard geochronology (but don't put their data into such a frame in detail) as it is of Young Earth creationists who have fewer zeros in their frame and try to attribute fossils to the Flood 4500 years ago. This has been true for a very long time, starting with St. Georges Mivart's Darwin skepticism in the 1870s.

4) Finally, and most critically, antievolutionists do not conceptualize what evidence they would accept to change their mind. This is most obvious when discussing transitional fossils or biological intermediates. If you ask any antievolutionist what an intermediate would need to look like to statisfy them (and I do this routinely, including with such people as Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells. just to note prominent ID advocates) their "Tortiucan ruts" kick in and they move to another subject.

You'll notice none of these 4 properties involve either religion or politics, though demographically antievolutionists are almost exclusively "Kulturkampf" conservative religious people, and that has tended to cloud appreciating what is going on as a more general thought process down in the mental basement, before any doctrinal ideology gets built on top. It's a contention of mine that virtually all people who belive things that are not true (creauionism, Lunar Landing as hoax, Holocaus denial, Flat Earth, etc) manifest the 4 traits, any one of which is a source of error, but when all are running at once is a surefire path to faulty belief.

Future studies might need to differentiate between the methods familiarity of those believing in or rejecting evolution. It is not obvious that all believers in evolution are immune from the "Tortucan" traits I spot among antievolutionists, and identifying rigorously and controlling for those variables might further clarify the dynamics of contentious issues in science and culture.

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames Downard

I'll be adding your 2011 paper to #TIP as well. btw these were prior citations of your work already in my dataset:

Kahan, Dan. 2012. “Why we are poles apart on climate change.” Nature 488 (16 August): 255.
________. 2014. “What accounts for public conflict over science—religiosity or political predispositions? Here are some data: you declare the winner in this RAT vs. CAT fight.” The Cultural Cognition Project 10 November posting (online text at www.culturalcognition.net accessed 11/11/2014).

Kahan, Dan M., Donald Braman, John Monahan, Lisa Callahan, & Ellen Peters. 2010. “Cultural Cognition and Public Policy: The Case of Outpatient Commitment Laws.” Law and Human Behavior 34 (April): 118-140.

Kahan, Dan M., Hank Jenkins-Smith, & Donald Braman. 2011. “Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus.” Journal of Risk Research 14 (2): 147-174.

Kahan, Dan M., Ellen Peters, Maggie Wittlin, Paul Slovic, Lisa Larrimore Oueliette, Donald Braman, & Gregory Mandel. 2012. “The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks.” Nature Climate Change 2 (October): 732-735.

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames Downard

@HalMorris--

well... the aim is pretty much to enlarge knowledge of (a) the distinctive ways in which science communication does & doesn't work in contemporary, pluralistic liberal democracies; & (b) the means by which liberal, pluralistic democracies can make science communication work as well as possible on terms consistent with their defining commitments to respecting the right of individuals to freely use their reason to govern themselves....

Identity protective cognition is a natural focus-- b/c it is integral to dynamics that threaten enjoyment of the reciprocal goods that plural, liberal democratic societies distinctively furnish their members: (1) the vast amount of knowledge such societies' enjoy by virtue of their congeniality to science; and (2) the experience of individual freedom & dignity associated with a legal regime that eschews a cultural orthodoxy, and grounds legal obligation solely on promotion of secular interests of value to all individuals regardless of their worldviews....

But I suppose it's perfectly obvious that this is what I've been doing! No?

I will find this book you mention—many thanks for drawing it to my attention (you are supplying me w/ all sorts of interesting thigns to read, & I very much appreciate it).

My sense is that just *knowing* about identity-protective cognition doesn’t confer any immunity to its negative consequences. It is pretty much in the nature of this dynamic, like many others that bias perception, to evade conscious detection & control. Indeed, I think we all are aware that IPC can distort our perceptions – the problem is that we just can’t tell *when* it is doing so.

But *knowing* about IPC can help, I very much agree.

The idea that knowing about IPC can put one in the position to cultivate habits of mind that counteract some of the effects sounds right to me. I think professional judgmentt works that way (maybe) within its domain....

Knowing about IPC can also give one a reason to discount & be cautious about what one knows under appropriate conditions.

But most important, knowing about it, and being candid one understands one’s vulnerability to it, can help diverse citizens of a liberal, democratic society to find ways of reassuring one another that they are all indeed committed to their common enjoyment of the reciprocal goods that their way of life distinctively confers—the enjoyment of the vast amount of welfare-enhancing knowledge that science gives them; and the experience of autonomy that liberal neutrality in law underwrites.

It can help them, in short, to construct a more effective form of liberal public reasons that itself is suited for combatting the threat that IPC poses to science communication in a diverse, democratic society.

And then they will be one step closer to overcoming Popper’s revenge.

See what I mean?

January 13, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

How much an evolution “nonbeliever” will enjoy this documentary depends, the study suggests, on exactly the same thing that an evolution “believer’s” level of enjoyment does: how motivated he or she is to seek out and consume information on science for personal satisfaction--or in a word, how curious that person is about science.

So first I reacted with my usual take: Can an evolution “nonbeliever” can find the evidence presented in such a documentary both valid and convincing?

The answer to this question is also "yes"—particularly if he or she is generally curious about science.

Again, I'm interested in what seems to be a description of causality:

Motivation to seek out and consume information ---> enjoyed the documentary. Identity as a "non-believer" or believer doesn't appear to be causal.

But perhaps that's because the motivation of believers and non-believers cancel each other out.

Suppose a strong sense of identity as a believer and non-believer alike "causes" each group to consume (and enjoy the process of seeking information), respectively.

In other words, it is a sense of identity that drives both level of engagement and curiosity, although the particular evolution belief identity doesn't distinguish the groups.

Maybe people who are more driven to confirm their sense of identity are more interested in gathering information to support their sense of identity (as opposed to what you seem to me to argue - that gaining in scientific literacy "magnifies" identification with groups vis-à-vis "belief")

So did you have some measure of controlling for the strength of identification among each group?
================

Ok, then, but then I got to this:

Again, science curiosity was positively correlated with levels of engagement and with levels of perceived validity for both evolution believers and evolution nonbelievers. But this was not the case for science comprehension: as subjects’ scores on the Ordinary Science Intelligence assessment test (Kahan in press; Kahan, Peters et al. 2012) increased, evolution believers became more engaged and more convinced by the clip, while evolution disbelievers became less so.

This result was driven by the negative reactions of evolution nonbelievers who were simultaneously high in science comprehension and low in science curiosity. These study subjects were by far the least engaged by the clip and the least likely to view the evidence it presented as valid.

Well that throws a monkey wrench into the works. What would explain people who are high in science comprehension but low in science curiosity?

I suppose it could be if it were strength of identification that "caused" someone to seek out and master more information, as opposed to curiosity...but it sure seems strange to me as an association between greater comprehension and lower curiosity pretty much flies in the face of what I understand about what drives comprehension...

=====================

But then I go back to this:

People who are curious about science have a goal that those who aren’t curious don’t: to satisfy their appetite to understand the insights generated by use of science’s signature methods of observation, measurement, and inference. EFSI Study 1 shows that such a person can satisfy that goal by enjoying a skillfully made science documentary about evolution even if she has an identity that is itself enabled by professing “disbelief” in it.

Again, you identify curiosity as one basic "motivation" to learn to comprehend science (in some people) whereas identity orientation would be a different basic "motivation" for others? How about the possibility that strength of identity orientation is associated with level of "comprehension" in both the curious and non curious among both believers and non-believers?

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Hal -

"I'm reading a book called Just Listen about effective communication, and one thing that came up is You're going to have these automatic ways of forming impressions; that just won't go away, but you can think about what you're thinking, with some awareness of how some of your certainties were probably formed in some arbitrary way, and use this awareness to develop a habit of challenging some of these preconception"

I think that "thinking about thinking" - which I call meta-cognition - is the best antidote to motivated reasoning. IMO, although crafting messaging as to not stimulate identity orientation makes sense if your goal is to engender good faith communication, there are preciously few people engaged in these discussions who don't find an excuse to make basically any attempt at communication to be identity-threatening. Most people engage in this discussions from a starting point of seeking out identity confirmation (in part, through demonizing the "other").

IMO, the goal should be to create a communication context that helps to build an understanding of the susceptibility we all have to motivated reasoning, and to offer accepted (win/win, "getting to yes" - type) practices for good faith dialogue among those who really commit themselves to controlling for identity-oriented biasing mechanisms (which can only happen if people understand them an accept their universality).

I bring "meta-cognition" up any chance I can argue that it's even remotely related to the subject of Dan's posts....but thus far, as near as I can tell, Dan seems unpersuaded (or at least I can't recall him even commenting on it)... :-)

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

James -

==> " Some people have the natural ability not to think about things they don't think about,... "

First, I think it's cultivated as well as natural. Second, don't you think that's pretty much a universal characteristic?

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua, definitely universal (though would to wait until the fMRI gang pins it down neurobiologically), but I also suspect it has a normal distribution, where relatively few people have minimal tortucan ruts, relatively few people have extreme Tortucan minds, and most of us fall in the middle.

Education and enculturation play a role, certainly. No one taught me to be a parasitical citer (which I was when I was 18) but I learned to abandon the practice in historiography class in college. My cntention though is that heavy duty Tortucans are relatively impervious to even education on this. I discuss among others, the cases of Intelligent Design avatar Phillip Johnson (who got into Harvard when he was 16) and British science writer Richard Milton (of British Mensa and functionally a Young Earth Creationist without being religious, who is my poster child for scholarly incompetence). Both show no inclination to clean up their scholarly act over time.

Its also true that very few notabke antievolutionists change their minds, and those who do tend to have been raised in it, suggesting provisionally that they fell low on the tortucan index and so could toss off their older views more easily once they had new data in hand.

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames Downard

James -

"Joshua, definitely universal (though would to wait until the fMRI gang pins it down neurobiologically), but I also suspect it has a normal distribution, where relatively few people have minimal tortucan ruts, relatively few people have extreme Tortucan minds, and most of us fall in the middle."

Maybe...but even with a normal distribution, my sense is that while some people do it more than others the range isn't too terribly broad at the extremes.

Interesting stuff, your comments about 'antievolutionists"...I'll poke around at your website some. What's the derivation/etymology of "Tortucan?"

January 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@JamesDownard--

Thanks for the comments & for the pointer to the resources you've assembled-- sounds like a real treasure trove. I will explore them.

And reflect on your summary of the material & the inferences you've drawn from them. It seems unlikely to me that I'll disagree-- mainly b/c I am in such a deep state of perplexity about what it means for people to "believe" or "disbelieve" in evolution, particularly given the abundant evidence that it's possible to do both w/o feeling particularly bothered--until one is bothered by others about doing exactly that.

One thing I do suspect, though, is that it is likely a mistake to try to make sense of a Pakistani Dr/Kentucky Farmer by engaging closely w/ the arguments of professional anti-evolutionalists, whether of the creationist or ID variety. In addition to being so much less theorized, the sort of "cognitive dualism" that the former practice doesn't think there is any need to refute the modern synthesis-- or any need to do anyting other than just whatever it is that "believing" & "disbelieving" enable them to do.

January 14, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Joshua--

On the relationship between science comprehension & science curiosity-- there's discussion in the Report.

Obviously, the "explanation" is partly a definitional one. We assume the constructs are different: science comprehension--or "ordinary science intelligence"consists in the set of reasoning skills & dispositions necessary to recognize & give proper effect to what is known by science as it bears on everyday decisionmaking; "science curiosity," as stated in the post, is the disposition to seek out & consume for personal pleasure information on what is known by science.

The two constructs being different, it follows -- if they really correspond to anything in the world-- that they should be amenable to measurement by distinct instruments. OSI_2.0-- measures the former, SCS 1.0 (or really 0.01!) the latter.

Surely one would expect the two to have some affinity: if one is curious about science, then one is likely to acquire a certain amount of ordinary science intelligence; and if one possess a high degree of ordinary science intelligence, one is more likely to have occasion to develop the sort of tastes that SCS tries to measure.

But there shouldn't be any reason to expect the two to be highly correlated! There are plenty of people who can nail conditional probability problems on the head all day & never fail to detect covariance, etc., who just don't give a shit about, say, the remarkable discovery that photosynthesis actually involves dynamics of quantum mechanics; and for *sure* plenty of people who will find this discovery mind-blowing-- holy shit! do we risk killing plants if we stare at them?!-- who will, very understandably, flub the sorts of reasoning problems that help separate those at the 90th percentile from those at the 70th, and those at the 90th from those at the 95th in OSI.

So we should expect a correlation but only a modest one-- if the constructs are getting at sometehign real, and the measures are validly measuring those things. Too *high* a correlation would in fact be reason to wonder if the "science curiosity" scale was valid.

But surely there would then be lots & lots & lots of things to be curious about, as it were, about these people who are science curious. Wouldn't you like to know more about who science curious nonbelievers in evolution are, e.g.? Actually, I think it would be very reasonable for anyone reading this post to want more & more precise information about the distribution of science curiosity among the two groups & also information about relationship to other related characteristics like religiosity (there's more of that in the Report).

And if we can see that science curiosity generates this interesting convergence among high-OSI believers & nonbelievers on how interesting & how persuasive evidence presented in a science documentary on evolution, aren't you curious to know how highly curious, highly science comprehending people w/ opposing cultural identities think about, say, climate change?....

January 14, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Thanks Dan for the link to the 2015 Hameed paper (I only had his 2008 Science one and several of his web posting on Islamic creationism content). Islamic world is varied on evolution (which is still taught fully in Iran, but more evasively in Saudi Arabia, eg). From a #TIP source methods approach, seeing what works are cited can trace back to their info wells (in Harun Yahya case, essentially troping ID arguments & sources). Many antievolutionists will not have got to that source level, of course, but merely repeat prouncements or video claims.

In interacting with any committed antievolutionist I have little hope of changing their minds, independent of whether they are a grassroots dumbkin or an academic steeped in Jonathan Wells sciency posts. My object is to display the weak underpinings of their argument for those observing the exchange, hopefully to spur their own independent course and strengthening of their understanding.

As for Tortucan, I needed a term to describe the imperviousness of the antievolutionist mindset I was encountering in the antievolution literature (shell with head pulled in for tunnel vision), and since latin tortuca was relatively unused, decided to generate that neologism. My usage of it wrankled Jerry Coyne btw, but I make no apologies, if there were a word to describe what I had in mind, I would have used it. To be a capital T Tortucan is to have the bulk of the cognitive landscape governed by that not think about aspect (which I dubbed "Matthew Harrison Brady Syndrome" in honor of Bryan's Inherit the Wind doppelganger). It is independent of religion, politics, education, intellect, or even truth, as Tortucan minds can map onto things that are true (just that they do it with the traits of source usage and inability to conceptualize key ideas). I cover more on it in a 2009 talk http://www.twowordculture.com/tip/files/An-Ill-Wind-in-Tortuca-2009-Lecture.pdf and would love to have the MHBS & Tortucan concepts either confirmed or refuted by cognitive study.

January 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames Downard

Dan "I will find this book you mention—many thanks for drawing it to my attention (you are supplying me w/ all sorts of interesting thigns to read, & I very much appreciate it)."

Not sure which book you mean "interesting thigns to read" was a link to "Epistemic Dependence" (http://web.utk.edu/~jhardwig/EpDep.pdf), a 15 page highly readable article.

January 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHal Morris

@Dan: you are supplying me w/ all sorts of interesting thigns to read, & I very much appreciate it

Likewise, I'm sure.

@Dan: And then they will be one step closer to overcoming Popper’s revenge.

Just followed "Popper's Revenge", then in 3rd paragraph "pacifying influence of doux commerce." linking to Hirschman's Passions and the Interests., which I'm sure I've heard of within history circles but was shamefully ignorant of Hirschman.

The Upshot: Ordered (used) copies of Passions and the Interests and The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy. From the latter's description

"Hirschman points out that both types of rhetoric function, in effect, as contraptions designed to make debate impossible."

to which I can only say "Holy Shit!" and order the book.

January 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHal Morris

@HalMorris

Just Listen?

January 14, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Just Listen is by Mark Goulston by a psychologist M.D. who has trained people in hostage negotiations, done marriage therapy, and coached business leaders, so its that kind of practical book, but draws on neuroscience, taking about "amygdala hijacking", and is full of amazing insights largely by way of example. Kindle edition is $3.48 FYI.

January 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHal Morris

@Dan, you seem to be interested in cramming a lot in, as I am, so you might like to know, in case you don't already, that the Kindle has a text-to-speech capability which I used to listen to books (which have no audio versions), and even journal articles -- by mailing a PDF to my devices email address, I can listen to it (works well if it's not too full of diagrams and equations).

January 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHal Morris

Dan,
Nice article. As an evolutionary biologist and now a neurobiologist, I deal with this issue, a few people at a time, daily. I may get to do it again on Tuesday. Getting connection between my understanding and the audience's interests is always tricky. On Tuesday, I may try a bit of the history of biology (what people believed at various times) in order to suck the audience in. For instance, the idea that there were 'genes' that controlled inheritance only was shown in the 1830s. The knowledge that DNA contained this inheritance was only proved in 1947. I plan to use these experiments to show how the idea of an 'evolutionary tree' came about and which branches are strong and which are weak. We will see how this works out with my audience.

January 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

If someone wants to help out, the scheduled presenter wanted to show a video about evolution. The video has many factual errors. My plan is to not show the video and just give a different and interactive presentation. Do you think that will work?

January 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

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