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« Science curiosity and identity-protective cognition ... a glimpse at a possible (negative) relationship | Main | Replication indeed »

Believing as doing . . . evolution & climate change

Will be at Binghmaton University this evening to talk about cognitive dualism & disentanglement pirnciple. Pakinstani Dr., Kentucky Farmer, KristaManny, & Kant will be there, too. . . .



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Reader Comments (3)

I think that there is more of a time sequence to these two beliefs, and that more attention needs to be paid to external driving forces as to what people are likely to do with their beliefs than given above. How do these issues become matters of personal identity?

Antagonism towards evolution is of course based on the long term opposition by Christian fundamentalist proponents of Biblical literacy. But even those who profess to a belief in Biblical literacy is likely to be quite selective as to which passages are seen as crucial and which seem (by others at least) to be ignored. The Commandment "Thou shalt not kill" for example might seem to be more rigorously applied to abortion than to participation in warfare. I think that the strength of identity based on being anti-abortion is built by particular cultural groups. There are several ways that a cultural tribe might expand and get ahead. Be fruitful and multiply is one of them.

In the case of evolution, the law that precipitated the Scopes Trial in 1925, the Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution in public schools, was only passed that year (1925). Apparently the Governor of Tennessee signed it, not because he wanted to create a national controversy, but because he thought it would be an issue with which he could curry favor with rural voters. This means that while there were rural voters to whom a politician such as the Governor could assume the matter would have appeal, in fact, it is also likely that before that point it was not thought about (and probably not taught) in areas where such teachings might have been controversial. This was also an era in which then "modernists" were promoting a version of Christianity which they felt would have more mainstream appeal, one in which the Bible was viewed as a historical document not a literal one. This was promoted by many within large national Christian Denominations and by noted theologians of the time such as Harry Emerson Fosdick. It was an urban and disproportionately Northern movement. Scopes the biology teacher, was at the very least quite willing to become the trial case, and the school district for which he was only a substitute teacher, was initially also happy to be at the center of attention. And the ACLU was looking for such a trial case. So the whole thing had to do with the various groups involved wanting to build stronger and larger constituencies for their own views and thus benefiting their cultural groups.

We might have had a different outcome had we started with the knowledge that rural farmers actually knew quite a bit of biology and genetic changes in having experience with animal and plant breeding and also the occurrence of mutations. Maybe we could have segued directly from that into DNA and the wonders of GMO corn and soy. Instead evolution, as a teaching of science, was something abstractly imposed by egghead professors and big city lawyers from afar. People already not like themselves.

Similarly, climate change on a local level is something rural farmers are intimately familiar with. But thoughts about global changes would need to be introduced. And that has happened relatively recently. I believe that alignment for or against climate change is generally related to building political constituencies. And building that alignment is fostered by the actions of big money, both those connected to the oil and gas industries and that of environmental groups.

My favorite example is Northwest Washington berry farmers, currently expanding their fields of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. This has climate related economic drivers. Many berry growers contract with Driscoll's a big California based wholesaler. The California farms, of course have been impacted by drought. Hence a move northward. Successful berry growing in the Pacific Northwest depends on warm dry July and August weather for harvests without fungal issues. If a farmer thought that the future were to bring more drizzly foggy summer weather, a long term investment in raspberry plantings and related harvesting equipment would be downright foolish.

Why vote for State Senator Doug Erickson, an ardent climate "doubter" and a thorn in the side of Washington State governor Jay Inslee's carbon emission cap plans? Dry summers also dictate a need for irrigation water. This creates a run in with environmentalists and Native Americans who worry about stream flows, and salmon runs. As well as pollution. Using ample oil and gas monies, it is not a difficult thing for Doug Erickson to position his side as their side. Even if from a distance neither oil and gas nor climate change denial seem like self serving issues for farmers to support.

Changes brought by modernization are distributed highly unequally. In 2005, Public Policy Professor Richard Florida came up with the following article: The world is spiky, was meant as a counterpoint to the then popular book by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat. Just today, the following map of where the jobs are was published by Marketwatch (owned by Rupert Murdoch). I think that a lot of tribal cultural alignment analysis can be done from an "It' the economy, stupid" type analysis. And by attention to who is behind the scenes with wealth setting the scene and pulling strings. Environmentalists do not seem to be taking away jobs if one is a scientist or engineer, but to those in currently heavily oil and gas dependent blue collar jobs, that is not the case.

In my opinion, we ought to be looking beyond personal "psychological underpinnings" to the external sources of such creations of identity politics.

February 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis


Super interesting.

I'd get really sore at you for asking so many hard questions if you didn't answer so many yourself.

February 23, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I will argue that the beliefs about this 'study' have no meaning, aside from from things they enable people to randomly choose what to search on the internet. Mr. Kahan, I highly respect you as a very interesting person indeed. It just seems that we both have different perspectives on certain matters.

August 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDR. CDouglas

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