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Creationists Aren't Stupid

Entry 1182, on 2010-04-07 at 15:44:40 (Rating 4, Religion)

I often wonder what the problem is with various groups in society, especially deeply religious people, creationists, global warming deniers, and believers in alternative medicine and other new age nonsense.

Is is because they are stupid? I mean anyone who believes the world is only 6000 years old has got to be really stupid, haven't they? I'm sure many really are lacking in intelligence but that's certainly not the whole story. I know some people who are quite intelligent and capable when it comes to other subjects but who still believe in really crazy things, so simple stupidity doesn't explain the phenomenon in most cases.

I guess it's also possible that they are ignorant. Maybe they just don't know about the overwhelming evidence which shows the real age of the Earth, for example. But that seems unlikely considering the number of sources that sort of information is available from. And I have shown some of these people evidence which they have agreed is credible and it makes no difference. Still, there must be a certain number who are genuinely ignorant about these issues.

The attitude I think is responsible in many cases is an anti-intellectual and anti-science bias. This seems to be particularly common for the political extremes. The far right are threatened by intellectuals because they threaten their religious and economic beliefs. And the far left often have tendencies towards relativism and postmodernism and think any random weird and unsupported view is as good as one supported by years of hard evidence.

I have experienced many cases of people who refuse to believe well established truths and I think the three reasons I have outlined above cover their motivations fairly well.

I have debated with people who are obviously stupid. Some extremely religious people from the US would fit this category (note that I'm not saying all religious people in the US are stupid). The standard of their argument is really nothing better than what I would hear from a child and when they are proven wrong they resort to temper tantrums. It's just pathetic. But lacking intelligence is something the person can't really help, except by not engaging in debates. I guess that was these people's big mistake.

Then there's the ignorant. These are the ones who can be helped and I did at least partly convert one person who rejected evolution by showing him the evidence. He genuinely thought there were no transitional fossils and was astounded when I showed him an extensive list. He wasn't stupid so he understood what I showed him and he wasn't anti-intellectual so he was prepared to accept it. This person was just ignorant and it was great when he reacted rationally when his ignorance was corrected.

Finally there's the anti-intellectual group. These are really the most dishonest types with no good excuses. They aren't so stupid that they can't understand the truth and they aren't so ignorant that they don't have the facts. There's really no excuse except they have decided to reject rationality for political, religious, or some sort of bizarre pseudo-philosophical reasons.

For example, I know one person who won't accept anything from the Guardian newspaper because he claims it's too far left to be reliable. Yet he'll use opinions from far-right blogs as if they were indisputable. And another who thinks all scientists are part of a huge global conspiracy to suppress the truth on the origin of the world. He claims the theory of evolution has been disproved by Christian "scientists" but the bulk of scientists can't accept they are wrong.

Clearly there's small elements of stupidity and ignorance there as well but I think rejection of science and intellectualism is the basic cause of this nonsense. I see the same sort of thing in followers of some politicians (Sarah Palin begin an obvious example). Some of these people are proud that they don't understand science and know nothing about the factual basis of reality. It's quite disturbing.

What hope does the world have if a significant part of the population reject the whole process of establishing the truth using valid, intellectual processes? Not a lot in my opinion so I hope this is a trend which doesn't last.

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