Blinding me with science

Gallup: Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.

I’ve always been interested in why so many people prefer to ignore science and go with their own beliefs. As a journalist, I routinely engaged with reasonable people who firmly fought for their position, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t just issues of science — evolution or gender selection or climate change — but also politics. But mostly it was science.

Jonah Lehrer at the New Yorker explains why. Essentially, we start out with assumptions about how the world works and we have trouble unlearning them.

For instance, people naturally believe that heat is a kind of substance, and  that the sun revolves around the earth. And then there’s the irony of evolution:  our views about our own development don’t seem to be evolving.

This means that science education is not simply a matter of learning new  theories. Rather, it also requires that students unlearn their instincts,  shedding false beliefs the way a snake sheds its old skin.

Not encouraging.

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