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Author Topic:   Why we believe what we believe (more satisfaction with teleological explanations?)
Stagamancer
Member (Idle past 4992 days)
Posts: 174
From: Oregon
Joined: 12-28-2008


Message 1 of 3 (505658)
04-14-2009 6:24 PM


So I was listening to the April 10th Scientific American podcast in which Steve interviews UC Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo (and others) about why people believe what they do. A key point about their discussion: they were not discussing the biological validity of evolution, but more broadly, why people do or do not believe evolution, regardless of the "truth" of it.
Lombrozo made some very interesting points that I thought would be very relevant to the discussions that occur here at EvC. (many of those same points can be found in a paper of hers — The Intelligent Design controversy: lessons from psychology and education
She claims that in her research, and much to my surprise, there was little to no correlation between understanding the biological mechanisms of evolution by natural selection and accepting it as a valid explanation.
She states also that it seems that the biggest barrier to acceptance is that people seem to be more satisfied with teleological explanations than non-teleological ones
(Teleological explanations account for the existence or properties of an entity in terms of a function: we have hearts because they pump blood, and telephones for communication.)
Children (and adults afflicted with alzheimer's disease) in particular seem to favor these explanations. For example, she found that children were much more satisfied when it was explained that rain exists because plants need it to grow than the explanation that rain exists because water vapor condenses.
This desire for teleological explanations can even be seen in people who accept evolution but then try to find an adaptive reason for every feature of an organism (instead of accepting some things arise due to genetic drift or biological constraints)
Other reasons she mentions in her paper are people's inability to separate biology from morality.
quote:
Perhaps people are reluctant to accept natural selection because they believe it has undesirable implications. Brem, Ranney and Schnidel [1] found that the overwhelming majority of their participants believed evolution to have negative social consequences, such as justifying racism and selfishness, and negative philosophical consequences, such as denying free will and a purpose to life. These views presumably stem from mistaken beliefs about biology (e.g. that race is a biologically meaningful category or that ultimate explanations reveal proximate intentions) coupled with the naturalistic fallacy (i.e. the belief that one can derive how we ought to behave from a description of how the world actually is). But their findings reinforce the lesson that understanding a claim and believing a claim are at best fair-weather friends; in fact, knowing more about evolution often strengthened students' perceptions that evolution has negative consequences.
Lombrozo's also notes that:
quote:
Brem et al. [1] found that students who accepted evolution were exposed to anti-evolution messages as often as creationists, but to pro-evolution messages more often than creationists. They were also more likely than creationists to believe that evolution has no social or moral consequences, positive or negative.
The whole point of all of this was that simply teaching students the correct biological mechanisms and implications of evolution by natural selection will not necessarily bring about more acceptance of it. In her paper she also adds
quote:
A proper understanding of evolutionary theory and its consequences requires more than a few lessons in biology. It also requires lessons from philosophy of science about what constitutes a scientific theory and an empirical test, and lessons from moral philosophy about the difference between empirical claims and moral claims. Perhaps this is what ought to be taught alongside evolution in America's public schools.
Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Added the "(more satisfaction with teleological explanations?)" part to the topic title. Not the best, but there is a character limit to deal with.

We have many intuitions in our life and the point is that many of these intuitions are wrong. The question is, are we going to test those intuitions?
-Dan Ariely

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by straightree, posted 04-19-2009 8:01 AM Stagamancer has not replied

  
Adminnemooseus
Administrator
Posts: 3977
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 3 (505665)
04-15-2009 3:13 AM


Thread moved here from the Links and Information forum.

  
straightree
Member (Idle past 4827 days)
Posts: 57
From: Near Olot, Spain
Joined: 09-26-2008


Message 3 of 3 (505886)
04-19-2009 8:01 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stagamancer
04-14-2009 6:24 PM


teleologycal purpose
quote:
She states also that it seems that the biggest barrier to acceptance is that people seem to be more satisfied with teleological explanations than non-teleological ones
(Teleological explanations account for the existence or properties of an entity in terms of a function: we have hearts because they pump blood, and telephones for communication.)
That people have a tendency to accept explanations that imply teleologycal mechanisms may be a result of natural selection. Probably people that think his existance has a purpose, are more ready to breed and reproduce.
Please take my explanation as a scientific, matter of fact statement. My purpose is not to deviate to any morals or values debate.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stagamancer, posted 04-14-2009 6:24 PM Stagamancer has not replied

  
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