But I am less convinced about some of the answers–early answers–you have produced so far (at least in my perusal of your posts). On the contrary, I think there’s a lot of evidence mounting that cultural acceptance of evolution correlates well with better policy choices about education, health, safety, and public spending choices. And yes, it’s hard to draw bright lines of causality in this relationship…You need to reckon with some of the social data that emanates from those states or countries where evolution is broadly accepted (and likely not merely accepted but understood to a level of literacy) to inform better the answers you produce–per the question posed by your blog. [Emphasis added – PK]
Although I’m skeptical of Gregor’s claims, I appreciate the insistence that evidence matters. I do, after all, spend much time and effort critiquing and debating the evidence that rejecting evolution is harmful.
But even if I’m wrong, and even if you could establish some lines of causality, it’s important to acknowledge they will inevitably be provisional and speculative. The number of variables are too large and the system too complex to ever confidently claim that belief in evolution causes better (by what metric?) policy outcomes.
In which case we’re left with, at best, a very, very faint line. And it’s not at all clear what we would do with that evidence. It’s especially unclear how we should use it to respond to individuals who don’t believe in evolution. We’re in the realm of trends and generalizations that I addressed about 10 months ago. Forgive me as I quote myself:
Imagine we produce data showing that in the aggregate belief in creationism correlates with (just to pick one) poor mathematical reasoning. How should we respond to this evidence? How should it affect what we think of individual creationists? What about the language used when discussing them as a group?
Consider the debates surrounding gender and science ability or race and crime. When it comes to these issues, liberal Americans (i.e. my social circle) relentlessly insist that individuals can’t be judged by group averages. We often ruthlessly question the data itself. We look at historical context. We recognize the pernicious impact of sloppy language and crude generalizations, and we angrily denounce them. We caution against basing laws or policy on these data.
And you know what? That’s how we should respond! I’m very happy we do so. If we value consistency, shouldn’t we at least try to adopt the same approach with respect to creationists? Why don’t we?
I humbly submit that we must respond to any alleged lines of causality in this manner: by remembering to treat people as individuals.