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Re: Survey of national populations--acceptance of evolution

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  • kipandfei
    I have found Brian s comments most interesting. I have had a similar discussion with recently with a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe surrounding their
    Message 1 of 34 , Sep 2, 2006
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      I have found Brian's comments most interesting. I have had a similar
      discussion with recently with a member of the San Francisco Mime
      Troupe surrounding their recent play “Godfellas” that “explores” the
      intersection of religions and politics in the US today.

      I agree that much of the question of evolution revolves around the
      question of class and which spheres of society we occupy â€" what
      perspectives we have been exposed to. To decry the fact that so many
      people do not subscribe to evolutionary theory as opposed to a
      creationist perspective as representative of ignorance of some sort,
      rather than these beliefs being a reflection of aspects of this
      culture does not allow us to understand much about the world we live
      in. Nor does it allow us to approach questions from the perspective
      that many of the students in our classes hold.

      I think the questions Brian raises are fundamental, especially to
      those of us who teach in the community colleges. It lies at the heart
      of every anthropology class â€" that is to understand the complexities
      of our species and the cultures we have developed. Most of what we
      believe has not been examined, it has been learned. As a consequence
      we are capable of holding beliefs that are contradictory. Of course we
      believe our “way” is best. That is why we are surprised to find that
      so many Americans do not subscribe to notions of evolutions but rest
      more comfortably in the ideas of creationism.

      But the ideas that people hold are not without consequences â€"
      especially in today’s world. Today the question of evolution is
      fraught with political implications. We have the Pope leading a
      discussion about evolution, which will have an impact on the way many
      people who identify as Catholic will approach the question. We have
      the Federal government removing Evolutionary Biology as an area of
      supported study. We have religion being used in many realms as a cover
      for other social and political agendas. We have religious gatherings
      across the country being used for political purposes â€" promoting a
      right-wing political agenda. The use of religion or religious
      institutions in this way is certainly not a new phenomenon in this
      country nor elsewhere.

      Perhaps the discussion surrounding “evolution” has come to symbolize
      this conflict. If so, maybe we might consider tackling other aspects
      as well or not restricting our approach to discussions of evolution.
      We have wonderful opportunities in our classes and in other forums to
      do this. Discussions surrounding evolution can often be the most
      eye-opening and challenging for those who have been raised in a
      creationist tradition. If they are approached in a manner where we
      investigate the basis of what it is we think about this and other
      questions, there no telling where it might lead.

      I hate to reduce things to sound bites or bumper sticker phrases, but
      I can’t resist quoting one that puts a smile on my face “Don’t
      Believe Everything You Think”.

      Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist at Stanford, weighed in on the
      discussion of “intelligent design” a while ago in the local newspaper
      here. I am adding a link, if you would like to take a look.

      http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/12/10/EDGJIA98SM1.DTL

      --- In SACC-L@yahoogroups.com, "Lynch, Brian M" <blynch@...> wrote:
      >
      > Out of a very personal interest and history, I pursued my first
      round of Masters studies some decades ago in theology-- as much to
      understand my own faith at the time (from a social, cultural, and
      historical perspective) as to do anything else with such a degree. My
      background happens to be from a working class, Irish Catholic
      context-- which gave me the experience of much "faith" and "mystery,"
      and little encouragement to think critically, culturally, or
      historically, about any of this.
      >
      > My Dad was a wonderful chemist, amateur electronics buff (in the age
      of vacuum tube technology, radio, and B/W TV's), and something of an
      ecologist. He was a scientist formed in the context of the "Power
      City" (Niagara Falls, which was something of the birthplace of
      hydroelectric generation in North America), in the home of Alcoa
      Aluminum, Carborundum, Hooker Chemical, and many other scientifically
      based industries that grew with the advent and development of
      polyphase, alternating-current electrical generation. He and the many
      residents of the Niagara region grew in the context of a social order
      that increasingly relied on the products of chemistry, biology, and
      physics (my dad even worked with radar in the Navy, during Second
      World War--a cutting-edge technology at the time).
      >
      > At the same time, many of such citizens of the Niagara Frontier were
      working class Roman Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians,
      Jews, Spiritualists-- and more. There were many in our city who were
      skilled, technical workers, and many chemists, engineers, and
      physicists. Local work eventually contributed even to the building of
      technologies for the moon-landing space era, and other pioneering
      developments of related aviation. These folks went to the many local
      churches, prayed to their God, read their holy readings, communicated
      with spirits (did I mention we had our share of Spiritualists in the
      Niagara region?), lit candles, carried holy objects for protection and
      healing, and so much more.
      >
      > The chemistry and physics and engineering didn't wipe out-- or
      necessarily undermine-- the belief systems through which people lived
      their everyday lives. Certainly there was no uniformity of belief in
      the region, but I am sure there were those who understood things, like
      evolution, as perfectly acceptable explanations of the world around
      them, without any necessary contradiction to their "faith." And then
      there were others who saw an absolute conflict! There was even a
      strange experience of discontinuity at times between "official"
      positions of faith, and what was generally left to its own development
      among the "ordinary people": from a Roman Catholic exprerience, it was
      officially understood even back in the late 1950's and early 1960's
      that there was no necessary conflict, for example, between "faith and
      science" when it came to the theory of evolution! Yet most everyday
      Catholics would probably have believed that their faith required them
      to reject evolution, and take the "Seven Days of Creation" story
      literally. But this was the era of the Cold War! And because "The
      Russians" were "Godless Communists" there was a perceived risk among
      the officials of the Church that the teaching of evolution in place of
      a God Centered, Seven Day creation, might undermine people's faith all
      together, and open them to the influence of the Athiests/Communists!
      >
      > Why don't people (U.S. Americans) "believe in evolution"? It is a
      great question. As a cultural anthropologist I think our
      investigations will be short circuited on this one if our vocabulary
      characterizes what is happening as "invincible ignorance." Imagine if
      it were an "other" culture we were talking about (in Papua New Guinea,
      or Guatemala) and we were trying to understand something like "how
      could they be so practically skillful in some things, and then believe
      in underworld spirits?" What would we think of the anthropologist at
      the annual meeting who couched her/his research question in terms of
      the "ignorance" of the people being studied?
      >
      > Certainly, this question of evolution brings our focus right close
      to home-- where traditionally Anthropology has often only reluctantly
      turned its attention. Can we be as "objective" in such attention, as
      we would like to think we are when studying "others"? Is the
      "evolution debate" too close to us, for us to practice the cultural
      relativism--and concomitant, potentially rich research--we so
      carefully cultivate elsewhere?
      >
      >
      >
      > Brian
      >
      > ________________________________
      >
      > From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Tbbyrnehom@...
      > Sent: Fri 9/1/2006 6:59 PM
      > To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: Re: [SACC-L] Survey of national populations--acceptance of
      evolution
      >
      >
      > Jo Brian and all, How about this! Americans like to think of
      themselves as
      > practical people. How many times have you heard "Experience is the best
      > teacher."? Yet how many Americans will understand that the
      scientific method
      > based on Inductive reasoning IS the experience of repeated experiments.
      > Evolution is based on the experience of species undergoing
      mutations, such as the
      > flu virus we see from year to year. However, there is plenty of
      evidence that
      > some people have invincible ignorance and we just need to face that
      fact
      > also. Of course some people don't accept the fact that there are facts.
      > Have a good year teaching. From that old retired sad SACC Bill Byrne
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
    • Mark Lewine
      Bill, the story that I was told is that Dubya got his only A in college from Margaret Mead who was replacing a friend at Yale on Sabbatical. She announced
      Message 34 of 34 , Sep 20, 2006
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        Bill, the story that I was told is that 'Dubya' got his only A in college from Margaret Mead who was replacing a friend at Yale on Sabbatical. She announced that she did not believe in grading her students so that everyone in the class received an A.
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Tbbyrnehom@...
        To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 8:29 AM
        Subject: Re: [SACC-L] Survey of national populations--acceptance of evolution


        Hi a all, Lloyd, I am reminded that W. actually took a course in
        Anthropology as an undergraduate and received a "B". I wonder if we could find out
        who was the professor at that time. Bill Byrne

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