Dumbing Down

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Frank Newport, “In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins,” Gallup.com, 1 June 2012.

“Creation Science was the prevailing belief system before the rise of geology in the late 18th Century,” writes the Religious Tolerance website:

Early European scientists, from Copernicus to Galileo to Newton believed (as did almost all Christians in their time) in a literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation.

Historians have made many estimates for the date of creation, including 3761, 3928, 4004, and 4456 BCE. The most widely accepted date was by Bishop Ussher: 4004-OCT-22 BCE

Belief in Usher’s [sic] date continued among Christian scientists, until the early 18th century, when it became obvious to most researchers that geological processes were exceedingly slow, and must have been accomplished over incredibly long periods of time. An earth only 6,000 years old was simply not possible.34

“Children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in ‘fantastical stories’ are fictional,” reports Scott Kaufman for The Raw Story relating Corriveau, Chen, and Harris’s study “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds” published in the July issue of Cognitive Science. “However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism.”

“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.

This conclusion contradicts previous studies in which children were said to be “born believers,” i.e. that they possessed “a natural credulity toward extraordinary beings with superhuman powers. Indeed, secular children responded to religious stories in much the same way as they responded to fantastical stories — they judged the protagonist to be pretend.”

The researchers also determined that “religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is, a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal relations.” 35

Jennifer was Meg Griffin’s friend and a member of the Heaven’s Helpers cult in ‘Chitty Chitty Death Bang’. Wearing a jogging suit and a blank smile, she often would say positive and upbeat things out of the blue with a blank stare. She committed suicide by drinking the poisoned cult refreshments. – Family Guy Wiki

Australian con-man Ken Ham’s use of neuro-linguistic trickery during speaking engagements in the United States has suckered many naive people into feeling ashamed for understanding evolution while convincing them to buy into his fairy tale belief system. For example, speaking to a room full of children and their parents:

Well, boys and girls, put your hand up if you’ve heard of the word “evolution”. Oh boy, I think just about everyone put their hands up. Hands down. Put your hand up if you’ve heard that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. Dear, oh dear. Hands down. Put your hand up if you’ve heard that people came from apelike creatures or something like that. You know I think just about everyone in the world has heard those things, and I want to tell you right from the start here: I don’t believe that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, and I certainly don’t believe that you came from apelike creatures or anything like that.

I mean, did your grandfather look like that? I don’t think so. Did your grandmother look like that? No, not at all. Boys and girls, I don’t believe that we came from apelike creatures; I don’t believe in millions of years; I believe in what the Bible says is true: that God created a perfect world, he created everything in six days just a few thousand years ago. We don’t believe in evolution: evolution is the idea some people have to explain life without God.

No, I believe what the Bible says, actually, I believe that God created everything. . . We’re going to talk about that.36

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“A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously,” notes CJ Werleman for AlterNet:

“This level of scientific illiteracy provides fertile soil for political appeals based on sheer ignorance,” writes Susan Jacoby in The Age of American Unreason.37

In 2002, The Seattle Times reported on an Associated Press article by Malcolm Ritter:

Can a nation debate the merits of cloning when fewer than half its adults can give a decent definition of DNA? Can it render good judgment on genetically engineered food when only a quarter can define a molecule? And can Americans assess competing medical claims when only a third show a good understanding of the scientific process? Experts see cause for concern in the latest report card on American scientific understanding.…

In its current form, the survey has been given every two years since 1979 and overall the results haven’t changed much, [senior analyst for the National Science Foundation Melissa] Pollak said.… What bothers Pollak the most is the finding that only about a third of adults showed a good understanding of the scientific process. “This is where science can benefit people in their daily lives,” Pollak said. People get bombarded with claims by psychics and medical quacks, she said, and if they don’t understand about critical thinking and scientific evidence, they can waste time and money. That understanding also helps citizens confront scientific political issues where the media are often content to present both sides of an argument, no matter which side has better evidence, said Shirley M. Malcom, head of education for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Moreover, experts say, with the spread of technology, workers will have to be able to use it and the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that should be learned in science classes. There’s another, related concern. How will the United States supply qualified workers for careers in science and technology? Nowadays, the nation leans heavily on foreign help.38, xiii, xiv

Chris Mooney raises concerns about American science in his book, The Republican War on Science:

Rallied by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a liberal-leaning group based in Massachusetts, many of the nation’s leading scientists, and by no means only liberals, have sweepingly denounced the Bush administrations misuses of science. Beyond the issue of embryonic stem cell research, they have accused the administration of skewing science on global warming, mercury pollution, condom effectiveness, the alleged health risks of abortion, and much else.…

Legal reforms, news levels of activism, raising journalistic standards – all of these measures will help beat back science abuse. In the end, however, we cannot escape the reality that we face a political problem, one that requires explicitly political solutions.39, xv

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xiii Some 20 percent of Microsoft’s engineers are of Indian origin.*
– “Bill Gates joins AIDS fight in India,” Yahoo! News UK & Ireland, 11 Nov 2002, at http://uk.news.yahoo.com/021111/80/dedtr.html (retrieved: 2002); See also Reuters, “Microsoft investing in India’s future; Boosting education, partnerships, software development,” MSNBC News, 12 Nov 2002, at http://www.msnbc.com/news/833934.asp (retrieved: 2002); and “Microsoft to Invest $400 Mln in Indian Projects,” Reuters, 12 Nov 2002, at http://reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=technologynews&StoryID=1720244 (retrieved: 2002).

* Morgan Stanley estimates the number of U.S. jobs outsourced to India will double to about 150,000 in the next three years. Analysts predict as many as two million U.S. white-collar jobs such as programmers, software engineers and applications designers will shift to low cost centers by 2014.
– “U.S. Companies Moving More Jobs Overseas,” Netscape News, 27 Dec 2003 (retrieved: 2004).

xiv [Regarding China and India] “They have more honors kids than we have kids.”
– Charles M. Blow, “They have more honors kids than we have kids,” The New York Times, 31 July 2008, at http://blow.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/31/they-have-more-honors-kids-than-we-have-kids/ (retrieved: 5 March 2014).

xv Science is not just under repression; the attack is akin to the burning of books that occurred in Nazi Germany.
– Todd Wilkinson, Science Under Siege: The Politician’s War on Nature and Truth (Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1998), p. 11.

34 “A brief history of the conflict between evolution and creation science,” Religious Tolerance, at http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_hist.htm (retrieved: 14 July 2014).

35 Scott Kaufman, “Children exposed to religion have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction: researchers,” The Raw Story, 18 July 2014, at http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/18/children-exposed-to-religion-have-difficulty-distinguishing-fact-from-fiction/ (retrieved: 26 July 2014); See also Kathleen H. Corriveaua, Eva E. Chenb, Paul L. Harris, “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Cognitive Science, July 2014, at http://www.bu.edu/learninglab/files/2012/05/Corriveau-Chen-Harris-in-press.pdf (retrieved: 26 July 2014).

36 “Creationism propaganda for children caught on camera,” Youtube user Monio E, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGxBUyHbn2E (retrieved: 19 December 2014).

37 CJ Werleman, “The Results Are In: America Is Dumb and on the Road to Getting Dumber,” AlterNet, 4 June 2014, at http://www.alternet.org/education/results-are-america-dumb-and-road-getting-dumber (retrieved: 7 June 2014).

38 Malcolm Ritter (The Associated Press), “What we don’t know about science could fill books,” The Seattle Times, 19 June 2002, at http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20020619&slug=science19 (retrieved: 5 June 2012).

39 Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2005), pp. 4, 255.

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