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Of the Creation Persuasion

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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The Earth is flat. A full moon leads to more crime. Humans were created less than 10,000 years ago.

If you made your way through even the most general of science educations, the above statements should strike you as suspect. Having a Copernican worldview challenged by such a statement, for example, may encourage you to take a quick look around various sources of information to stabilize your psyche. When contradicting information shakes our foundations, how do we respond?

A few weeks ago I wrote a critique of an evaluation of a video by science educator Bill Nye that sparked a debate about how to best communicate a scientific position to a resistant public. If nearly half of Americans hold a creationist worldview, is Bill Nye’s video against teaching creationism to children an effective way to voice the scientific position to a wide audience? (Nye’s video was at 4.5 million views at the time of this writing.) I feel an informed approach is lacking in discussions like these. Communication research is replete with the science of persuasion. Here I want to deal with perhaps the most interesting case: persuading an ideologically entrenched audience that a worldview is incorrect.

Information Processing and Defensive Motivations

A goal of good science communication is to inform attitudes. How the public judges the safety of vaccinations, the nutritional value of genetically modified foods, or the veracity of evolution depends on sound explication. Especially today, when people can instantly get any information they want, it is essential for science communicators to understand how the information people are finding is changing their attitudes.

Research in the information processing paradigm seeks to answer how information modulated by our cognition affects attitudes. Whether we are trying to come to an informed decision, developing our values, or just trying to learn, information processing theories define the routes we take. The most successful theories in this field put human information processing into two modes. We process information either heuristically or systematically (also called System 1 and System 2 or peripheral and central processing). In heuristic processing we rely on cues and gut instincts to help us. For example, if we read an article by a NASA scientist, and do not have the capacity to evaluate the content ourselves, the authority of the author could be enough to superficially judge the information as accurate. Conversely, if we did have the capacity to evaluate the arguments in the NASA article, we could systematically process the information: looking deeply into the arguments and internalizing new ideas while updating old ones.

People are misers of mental effort. If we don’t have the interest or the capacity to look into the arguments, if the message isn’t personally relevant, if we judge that we already know all we need to know about a topic, there is no reason to spend precious mental resources. Thus, heuristic processing is our default mode (think of superficially surfing the web). Looking critically at information takes motivation. This is where information processing research informs effective science communication.

Researches have found that people who systematically process information form longer lasting attitudes that are more resistant to counter-arguments [1]. For example, if an article provides enough information and instills sufficient interest so the reader can systematically process it, the reader’s ensuing judgments will be based on the actual content of the article [2]. Judgments based on a heuristic scanning of the article will instead be based on peripheral cues such as message length, message source, or emotion, rather than on judgment-relevant information [2]. Because we don’t want to waste mental effort, systematic processing is subject to many more constraints such as time, degree of personal relevance, and general clarity of the message. So systematic processing is crucial for contentious topics like creationism and evolution.

Seeking and processing accurate information is one thing, but encountering worldview-contradicting information is another. Even though the science on the issue of evolution versus creationism is one-sided, it doesn’t seem to matter. Refuting creationism is fundamentally different from merely disseminating scientifically accurate information. The reason that creationism cannot be dispatched in the same way belief in a flat Earth can, for example, is that creationism entails an entire worldview with its own set of values distinct from concerns of scientific accuracy. Therefore, even systematically processing accurate information about evolution may do little to change creationist attitudes. The motivation is what matters here.

The desire to form attitudes that square with the available facts is straightforward from an information processing perspective. When determining whether genetically modified foods are as nutritious as conventional foods, for example, we expend as much mental effort as is needed to come to a confident conclusion [1]. We process until we feel we have formed an accurate attitude about genetically modified foods. However, with a topic like creationism, the standard of what is considered sufficient information changes dramatically. As opposed to a motivation to be accurate, encountering a critique of a worldview instills a defensive motivation.

Researchers have found that “the sufficiency of a defensive processing strategy is determined, not by its ability to increase confidence in the objective accuracy of the conclusion, but by its ability to increase confidence in a preferred conclusion [my emphasis] that is consistent with material interests or self-defining beliefs [3].” When a creationist worldview is shaken, the desire to be in accordance with the scientific evidence can fly out the window, biology be damned. Information processing becomes biased in favor of supporting and therefore maintaining belief. And science is the ultimate worldview shaker. Biased systematic processing may also explain why creationism is so hard to root out: effortful processing favoring a particular worldview makes the view more resistant to counter-arguments.

Intelligently Designing Our Messages

In my critique of the Bill Nye article by Marc Kuchner, I stated that the suggestions offered by the “business communications expert” were hollow and insincere. I also claimed that because Nye’s video was a candid expression and not meant to be a primer on evolution, the critical style could be effective for some people. Looking at the persuasion literature, perhaps my critique was not as nuanced as it needed to be. For some, Nye’s message was surely tantamount to blasphemy (indeed, creationists responded quickly), and the resulting motivation to defend a worldview could bias evaluations of evolution.

On the other hand, Nye’s characterization of creationism could be seen as an implication that those of the “creation persuasion” hold views that do not reflect reality. A call to reflect accuracy in our attitudes may encourage a thorough look at the evidence for each position, which is all one can hope for. But disentangling these motivations can be tricky. Just what kind of communication transforms a desire to be accurate into a desire to support prior beliefs? It depends on how much one knows about the topic, how much one needs to know, and a capacity to evaluate the arguments, among other things.

How should we communicate science that potentially contradicts a worldview? Communication research suggests an effort to switch motivations. Anecdotally, the most fruitful conversation I’ve had in this debate was with a creationist who simply wanted a clearer explanation of evolution than was offered in his religious education. The desire to have accurate attitudes allowed him to dispassionately consider the evidence. It was my job as a communicator to give him the ability to understand the basics of the theory, to be able to systematically process what I was saying. What resulted was an enduring embrace of the science. By crafting a message that fostered a desire to be accurate, rather than one of defense, I had changed a mind. My case study of one should hardly inform science communication as a whole, but it shouldn’t be dismissed either.

The research on risk communication offers a similar conclusion. Self-affirmation theory [4] proposes that our thoughts and behaviors are motivated by the desire to maintain self-worth or self-integrity. When threatening information is encountered, people tend to respond defensively in order to maintain this positive self-image. For example, a coffee drinker who thinks he is a “healthy” person may discredit information that claims drinking coffee has health risks. However, if a message can affirm a person’s image through other means, like bolstering important values, the need to respond defensively to threatening information is reduced [5]. This may be the lynchpin in communicating possibly worldview-shaking messages:

Salient, self-affirming thoughts should make it easier to be objective about other, self-threatening information; they should reduce the pressure to diminish the threat inherent in this information. In this way, self-affirming thoughts may be an effective means of reducing thought distorting defense mechanisms such as denial and rationalization (Steele, 1988, p. 290).

Resolving the evolution versus creationism debate may then be about appealing to shared values, like a desire to have beliefs supported by good reasons or evidence. Communicators can affirm an audience’s self-integrity by pointing this out. This approach dovetails nicely with shifting from a defensive to an accuracy motivation. Indeed, this sort of appeal has been found to reduce the defensive processing of messages and increase their acceptance [6]. But it gets more complicated. In one study, having participants reflect on small acts of kindness they recently completed had a similar self-affirming effect. By bolstering self-image (i.e., “I’m a good/smart person”), one is more receptive to threatening information, and processes it in a less biased way [6]. This surely has implications for the language used in potentially threatening messages. Lowering someone’s self image by calling him or her in effect “not good” or “stupid” could easily trigger a defensive cognitive stance. It needs to be made clear when arguing for evolution that its acceptance does not reduce a person’s integrity or self-worth, though many fundamentalist mindsets will claim otherwise.

It could very well be that the emphasis on “science versus religion” has poisoned the well by emphasizing belief defense over accuracy. If the frame can somehow be shifted, and science communicators are diligent in providing the public with the best information available, all we can ask for is that the public thinks deeply about it, and inform attitudes with it.


1. Eagly, A., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

2. Chen, S., & Chaiken, S. (1999). The heuristic-systematic model in its broader context. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual- process theories in social psychology (pp. 73–96). New York: Guilford.

3. Giner-Sorolla, R., & Chaiken, S. (1997). Selective use of heuristic and systematic processing under defense motivation. Per Soc Psychology Bull, 23, 84–97.

4. Steele, C. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 261–302). New York: Academic Press.

5. Sherman, D., Nelson, L., & Steele, C. (2000). Do messages about health risks threaten the self? Increasing the acceptance of threatening health messages via self-affirmation. Per Soc Psychology Bull, 26(9), 1046–1058.

6. Reed, M., & Aspinwall, L. (1998). Self-affirmation reduces biased processing of health-risk information. Mot & Emot, 22(2), 99–132.

Image: Creationist car by Amy Watts.

Further Reading:

This is Your Brain on the Internet (Maybe)

A list of the critiques of critiques of critiques of Bill Nye’s message.

Kyle Hill About the Author: Kyle Hill is a freelance science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Comments 16 Comments

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  1. 1. julianpenrod 5:12 pm 10/2/2012

    This may be removed because it willo criticize the vblogger and all of “science” overall.
    A typical hatchet job of legitimate suspicions of the self serving system that cals itself “science”.
    Note, for example, equating belief in a flat earth with not accepting “evolution”. Thousands of years ago, when people still accepted more widely that there was no such thing as “evolution”, they knew the earth was round simply because ships at sea went below the horizon as they departed. Yet the rampant bigotry that, “Everybody in the past was stupid” has every, frankly, hack “science” promoter claiming deceitfully that people in the past believed the earth was flat.
    For example, too, consider that Kyle Hill talks of “teaching scientific positions” then addresses the infamous Bill Nye video. But, rememebr, Bill Nye said baldly that, if you don’t believe in “evolution”, then you can’t be an engineer, a chemist, a phsyicist. But Isaac Newton lived in an age that took the Bible literally, even Newton did. Yet he laid the groundwork for much of modern physics! Much of the groundwork for chemistry was derived by those who didn’t hold to “evolution”, and Gregor Mendel, whose laws of heredity biology regularly invokes, was a monk and, therefore, accepted the Bible! To say that you need to believe in “evolution” to be qualified as an engineer, a chemist is a patent lie.
    How very unsettling, though, to see the discussion degrade into just a paean to mind control rhetoric!
    And that’s all that discussed. “Persuading an ideologically entrenched audience” is code for thought control. Think. If a religionist called “science” devotees “ideologically entranched”, the “science” devotees would bridle, but aren’t they? And if a religionist talked about changing how they think, wouldn’t the “science” devotees call it “an assault on freedom of opinion”? The “information processing paradigm” is invoked to emphasize basically carefully cherry picking content and presentation to inculcate confidence in “science”. But, if you use emotionally loaded poetics and prose, built around a premise that your side is always only right, it could be condemned as “manipulative” by those on the other side. Note how that is precisely what “science” devotees blame for trust in religion, yet, now, it is being recommended as a way to grow an unjustified trust in “science”!
    The article dances around in ideas of presentation and such, but, in the end, it is recommending using basic methods of mind control to make people trust “science”. Apparently in the face of “science” itself having nothing that commends it!

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  2. 2. Dani Boy 6:38 pm 10/2/2012


    What do you have against the communication of accurate information? Because this is the crux of the biscuit. The article suggests how to COMMUNICATE ACCURATE INFORMATION without attempting to overtly antagonise a certain worldview.

    “When a creationist worldview is shaken, the desire to be in accordance with the scientific evidence can fly out the window, biology be damned. Information processing becomes biased in favor of supporting and therefore maintaining belief.” – Information Processing and Defensive Motivations, paragraph 7.

    Does this ring a bell? It is churlish to mention ‘if a religionist talked about changing how they think, wouldn’t the “science” devotees call it “an assault on freedom of opinion?”‘, because science IS about changing how we think – based purely on actual evidence, and hypotheses that are tested again and again and again. Science is not set in stone. Also, science is NOT an ideology. You’re visiting the scientific american website, so I take it you know the difference and what you have written is a rather long and drawn-out typo?

    I understand what you mean about ‘cherry-picking’ content and how it may seem manipulative, but this is meant as a way of avoiding a defensive cognitive stance.

    Lastly, I am unsure as to why you have used quote marks every time you mention the word ‘Science’. What is your reasoning for this? How is it a ‘self serving system’?

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  3. 3. M Tucker 7:01 pm 10/2/2012

    I would submit that “if nearly half of Americans hold a creationist worldview” then that must include some who have science backgrounds. That must include some who are working chemists and physicists of various persuasions. It might include some geologists and I know I have come across some biologists who deny evolution. So I think Nye’s fear that denial of evolution will hold us all back is in error. It is quite possible for someone to be attracted by a science, to complete a course of study, to succeed at some level in their profession, while also casting aside other aspects of that science. Then when the pollster phones and questions them about evolution they respond that they do not believe that evolution is true. These Americans are completely separate from those who travel about giving lectures on creationism. These are Americans who view evolution as an attack on their religious worldview and find that being told that chimps are close relatives of humans to be an unacceptable inconvenient truth. There are other inconvenient scientific truths that some with science backgrounds deny based solely on their unacceptable nature. That is what we humans do as a self-protective mechanism. If we find a scientific truth to be unacceptable we cast is aside even if we have been exposed to a moderately rigorous scientific education. So, as we can see demonstrated by the remarkable popularity of young earth creationist “theory” among non-scientists, a worldview does not have to be logical, based on fact, or even be self-consistent. So, Kyle, if I were you, I would consider that “changed mind” of your singular case study to be an unprecedented success.

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  4. 4. julianpenrod 7:46 pm 10/2/2012

    If the information you claim to be presenting is in disagreement with someone’s worldview, it can be descrined as insincere and disingenuous to provide it in such a way as not to “antagonize” that worldview! It can be described as circuitously, indirectly and subversively altering the other’s thinking to do otherwise. To pretend amenability in most places, but in disagreement on one point, then, when they have acceded that point in deference to your pt\retense of accommodation, attack another point. When they comprmise there, go on to another. Basically, a “death of a thousand cuts”, slowly destroying their perceptions by steps, rather than taking what many consider the more honorable tack of striking your colors from the start.
    It also means that your side, “science”, doesn’t have what it takes to actually, directly contradict “creationism”!
    Because it is the making of claims, the recounting of someone else’s assertions of “experiments” that is largely attacked by “creationists”.
    If “science” could place an actual, direct, obvious, unequivocal demonstration of “evolution” occurring naturally, witout human intervention, into the literal hands of a member of the “rank and file”, many can be affected quite differently. But “science” can’t, because there is none. “Scientists” parade things they call “fossils”, which, for all the “rank and file” know, may only be resin casts shaped to look that way, and they order everyone to believe they are real. Then they draw “conclusions” from those resin casts.
    Dani Boy talks about “science” working by evidence and hypotheses that are tested. No. “Science” is a group of people in lab coats claiming they work by “evidence” and “hypotheses”, then passing down “conclusions” and ordering the public to believe them. As long as they do not place absolute, incontrovertible proof of their claims right in the “rank and file’s” hands, “science” cannot be claimed to be anything more than that.
    And, if religionists talked of using a “death of a thousand cuts” methods of slowly, surreptitiously changing “science” devotees to think in a religious way, they would be attacked by “science”.
    And, as for referring to “science”, like “modern art”, it is not something that stands on its own merit, it is a group of individuals pretending to work in a vein similar to individuals long ago who can be described as being more legitimate, providing self serving material, and ordering the public to think it is valid and legitimate, based on the imprimatur of other individuals who claim “sophistication”. In “modern art”, it’s craven posers insincerely tosasing gobbets of paint at canvases, then relying on connived “critics” to call it good, then charging fortunes for them. “Science” is individuals in white coats sending out claims from behind “laboratory” doors of “facts” and ordering the “rank and file” to believe them because people with a lot of letters after their name agree, then they go on an get bigger and bigger grants and positions.

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  5. 5. StanChrzanowski 10:34 pm 10/2/2012

    If you discuss this with “true believers” like Catie Frates and Grady McMurtry, you’ll realize that this issue has nothing really to do with anti-science, but rather with pseudo-science. They claim to know more about science than scientists do, and they use that claim to convince the masses that had a hard time with math, chemistry, and physics that their version of creation is correct.

    The issue is that a fundamentalist faction of Christianity has convinced many people that if any part of the Bible is untrue, then the whole Bible is in jeopardy and Christianity… the religion of 2 billion people… will collapse. These are the biblical literalists and the mental and verbal machinations they will go through to prove that every word of the Bible is true are stunning… in other words, they leave me stunned.

    P.S. I have two friends, very good Civil Engineers, who both claim to believe in Creationism. I don’t understand why and have had discussions with both about it, and all I can figure is that faith can trump reason.

    Good luck!

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  6. 6. Luca 10:32 am 10/3/2012

    I have some creationist friends also.

    I like to call them ‘Pavlov’s Christians’, definetively They know nothing about religion, They were only brainwashed when They were younger.

    No way to change their opinions and I have to be compelled to change my opinion also:

    Atheism is not for all.

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  7. 7. molecularbiologist 1:19 pm 10/3/2012

    “It could very well be that the emphasis on “science versus religion” has poisoned the well by emphasizing belief defense over accuracy.”

    YES! Its been too long since I last encountered this understanding of the controversy. There are way too many opposing the anti-science education campaign whose primary motivation isn’t science education but obtaining a soap box to attack other’s religious beliefs. Its been decades now. This isn’t new. There’s more than sufficient experience to conclude that the “science vs. religion” framing isn’t working.
    Another trap opposition to creationism falls into, and that this article seems to be veering into, is targeting committed creationists for persuasion when they aren’t the problem. 50% of population are not religious fundamentalists. The problem is the disinterested majority that is both uninformed about the controversy and at the same time interested in seeing a compromise between the extremes they’re being presented with (on the rare instances that they notice). On this population (the large one) a message from a celebrity/authority like Nye is effective, but he’s only one of two personalities at the current time who could pull it off.

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  8. 8. M Tucker 2:10 pm 10/3/2012

    I have a son-in-law who is studying to be a pastor and the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He does know something about his version of Christianity and the bible but he not only rejects all aspects of science that do not fit his worldview but he rejects all aspects of history and biblical scholarship that he finds inconvenient. He of course has never come across any fossils in nature and he has never seen any of the numerous buildings and walls made of stone containing fossils. But those who lecture on creationism and the numerous creationist museums around the world, and in at least 14 US states, do not deny that fossils are real. They simply deny the true age of the universe and earth. They deny all of geologic history. They deny evolution of all flora and fauna and especially humans. They do not try to provide evidence from the natural world for their creationist theory. They do not try to explain all the contradictions between what they show and the biblical description of creation. They do not even try to explain all the contradictions evident in the biblical description of creation alone. They do not examine the long and fruitless attempt of early geologists to find evidence for Noah’s flood and they do not attempt to explain the long and complex stratigraphic record. They simply show people coexisting with dinosaurs, make their wild claims, and expect the public to believe them. It may not be absolutely anti-science because they appropriate aspects of science to give the appearance of authority, but they are anti-science in that they reject the long self-correcting process of scientific inquiry.

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  9. 9. Bill_Crofut 5:30 pm 10/3/2012

    Mr. Hill,

    Re: “Anecdotally, the most fruitful conversation I’ve had in this debate was with a creationist who simply wanted a clearer explanation of evolution…By Crafting a message that fostered a desire to be accurate, rather than one of defense, I had changed a mind.”

    Perhaps you’d like to take a shot at crafting a message that will change the following mind:

    “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”

    Prof. Richard Lewontin. 1997. Billions and Billions of Demons. NY Times Book Reviews: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, Random House, January 9,

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  10. 10. aldomat 7:32 pm 10/3/2012

    Mr. Hill,

    On style: your text feels like a student paper – way too many technical terms and quotes from academic papers to be of use to the casual reader.

    On substance:

    First: For most people evolution is a “system 1 brain” issue: there is no mileage in putting an effort into understand it. Unlike poor driving, belief in creationism (or that the earth is flat) has no effects on daily life for 98% of us. Pur it another way: division of labor and “think locally” militate against spending time of worldviews. So systematic information is not the answer.

    Second: you assume individual autonomy and argue from self-affirmation theory. Yet most creationist views have their origin in religion, which relies on belief systems of a group. “Group-think” has to be tackled differently than autonomous personal belief. Change must break the affirmative feed-backs the group provides to its members, supporting self-affirmation and strengthening group-loyalty. In such situations either you convince the group, or you force the individual into apostasy. Success will depend on thresholds. Path-dependent outcomes and “blowback” loom ahead, so “intelligent design” of the message has to be based on context and circumstance foremost.

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  11. 11. K.Hill 11:54 pm 10/3/2012

    I will try to comment on as much as I can.

    M Tucker:

    Yes, there are some scientists who are also creationists. But the percentages are extremely low (recent polls put it at around 5%). Nye’s fear that teaching creationism to children is well-founded for fields like geology and biology, considering that you will most likely skew everything in those fields within a creationist framework. You may know some scientists that are creationists, but having a significant percentage of scientists believing in creationism would hold those sciences back (it’s hard to study evolution when you refuse to accept it, for example).


    Taking a stance against teaching creationism does not necessarily imply atheism. Many religious people find ways to make evolution and modern geology fit within their belief systems.

    Bill Crofut:

    The critique you quoted merely laments the fact that many scientific discoveries do not make common sense, and then blasts materialism. There is nothing in the universe which needs to bend to the whims of our limited imaginations, and discovering things counter to our common sense is liberating and enlightening. Materialism is useful in science because so far there is no evidence of anything beyond the natural; it’s not a dogma. We are not forced into materialism, it is just how the world evidently works, based on inquiry and investigation.


    I’m sorry that the post wasn’t very approachable for you.

    What you are arguing is exactly what I am talking about in my post. Communicating in ways that can encourage systematic processing is key in discussing evolution versus creationism.

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  12. 12. aldomat 7:35 am 10/4/2012

    Mr. Tucker

    I wonder whether you’ve read my comment. You whole post is about autonomous individuals (look at your examples) and self-affirmation, which again is foremost a personal concept. I was arguing the centrality of group and culture in this context.

    I’m not harping – just showing how the ideology of individual autonomy has pervaded every discourse – including social psychology of all good places – to the point where the existence of the group and its culture, and their central role in identity and change is implicitly denied.

    In an off moment you may want to read PASCALE/STERNIN on the workings of PD.

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  13. 13. Bill_Crofut 10:20 am 10/4/2012

    Mr. Hill,

    It’s unfortunate that Prof. Lewontin was unable to recognize a lack of dogma in the evolutionary paradigm. However, he’s not alone. A pair of biologists would seem to have set the stage 3 decades earlier:

    “Our theory of evolution has become, as [philosopher of science, Karl R.] Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus ‘outside of empirical science’ but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training. The cure seems to us not to be a discarding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, but more skepticism about many of its tenets.”

    [L. C. Birch and Paul Ehrlich. 1967. Evolutionary History and Population Biology. NATURE, vol. 214, p. 352]

    Is the use of the terms, “dogma” and “tenets” and the phrase, “not necessarily false” as interesting for you as it is for me?

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  14. 14. M Tucker 3:06 pm 10/4/2012

    Mr aldomat (I know I am assuming Mr is correct but then so did you),

    Thank you for your comment. I’m sure you must have noticed that your comment appears below my last from 10/3/2012 so I did not, of course, see your comment or respond to it. Perhaps you were responding to Mr Hill. I take your point but I have found that attempting to change an entire group’s philosophy to be a near impossibility while I have experienced a few individual conversions of philosophy first hand. I am also aware of the long and convoluted history of creationist thought in America and those who eventually gave up on defending a literal interpretation of Geneses did not require that the entire religious community they were associated with go along. It is also evident from history that discredited ideologies never disappear.

    Mr Hill,

    I thank you too for your comment. As you say the number of all scientists who are also creationists is indeed low. And I would expect that the fraction of those who go on to study of biology is also very low. I really don’t think that creationism is holding anyone back from studying science in general and, of course, they will be much more likely to avoid evolutionary biology and probably all of geology. However, if I do see evidence that creationism is impacting the number of students who go on to study science I will adjust my opinion. My point is that we all cherry-pick what we like about a particular ideology, some of us cherry-pick what we like about the sciences, and cast off what we disagree with. It will be very hard to appeal to logic with a creationist and that is why I think your success is so very impressive.

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  15. 15. Dani Boy 9:44 am 10/5/2012


    -“Science” is a group of people in lab coats claiming they work by “evidence” and “hypotheses”, then passing down “conclusions” and ordering the public to believe them.-

    What EVIDENCE do YOU have to support this spurious statement?

    -“Scientists” parade things they call “fossils”, which, for all the “rank and file” know, may only be resin casts shaped to look that way, and they order everyone to believe they are real. Then they draw “conclusions” from those resin casts.-

    The ‘rank and file’, as you call them, can OBSERVE the fossils for THEMSELVES, if they so choose. After OBSERVING them, they can make up their OWN minds as to whether the fossils are composed of natural material (limestones for example, are composed of calcite, and thus they will always effervesce with addition of dilute HCl on a fresh fracture surface. Limestone is usually formed out of small pieces of the shells of marine plants or animals and sometimes it contains whole sea shells) or fake resin. No one is forcing anything, as you claim. Go to Dover. SEE FOR YOURSELF.

    -If “science” could place an actual, direct, obvious, unequivocal demonstration of “evolution” occurring naturally, witout human intervention, into the literal hands of a member of the “rank and file”, many can be affected quite differently. But “science” can’t, because there is none.-

    You’re a long way from home. This is a scientific community. Stop wasting peoples’ time.

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  16. 16. denisosu 4:13 pm 10/7/2012

    Some interesting ideas in the article about persuasion – I just wonder would it be more effective, and communicate with a broader audience, if it didn’t choose such a controversial example for its case-study.

    Why is this the wrong example? Because the key challenge is that the two “sides” (even though they are not in opposition as such) do not agree on what counts as evidence, and do not trust even “evidence” proposed by the other side as incontrovertible …

    A better, and more practical, example, in the news today, would be to convince a Venezuelan supporter of President Chavez – one who sees him as the liberator and saviour of her country – that in fact he and his policies are ruining the country – and a good example of the kind of persuasion one might use is the NY Times editorial (link below).

    It is still a case of trying to change a world-view, there will still be the same defensive reaction from a devout supporter, but in a sense one can imagine how, upon seeing the facts and the evidence and the data, even the most ardent fan would have to admit that Chavez’s policies are failing …

    … which is not the case in the Creationism debate, because many believers in Intelligent Design, even some who are scientists, just do not believe either that science is even applicable to the question, or that the evidence of science is trustworthy in this context.

    Link to this

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