According to a disheartening recent poll, 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwin, most Americans don’t believe in evolution
The poll was poorly and strangely worded. “Do you, personally, believe in the theory of evolution, do you not believe in evolution, or don’t you have an opinion either way?” One fourth of respondents said they “do not believe in evolution,” while another 36 percent said they had no opinion and only 39 percent said they “believe in evolution.”
So that’s about 60 percent of the country that doesn’t “believe in” evolution.
It’s hard to know what that means, exactly, to “believe in” or “not believe in” evolution. It’s like not believing in Missouri, or not believing in thermal conduction. Those two examples are a bit different from one another, but they both get at aspects of what this odd sort of disbelief entails.
“Not believing in Missouri” doesn’t affect the Show-Me State one way or another. To say that you don’t “believe in” Missouri is really to say that you deny it exists — that its existence is a fact you refuse to accept. That’s delusion No. 1. Delusion No. 2 is a corollary to that refusal — the idea that your belief or disbelief somehow makes it so. These are delusions because Missouri does, in fact, exist, and because its existence is not conditional upon your “belief” in the reality or unreality of that fact. Both of these deluded notions, I think, are a part of what many of those respondents meant when they told the pollster that they “do not believe” in evolution.
It didn’t help, of course, that Gallup framed the question with leading language about “the theory of Missouri.”
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