Canadian… Smugness… Failing… Must… Read…. Darwin…

From yesterday’s Globe & Mail, this flabbergasting factoid:

Only 51% of Ontario residents accept the reality of evolution.

Even Americans do better, at 53%. Nationally, Canada beats the States in the Enlightenment Sweeptstakes — at 59% — but that’s not by very goddamn much. Sullen, resentful thanks to Dave Nickle for the link.

Meanwhile The EU, wary of similar threats on their own shores (these ones arising largely from Islamic fundies rather than Christian ones), is entertaining a resolution (albeit a nonbinding one) to keep such easter-bunny stupidity out of their science classes. Evidently they regard creationism as a Human Rights issue. Saddens me to say it, but maybe we need something along those lines here at home.

Oh, and okay. I’ll look into this forum thingy. Looks pretty straightforward. Maybe I can embed a poll or two therein, get some sense of how widespread your irritation might be with the current on-screen format.

Update/Note o’Hope, 1750 CDT: Springer, the 800-lb gorilla of scientific publishing, is launching a new journal explicitly designed to help science teachers defend against creationism in the classroom. If you check out its Board of Directors you’ll find some pretty heavy hitters, including Dan Brooks, in whose whose lab I took up space for two years.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday June 20 2007at 08:06 am , filed under evolution . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

34 Responses to “Canadian… Smugness… Failing… Must… Read…. Darwin…”

  1. Thanks Peter, against all the odds I’ve been moving into an optimism phase … What did that Nicholl chap say?

    I wonder which is more forgivable: the effects of indoctrination or stupidity?

  2. The problem is that fundies are loud, scientists are quiet. Fundies scream sacrilege at things like evolution and gravity, while scientists nod politely and quietly engage in gentle conversations about why their wrong.

    I think scientists need to change their tactics. Instead of “why, that’s an interesting take on things, but I politely disagree” it needs to be more “eat microscopes, bitch!” with all the implied violence.

    maybe then the idiots will be more cautious about shouting their ill-founded beliefs across the world.

  3. I’m not sure to be happy or sad about this. On the one hand, I can point to it when my Canadian friends start talking about ignorant Americans. On the other hand, ignorance is bad and willful ignorance is a crime. I guess sad wins.

  4. Lol, I’m glad you changed your mind. it is my belief that a forum would be a good thing, and in true fundie fashion, if you go against my suggestion of having a forum I’m going to burn you at the damn stake!!!

    Just kidding.

    Incidentally, “fundie” is my new favorite perjorative term.

  5. But Scott, Ontario is Canada. Ask anyone in Ontario. Right, Peter?

    D

  6. I agree with Scott regarding the geographic breakdown in the US. If we didn’t have the “bible belt” in the middle of the country dragging us down, we could show better numbers. Oh well. Either way, we beat Canada purely based on the fact that we have a Creation Museum. Their motto is “prepare to believe”. Sigh.

  7. Percentage of Americans who believe in the following:

    The Farha-Steward poll results are followed by the Gallup results in parentheses.

    Belief in psychic/spiritual healing: 56 (54)
    Belief in ESP: 28 (50)
    Haunted houses: 40 (42)
    Demonic possession: 40 (41)
    Ghosts/spirits of the dead: 39 (38)
    Telepathy: 24 (36)
    Extraterrestrials visited Earth in the past: 17 (33)
    Clairvoyance and prophecy: 24 (32)
    Communication with the dead: 16 (28)
    Astrology: 17 (28)
    Witches: 26 (26)
    Reincarnation: 14 (25)
    Channeling: 10 (15)

    Evolution is not the only hilariously misguided thing Americans believe in.

  8. Nicholas said…

    I think scientists need to change their tactics. Instead of “why, that’s an interesting take on things, but I politely disagree” it needs to be more “eat microscopes, bitch!” with all the implied violence.

    maybe then the idiots will be more cautious about shouting their ill-founded beliefs across the world.

    Riiiight. I’m sure that would’ve worked gangbusters during the first Inquisition, too.

    The problem is, belief systems based on divine revelation are generally predicated on the assertion that everyone else’s beliefs are wrong. If you raise your voice back at them when they shout at you, you don’t get a cowed and penitent Fundy: you get the Middle East.

    No, the only solution I can see is outright extermination.

  9. Scott C. said…

    That article strikes me as so much scopes-monkey scat. Why do the Canadians get a province by province breakdown, but the US is lumped together in one big score? If you went state by state we’d get plently of 60 and 70% too, with some of our interior and southern red states dragging down the curve.

    Well, it was a Canadian poll; the American data were only offered by way of comparison. What really surprises me is that the proportion of folks in Alberta, the Bible Belt of the North (and I speak as the son of the founder of Calgary’s late, lamented Baptist Leadership Training School) — a greater proportion of Albertans bought into evolution than Ontarions, who traditionally like to think of themselves as more enlightened.

    Pleased to note that in BC, almost two thirds of the population accept reality at face value. That place has always been my favorite part of Canada.

  10. The problem is, belief systems based on divine revelation are generally predicated on the assertion that everyone else’s beliefs are wrong. If you raise your voice back at them when they shout at you, you don’t get a cowed and penitent Fundy: you get the Middle East.

    I would contest that–the Middle East isn’t pissed off at us because we tried to assert that their beliefs are wrong. At least, that’s not one of the main reasons.

    That Middle East is sort of a “perfect storm” of variables.

    1. They’ve got valuable resources, but an exceedingly uneven distribution of wealth.

    2. They’ve got a storytelling culture, which means that anachronism are rampant and grudges don’t go away.

    3. The Middle East is by-and-large a difficult place to live. As a general trend, at least in my opinion, the adversity of an environment is directly proportional to the zealotry and fanaticism of the population living there.

    This is along the lines of the fill-in-the-gaps theory of religion –the more and more uncertainty and unknowable attributes exist, the greater the foothold of religion.

    Despite how much we may dislike christian fundies, they’re a far cry from the middle east. Scientists simply need to be louder. As it stands, they speak in hushed voices and in esoteric terms while fundies generalize and use comforting analogies. Thus the problem is that of exposure–many people’s understanding of evolution and the evidence for it can be summarized in one, maybe two sentences. When the evidence and theory becomes more accessible, there will be a sea change.

    My thoughts, at least.

  11. What really makes a difference is education. That is why the right has held a decades long pogrom against public education. Because they don’t want to give up their racism and their dogma. Religion thrives on deep psychological trauma. Extra points if there are unresolved Oedipal issues to boot.

    Peter wrote:
    “No, the only solution I can see is outright extermination.”

    This is why you shouldn’t have a forum. That and it really would keep you away from writing. BTW? Why aren’t you writing right now?

    Nickolas wrote:
    “the adversity of an environment is directly proportional to the zealotry and fanaticism of the population living there.”

    You mean like Iceland, Sweden and Finland?

  12. You mean like Iceland, Sweden and Finland?

    Good point, those areas weren’t inhabited by any frenetically religious, warlike people before modern technology tamed the region.

    There was never a group of people there who practiced human sacrifice, nor did they conduct gruesome executions in the name of religion

    Oh wait, yes they were, they were known as the Vikings.

  13. Oh Dear Dog, there’s a “creation” museum in Alberta? The shame of it all!

    My favorite take on the whole creation museum announcement was here: http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/creationism_and_lilypads/

  14. Let them make a choice and stick with it. You want to be a fundie….. well, abandon the false god of science, and stick with biblical truths. None of that evil technology…..no siree… not in the good book… don’t kneed no larnin herins….ah knows all that I kneeds to know… got it all right here(pronounced ratcheer)….OBTW, when you get sick or injured, pray.

    (and on and on ad infinitum ad bladda blada….)
    …..

    Ask then what they do when they are really sick, if they say go to the doctor, shoot them right then and there, sending them to God to let Him deal with them for their hipocracy and lies.

    Just a thought……now i gotta move my tiny soapbox

  15. Yes Nickolas, I know the history. That just shows it isn’t the adverse environment but something else. So why are the Nordic cultures comparatively peaceful today? What made the difference?

    I think the difference is education and probably also that they have no enemies. No one is invading them and they are fairly content and don’t feel a need to invade anyone else.

    The middle east on the other hand has something everyone on the planet wants a piece of.

    BTW, I found a video of “sprite” affected cats. Did you know there are artificial languages designed especially for a hard palate? If we ever do really engineer small mammals so they can speak. One of those languages would be a perfect choice.

    One of my fav videos in a long time.
    Sigur Rós: Glósóli Winner of the CADS award for Best Rock Video 2006.

    Can ya tell I’m from Minnesota? Can we secede and join Canada? I don’t think the US will miss us.

  16. “3. The Middle East is by-and-large a difficult place to live. As a general trend, at least in my opinion, the adversity of an environment is directly proportional to the zealotry and fanaticism of the population living there.”

    I think it’s the heat – the hotter the country, the nuttier the people are in it.

  17. So why are the Nordic cultures comparatively peaceful today? What made the difference?

    As I tried to say before, technology deadened the adversity of nature by supplanting the whims of temperature and disease with central air heating and hospitals.

    This sort of health care has really yet to become available in the Middle East; the region is still rife with disease and malady, and thus, the religious fanaticism.

    I don’ mean to suggest that the adversity of the environment is the only thing that causes religious zealotry, but rather one element that provokes it’s development as a coping mechanism.

  18. That journal is a great initiative, but here’s hoping that it will be cheap enough for affordable, personal subscriptions by teachers.
    (It doesn’t look to be open source. That was perhaps too much to hope for.)

    I really like the idea of teachers and biologists cooperating on articles about science education. Not all biologists are good educators (personally, I tend to lose debates against creationists–the bastards are that smooth! But I always knew that I’d make a lousy teacher)

  19. Neal: I think it’s the heat – the hotter the country, the nuttier the people are in it.

    I note without comment that Washington DC is wicked hot in the summer.

    Haunted houses: 40
    Communication with the dead: 16

    What boggles me is that 24% of people believe houses can be haunted but you can’t talk to the ghosts. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say.

  20. Watts: If you raise your voice back at them when they shout at you, you don’t get a cowed and penitent Fundy: you get the Middle East.

    Nicholas: I would contest that–the Middle East isn’t pissed off at us because we tried to assert that their beliefs are wrong.

    I took Watts’ comment not as “this is why the Middle East hates America”. I took it as “this is why the Middle East hates itself“.

    Re: Forum. I second the comments about priorities – I come here to read the transcript from Dr. Watts’ electronic add-on brain. I already have a forum account at other places of deep insanity e.g. SomethingAwful. I probably wouldn’t visit a Watts forum on a regular basis, and I do hope Watts continues to write science fiction.

  21. Re: Forum. I second the comments about priorities – I come here to read the transcript from Dr. Watts’ electronic add-on brain. I already have a forum account at other places of deep insanity e.g. SomethingAwful. I probably wouldn’t visit a Watts forum on a regular basis, and I do hope Watts continues to write science fiction.

    I feel obligated to create an apologetic dialogue / defense for the forum idea.

    1. I’d like a forum as it would allow me to converse with fellow Watts’ fans more easily. I’m interested in what they are able to uncover for reading material outside of Watts; frequently I find myself without something to read and websites like Amazon providing little or no help. This doesn’t only apply to fictional work, but also the scientific sites people seem to have a knack for uncovering.

    2. The forum wouldn’t necessarily be “insane.” I think the user base of such a forum would be small and dedicated. People who purposefully vandalize forums tend to use bloated, high-user forums, like SomethingAwful, to maximize the attention they so desperately desire. I don’t think we’d have to worry about incessant, silly posts.

    3. Even popular forums can be self-moderating without the direct involvement of the creator, or even the involvement of appointed moderators. Take the forums at http://www.badastronomy.com as an example–the users take it upon themselves to defend the forum.

    Also, I’m really sick of hearing people say “Watts should/needs to focus on writing” (I do realize that Thebrummell said he “hopes” but other users have been more direct and assertive). This is for numerous reasons:

    a. It’s not your place to suggest where his priorities should be.
    b. Believe it or not, he’s under no legal obligation to write for you.
    c. In my mind, saying stuff like that is somewhat akin to telling your wife to stop doing x or y and get back in the kitchen—in other words, it’s not very polite.

  22. Only 51% of Ontario residents accept the reality of evolution.

    Well, duh. We share a common border, common heritage, have the same cultural influences. It would be surprising if this were not the case.

    Canada! Embrace your inner redneck!

  23. I have to ask this, with regard to “No, the only solution I can see is outright extermination”: do you really believe that those who don’t agree with evolution should be killed?

  24. do you really believe that those who don’t agree with evolution should be killed?

    Oh, man. I’m tempted to play it straight and nod my head here, just to see how far I can push it, but instead I should probably just point out to any newcomers:

    Folks, I frequently have my tongue so far back in my cheek that I’m frenching my own tonsils. For the record: while this blog may on occasion endorse the wholesale slaughter of various ethnic, religious, or other demographic groups, such endorsements are made with satirical intent. They may not be funny; but at least they are not serious either.

  25. nicholas wrote

    the adversity of an environment is directly proportional to the zealotry and fanaticism of the population living there.

    I actually wrote a story about that, if you cut out “zealotry and fanaticism” and replace it with “general hostility”. I even recycled the theme for a wee section of Blindsight…

  26. Bang the Brum Slowly (sorry, dude, but you did say you liked the nameplay…) responded to Nicholas‘s comment that

    I would contest that—the Middle East isn’t pissed off at us because we tried to assert that their beliefs are wrong.

    …by saying

    I took Watts’ comment not as “this is why the Middle East hates America”. I took it as “this is why the Middle East hates itself”.

    Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. Two sides, both fighting over conflicting promises made by their respective Imaginary Friends. The very premise is irrational at its base; how can rational discourse possibly prevail against a mindset whose basic axiom is that reason doesn’t count?

  27. I actually wrote a story about that, if you cut out “zealotry and fanaticism” and replace it with “general hostility”. I even recycled the theme for a wee section of Blindsight…

    The thought of that relationship first occured to me in eleventh grade, when I had to write a “literary critique” (a very generous term for an eleventh grader) of a book. I chose Dune and tried to argue that Herbert shared my theory (I’m still unsure as to whether I came up with it because of Dune or not). I remember distinctly that my teacher told me that I was simply writing “incendiary things for the sake of being incendiary.” Stupid b*@!%.

    Two sides, both fighting over conflicting promises made by their respective Imaginary Friends.

    To be fair, they’re fighting over the same imaginary friend. Like I said before, storytelling culture, grudges are self-amplifying.

  28. Brenda wondered

    This is why you shouldn’t have a forum. That and it really would keep you away from writing. BTW? Why aren’t you writing right now?

    Then The Bruminator said

    Re: Forum. I second the comments about priorities – I come here to read the transcript from Dr. Watts’ electronic add-on brain. I already have a forum account at other places of deep insanity e.g. SomethingAwful. I probably wouldn’t visit a Watts forum on a regular basis, and I do hope Watts continues to write science fiction.

    And Nicholas rose to the challenge with

    (a bunch of stuff about forums)

    then moved on to…

    Also, I’m really sick of hearing people say “Watts should/needs to focus on writing” (I do realize that Thebrummell said he “hopes” but other users have been more direct and assertive). This is for numerous reasons:

    a. It’s not your place to suggest where his priorities should be.
    b. Believe it or not, he’s under no legal obligation to write for you.
    c. In my mind, saying stuff like that is somewhat akin to telling your wife to stop doing x or y and get back in the kitchen—in other words, it’s not very polite.

    And my first reaction to all this is, Cool! People fighting over me! This is way better than getting picked on all the time! (Not that that happens here, of course. But it happens in a lot of other contexts. To friends of mine.)

    But let me weigh in all the same. First, if Brenda’s who I think she is (and she might not be), we kinda know each other a bit from the con scene — and if people who don’t know me at all are welcome to get in my face (and they are, you all are, that’s the whole point), certainly people I’ve broken bread with get to nag me a bit. It may be a far cry from Emily Post, but I take Brenda’s words as an encouraging nudge in the ass from someone who likes my writing, and that’s okay.

    Of course, Nicholas is right in that nobody but me gets to set my priorities (well, I guess Homeland Security gets to do whatever the fuck they like, but that won’t be until I cross the border). If someone gets really obnoxious and demanding I can call them a dick and delete their posts; but nobody has come close to that point yet. (And I don’t mind telling you, I’m a bit disappointed. Given the high proportion of assholes in the general human population, the lack of same on this site implies a very small readership.) And I do want to know if this crawl isn’t working — if the color scheme makes your eyeballs bleed, if the lack of threading is too much of a pain, if a forum would be a good idea — because a lot of that stuff I can fix in a few free minutes (whenever I get them).

    As to why I’m not writing at the moment (hey, Brenda, you asked), it’s for a bunch of reasons. This crawl takes up some time, of course. I’m also currently looking for a new agent, and there have been some time-consuming activities on that front. Whenever I’m asked to give a talk I have to spend a few days making slides, planning points, rehearsing, and configuring my words to be as inflammatory as possible. I’m still doing this postdoc. Bioconsulting contracts that I thought I’d killed have a way of popping up and demanding one last pass through the data. Not to mention the three hours of daily masturbation to Battlestar Galactica reruns that my healthcare professional insists is the only proven technique for keeping prostate cancer at bay.

    The fact is, writing is not very lucrative for me; I don’t have a huge readership, I don’t get big advances, and my impolitic tendency to complain out loud at the sound of dropping balls has not especially endeared me to my publisher. So I have to do other things to pay the bills, and until a rich patron steps forward those other things have to take priority.

    Even so, I actually have started writing again, a bit. I’ve promised one party a story by the weekend; another’s promised to a different party by the beginning of August. But the first story will be seen only by a select and secretive cabal, so you tend not to hear about that stuff.

    And because that particular deadline is imminent, I should get back to it. Next posting will be on the subject of German Butt Plugs.

    You probably think I’m joking.

  29. No Peter, you don’t know me. I live in Minneapolis and while I read some SF I don’t go to cons. I’m not a very social person. Oh and yeah, of course I was just kidding when I said “why aren’t you writing right now?”

    I am a MtF transsexual and when I first discovered “Starfish” I had just gotten off the streets here in Mnpls and into some stable housing. What really attracted me to it was I wanted to know how the fuck you got into my mind. That’s how much I identified with Lennie Clark.

    I have a very dark and sarcastic sense of humor. It truly helped me to survive life on the street which I can assure you, even in progressive Minn. is not fun. If I took a too intimate tone I’m sorry. I tend to miss those cues, I’m working on it with my therapist (who is vastly underpaid BTW).

    Anyway I was probably projecting my own frustrations. I’m the one who shouldn’t be wasting my time on blogs. I should be busy either creating or learning rather then indulging myself on the internet. It’s one giant black hole that just sucks me in.

  30. I am a MtF transsexual

    My friend came out as a MtF transgendered last year and is in Italy getting GRS right now.

    While scrolling down to Brenda’s post, my eyes picked out the word “masturbation” in a previous post even thought the text was merely a blur from scrolling so fast. I thought I hallucinated it until I scrolled up and found that I’ve just got a pathetically uncultured brain.

    Also, why is it that I’m more bothered by people saying negative things about a possible forum than I am when PW suggests systematic extermination fundies. Are there psychiatrists who specialize in one’s sense of humor?

  31. Your points re: forum are good and well taken, Nicholas, except one quibble I have with a side-comment within your point 2:

    People who purposefully vandalize forums tend to use bloated, high-user forums, like SomethingAwful, to maximize the attention they so desperately desire.

    SomethingAwful’s forum is indeed high-user, a remarkable fact in light of the $10 life-time subscription fee (assuming you aren’t a dick and get yourself banned or perma-banned). This subscription fee, in contrast to the vast majority of internet forums that are free, pays for the upkeep of the high-bandwidth site; incidentally, the fee keeps trolling suppressed (not 100%, but certainly greatly reduced). Attention-whores find themselves banned from SA in fairly short order.

    Watts: Not to mention the three hours of daily masturbation to Battlestar Galactica reruns that my healthcare professional insists is the only proven technique for keeping prostate cancer at bay.

    I talk about this here, note the comment that points out there is no upper limit recommended. So your three-hours-per day is akin to a recommended minimum. As for “only”, besides the quantitative variation generated by Starbuck-heavy episodes, we see in Brenda’s comment another strategy for avoiding prostate cancer.

    I’m not really opposed to a Watts / Rifters forum, here or at another site. Especially if Watts can fob off most of the responsibility for the forum onto somebody else, saving his administrative-creative duties for always-entertaining sniping from the peanut gallery (i.e. here).

  32. As for “only”, besides the quantitative variation generated by Starbuck-heavy episodes,

    How’d you know I was into Starbuck?

  33. Brenda said

    What really attracted me to it was I wanted to know how the fuck you got into my mind. That’s how much I identified with Lennie Clark.

    Brenda, you honour me. I myself have never experienced a fraction of the shit I put my characters through (although careful readers of Blindsight may correctly infer that I have some mommy issues). I’ve known some people, is all. Tried to know them. And my characterisations are just stabs in the dark, some poseur playing let’s-pretend-we’ve-been-abused.

    So when, every now and then, someone in a position to know tells me I got it right, it means a lot.

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