Evolution Controversy and the Incompatibility of Science and Religion

Published in The International Journal of Science in Society — Paz-y-Miño-C & Espinosa (2015). Evolution Controversy: A Phenomenon Prompted by the Incompatibility between Science and Religious Beliefs. Int. J. Sci. Soc. 7(2). ISSN 1836-6236. -May 14, 2015.

Why do people hesitate to embrace evolution? What triggers the controversy evolution-and-science versus creationism? What factors characterize the evolution wars? Will the conflict evolution-and-science versus religiosity ever end? In a latest study published in the International Journal of Science in Society, Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C and Avelina Espinosa address these questions under the conceptual framework of the Incompatibility Hypothesis, which the authors have proposed  — EvoLiteracy.

In previous publications, ranging from 2009 to 2014, Paz-y-Miño-C & Espinosa have formally examined the Incompatibility Hypothesis (IH), a conceptual, theoretical framework to explain the foundations of the “evolution wars,” as well as the societal struggles between science and faith. In their most recent article, published in The Int. J. Sci. Soc. Vol. 7 No. 2 (May 14, 2015), the authors state:

Evolution Controversy Int J Sci Soc May 14 2015 Paz-y-Mino-C Espinosa

Click on image to enlarge

“The observable phenomenon in society, which we aim at examining academically, is the controversy over acceptance of evolution, the conflicts that emerge when facts organized in a rational interpretation of the empirical reality (i.e. the science of evolution) challenge belief-based answers to questions about the origin of the universe and life. [The incompatibility proposal] IH is an ultimate-level [of analysis] hypothesis, rather than a proximate one. IH explains the cause of the controversy, its fundamental reason. IH addresses directly the inquiry: what elicits the controversy evolution-and-science versus creationism? And it offers an educated answer: their intrinsic and opposing approaches to assess reality, i.e. science by means of testing hypotheses, falsifying and/or testing predictions and replication of experiments; creationism, in contrast, via belief in supernatural causality.”

The authors acknowledge and value alternative approaches to examining the evolution controversy, which they consider “proximate levels of analysis of the [societal conflicts], including the detailed and simultaneous characterization of multiple factors that can influence an individual’s acceptance of evolution and scientific evidence, e.g. religious beliefs, pro-life beliefs and political ideology; or political activity, political and religious conservatism, knowledge about evolution and its relevance, creationist reasoning, evolutionary misconceptions, and exposure to evolution; or religious affiliation, frequency of attendance to religious services, college academic level, exposure to evolution in high school, and college major.” The authors themselves have examined some of these variables in their research, however, they highlight that “from a research program perspective, the proximate-level studies, or descriptions of the evolution controversy, are auxiliary in essence, while IH [plays the role of] a central hypothesis, as a guiding ultimate level of [scrutiny].”

Here is the abstract of the 2015 study:

“The incompatibility between science and the belief in supernatural causation helps us understand why people do not accept evolution. Belief disrupts, distorts, delays or stops (3Ds + S) the acceptance of scientific evidence. Here we examine the evolution controversy under three predictions of the incompatibility hypothesis:

Cover Int Journal Science Society Paz-y-Mino-C and Espinosa 2015

Click on image to be redirected to the International Journal of Science in Society

(1) Chronological-conflict-and-accommodation, which explains the historical re-emergence of antagonism between evolution and religion when advances in science continue to threaten the belief in supernatural causation; in such situations, creationists’ rejection of and subsequent partial acceptance of the new scientific discoveries are expected.

(2) Change in evolution’s acceptance as function of educational attainment, which explains the positive association between acceptance of evolution and level of education.

And (3) change in evolution’s acceptance as function of religiosity, which explains the negative association between acceptance of evolution and level of religious beliefs.

We rely on an ample assessment of the attitudes toward evolution by highly-educated audiences (i.e. research faculty, educators of prospective teachers, and college students in the United States) to characterize the associations among understanding of science and evolution, personal religious convictions, and conservative ideology. We emphasize that harmonious coexistence between science and religion is illusory. If co-persisting in society, their relationship will fluctuate from moderate to intense antagonism.”

The complete article, which includes 23-pages, 11 figures and 59 references, can be downloaded —for free— from the International Journal of Science in Society. Click on the images below to enlarge, or go to the journal website to download the PDF.

Figures Evolution Controversy Paz-y-Mino-C and Espinosa IJSS 2015

Suggested Readings where The Incompatibility Hypothesis is discussed:

BOOK small format - Measuring the Evolution Controversy 2016Book: Paz-y-Miño-C., G & Espinosa, A. 2016. Measuring the Evolution Controversy: A Numerical Analysis of Acceptance of Evolution at America’s Colleges and Universities. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, United Kingdom. ISBN (10): 1-4438-9042-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-9042-7. The publisher has made available a “VIEW EXTRACT” (in PDF), which includes the first 30-pages of the book: Cover, Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Preface, Chapter ONE and the beginning of Chapter TWO. For PDF of color illustrations go to Image Resources of Didactic Relevance. — Mini Reviews: “Isaac Newton is said to have been a seriously religious man. Yet it is primarily due to Newton’s influence that science, unable to test propositions concerning the supernatural, focuses instead on finding natural causes for natural phenomena. Thus science is not a “belief,” but rather an epistemology aimed at understanding the natural world. In their welcome book, Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa succinctly draw the distinction between real science and the religiously-inspired belief in supernatural explanations for natural phenomena—including the origin and history of life. Why does the resistance to evolution persist in this modern day and age? The great contribution of “Measuring the Evolution Controversy” is the rich content of data and analysis that asks detailed questions about the social, economic and political backgrounds of those who tend to reject evolution versus those who accept evolution as science. The authors deftly analyze their data drawn from institutions of higher learning in the United States and particularly New England—which stands as a microcosm of the rest of the country, and indeed elsewhere in the world. It is their scientific approach to these issues which makes this book stand out as a uniquely original contribution.” Dr. Niles Eldredge, Curator Emeritus of Paleontology at The American Museum of Natural History, New York. — “Pro-science activists and educators constantly bemoan the resistance to the teaching of evolution in the United States. All of us have anecdotes about encounters with the public, parents and students who are misinformed by their churches, Religious-Right groups, and creationist organizations. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa present hard data that support the anecdotal evidence. They also show that although anti-evolutionism typically begins with religion, it is a multi-faceted problem that intersects with political and cultural ideologies. Gathered through careful research over a period of years, their data will enable scientists and defenders of science education to comprehend the roots of the evolution controversy and counteract resistance to evolution more strategically and effectively.” Dr. Barbara Forrest, Co-author with Paul R. Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (2007), and expert witness for plaintiffs, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005).

Journal Book Covers Incompatibility Science Religion - VERTICAL

Click on image to enlarge

Book-Chapter: Paz-y-Miño-C., G. & Espinosa A. 2014a. The Incompatibility Hypothesis: Evolution vs. Supernatural Causation. Pp. 3-16. [PDF] In G. Trueba (Ed.) Why Does Evolution Matter? The Importance of Understanding Evolution. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, United Kingdom. ISBN (10): 1-4438-6518-4, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-6518-0.

Scientific Article: Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa A. 2014b. Acceptance of Evolution by America’s Educators of Prospective Teachers: the disturbing reality of evolution illiteracy at colleges and universities. New England Science Public: Series Evolution Vol. 2, No. 1. [PDF] The complete 92-page study includes 23 figures, statistics, 34 maps, 12 tables, and a companion slide show ‘Image Resources’ for science journalists, researchers and educators. The supplementary materials include 15s figures and 25s tables. This article has been featured in the Richard Dawkins Foundation Newsletter and website. RDF has also posted a note in its Facebook page.

Book-Chapter: Paz-y-Miño-C., G. & Espinosa A. 2013a. The Everlasting Conflict Evolution-and-Science versus Religiosity. pp. 73-97 [PDF]. In G. Simpson & S. Payne (eds) Religion and Ethics NOVA Publishers, New York. Download OPEN ACCESS at NOVA.

Scientific Article: Paz-y-Miño-C., G. & Espinosa A. 2013b. Galapagos III world evolution summit: why evolution matters. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 6:28. [PDF]. Open Access.

Scientific Article: Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa A. 2013c. Attitudes toward evolution at New England colleges and universities, United States. New England Science Public: Series Evolution 1: 1-32. [PDF]. Read commentaries in Happy Birthday Charles Darwin – The Boston Globe and Basic Knowledge of Darwin’s Theory Lost in Some Classes – The Boston Globe Metro. The Standard Times of New Bedford published the note Evolution Misunderstood By Students, Faculty.

Scientific Article: Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa, A. 2012a. Introduction: Why People Do Not Accept Evolution: Using Protistan Diversity to Promote Evolution Literacy. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology 59:101-104. [PDF].

Public Talks, Interviews, and Discussions where The Incompatibility Hypothesis is addressed:

Interview by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (April 1, 2014) where both the book Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars, and the Incompatibility Hypothesis is discussed.

Disproof Atheism Society, Boston University (February 2014).

Atheists Alliance of America 2013, National Convention in Boston (watch and/or DOWNLOAD VIDEO from the AAA website).

Atheists Alliance of America 2013 (watch video in YouTube posted on September 2, 2013).


Other Scientific Publications Related to Acceptance of Evolution in the US and the World:

Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa A. 2012b. Educators of prospective teachers hesitate to embrace evolution due to deficient understanding of science/evolution and high religiosity. Evolution: Education and Outreach 5:139-162. [PDF]. Follow a discussion on this study in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Paz-y-Miño-C, G., Espinosa A. & Bai, C. 2011a. The Jackprot Simulation couples mutation rate with natural selection to illustrate how protein evolution is not random. Evolution: Education and Outreach 4:502-514 [PDF] Visit The Jackprot Simulation website to access computer program and tutorials.

Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa A. 2011b. On the theory of evolution versus the concept of evolution: three observations. Evolution: Education and Outreach 4:308–312 [PDF].

Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa A. 2011c. New England faculty and college students differ in their views about evolution, creationism, intelligent design, and religiosity. Evolution: Education and Outreach 4:323–342 [PDF].

Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa, A. 2010. Integrating horizontal gene transfer and common descent to depict evolution and contrast it with “common design.” J. Eukaryotic Microbiology 57: 11-18 [PDF].

Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa, A. 2009a. Acceptance of evolution increases with student academic level: a comparison between a secular and a religious college. Evolution: Education & Outreach 2:655–675 [PDF].

Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & A. Espinosa. 2009b. Assessment of biology majors’ versus non-majors’ views on evolution, creationism and intelligent design. Evolution Education and Outreach 2: 75-83 [PDF].

Related Readings:

Book: Paz-y-Miño-C., G. 2013. Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars. NOVA Publishers, New York.

Popular media article: Paz-y-Miño-C, G. & Espinosa A. 2012c. Atheists’ knowledge about science and evolution. Secular World 8(1): 33-36 [PDF].

*  *  *  *  *     *  *  *  *  *     *  *  *  *  *

Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars By NOVA Publishers, New York Soft Cover. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.comAmazon UK.

Paz-y-Mino-C_Book_Cover_Evolution_Stands_Faith_Up_JPEG“The sweet spot of this collection of essays is the interface of science, history and literacy. Paz-y-Miño-C is, in essence, a champion of rationalism and a passionate defender of literacy standards. His essays deftly weave hard survey data and memorable turns of phrase with evocative imagery… While the essays in this collection are vast in coverage —from climate change to energy policy, stem cell research, vaccinations and, especially, evolution— a clear underlying theme emerges: [the author’s] goal is no less than to counter, through the lens of history and the majesty of rationalism, social forces that sanction ignorance, celebrate denial and… continue to diminish our global status in the fields of science and technology.” Jeff Podos, PhD, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.

“Paz-y-Miño-C  is a firm believer in evolutionary processes. He would like to see decisions made on the basis of facts, not unsupported opinion. He abhors and fears irrational thinking, especially ‘the views of those who see evil in truth and menace in the realities discovered by science.’ He marvels at the intricacy and diversity of life, and how it came about through natural selection… and is clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of so many to see the beauty and majesty in this view of the world and all that it explains.” – Jan A. Pechenik, PhD, Professor of Biology, Tufts University, USA, author of The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species, as Edited for Modern Readers.