Two psychologists have argued that "resistance to science" in adults has its origins in the experiences of childhood. In particular, they claim, there are two adult traits that can be traced back to childlike characteristics. These are a reliance on "common-sense intuitions" about the world around us, and a sensitivity to the "trustworthiness of the source" when information is provided by trusted teachers/parents.
First, I am not taking issue with the idea that the experiences of childhood affect our adult lives. I am sure a paper could equally be written on 'attraction to science' being traced back to childhood (which happens to be my own experience).
Second, there is a tension between the authors' primary example of resistance to science (denying evolution) and the other examples (alternative medicine, spirits, astrology, ESP, divination). I do not think these can be lumped together in this way. By and large, in the US, evolution-doubting is widespread among the Christian community, but these same people do not indulge in the other cases of "resistance". Indeed, the Christian community tends to regard them as 'New Age' practices which are linked to an evolutionary world view that has no place for a Sovereign Creator God. In this spiritual vacuum, New Age practices flourish. Rationalism in the physical world spawns irrational existentialism in the religious world. Significantly, there is no interaction with thoughts like this by the authors of the paper.
Thirdly, and this is the most important point, the authors have a very narrow understanding of 'science' and 'scientific ideas'. This is best illustrated by the way they handle the mind/brain issue. "The strong intuitive pull of dualism makes it difficult for people to accept what Francis Crick called "the astonishing hypothesis". Dualism is mistaken - mental life emerges from physical processes." This statement is false because the authors are not presenting the conclusions of science, but the presuppositions of many neuroscience scholars. The authors are presenting an input as an output! The presupposition (that the human mind and consciousness "emerges from physical processes") has never been demonstrated empirically. Indeed, some of us predict that consciousness will never be understood by working within this naturalistic paradigm. These authors are confusing scientism with science. Any departure from the tenets of scientism are interpreted as "resistance to science" - which, in the case of evolutionary theory and understanding consciousness + the human mind is a travesty of the issue. Anyone one who reads Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson (for example) and thinks this is an example of "resistance to science" is sadly under a delusion.
Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science
Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg
Science, 18 May 2007: 316, 996-997 | DOI: 10.1126/science.1133398
Abstract: Resistance to certain scientific ideas derives in large part from assumptions and biases that can be demonstrated experimentally in young children and that may persist into adulthood. In particular, both adults and children resist acquiring scientific information that clashes with common-sense intuitions about the physical and psychological domains. Additionally, when learning information from other people, both adults and children are sensitive to the trustworthiness of the source of that information. Resistance to science, then, is particularly exaggerated in societies where nonscientific ideologies have the advantages of being both grounded in common sense and transmitted by trustworthy sources.
Why do some people resist science? By Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg
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