Exposing PseudoAstronomy

June 29, 2011

Are Creationists Winning Some Parts of the “Culture War?”

This is a quick post so I’m going to forego my normal subject headings.

Last year, I wrote a post entitled, “Do Scientists Believe?” where I discussed the use of the two words “believe” and “think” as they are used in our American English language (I would also assume British/Canadian/Australian/etc. English, but I don’t know for sure).

Feedback seemed somewhat mixed as to whether the terms are interchangeable or whether people should be more precise in using “believe” when there is something you are taking without evidence versus “think” where you have evidence to back it up. Personally, I agree it’s a bit of semantics and didn’t really have much sway.

That is, until I read the latest Institute for Creation Research article entitled, “Miss USA ‘Believes’ in Evolution. I figured it would be a standard ICR pice about how she should be more God-fearing and whatnot. Instead, the article discusses the very issue I brought up last September in my post: “Oftentimes the respondents, including Ms. Campanella, spoke of evolution as a belief system. More often than not, the women supported presenting students with as much information as possible so that they could decide for themselves what would be best to ‘believe.'”

In other words, the ICR is using the innocent imprecision with which people use English to claim that evolution requires belief, therefore faith, to be considered valid by people.

Obviously I have not interviewed the new Miss USA. I don’t know if she really “thinks” or “believes” in evolution, but the very fact that the ICR is using this as a “win” in my opinion requires we ask the question: Are creationists winning some parts of this supposed culture war? The fact that, in everyday language, we are using terms like “believe” when referring to scientific theories seems to indicate they may be.

I’m reminded of something Steve Novella (Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast host) stated several months ago. He was talking about his and other doctors’ push to use the term “evidence-based medicine” or “science-based medicine” when referring to standard treatments. He added that after several years of doing this, that even the “alternative” medicine people were beginning to use the term. He saw this as winning part of the battle, part of the culture war, when your opponents use your terminology.

Is that what’s happening here?

Edit (Update on July 30, 2011): I saw this comic posted on another blog and thought that it summarized my point fairly well:


  1. Hmm, yes, do I “believe” in evolution or do I “understand” evolution (selecting “understand” as the extension of “think”)? As a physicist and engineer, I know that my understanding of evolution is archaic and flawed – therefore it is a matter of “belief”, unlike, say, the standard model of particle physics (despite the fact that we “know” that is wrong / flawed / whatever!) People who study this area in detail and are aware of the complex mechanisms say that there is nothing that contradicts the basic principles. Which I do understand – DNA & sexual reproduction, mutation, otherwise pointless or even slightly harmful phenotypes becoming beneficial as the environment changes.

    So, a high school grad “believing” in evolution? Yup, probably the correct word. Because she almost certainly doesn’t “understand” it.

    Comment by Surreptitious Evil — June 30, 2011 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  2. Ah yes. But can the student come out with anything which contradicts evolution. And can the student come out with anything which contradicts Creationism. Knowone can expect students to know the details of every theory but they should be aware that if information contradicts a theory which they hold, then it should be dropped or at least looked into.

    Comment by Mick — July 24, 2011 @ 6:34 am | Reply

  3. Texas was a setback for them….

    Comment by Charles P. O'Dale — July 27, 2011 @ 11:43 am | Reply

  4. There appears to be a confusion of terms within the post.

    A “belief” is, “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof,” – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/belief , while “believe” is, “to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so,” – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/believe .

    The former deals with faith and a person’s core values, while the latter deals with the knowledge a person has attained. However, believe implies this knowledge can change due to modifiers such as: known or unknown circumstances, an incident and its resolution, or results of additional research. When these notions are applied to Creationism, the former is infallible, while the later is fallible.

    I suspect (notice the absence of belief), though, that Creationists are encouraging the use of the term “believe” whenever faith OR reason are discussed, if only to “blur the line” a bit. One need only look at the multitude of examples associated with the blurring of words found with the political correctness movement to understand that the ultimate goal of its proponents is to align a society’s cultural values to the proponents’ perceptions – http://www.bored.com/pcphrases/ .

    Comment by mrdarcy_pemberley — July 28, 2011 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  5. “Science is a method not a stance” R. Sheldrake

    Comment by Mick — July 30, 2011 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  6. Now your just thought policing
    You come across like a person who perpetually needs to convince yourself rather than trying to convince others

    Comment by Sam — January 21, 2016 @ 7:29 am | Reply

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