Monday, 30 September 2013

Do Scientists "Believe" in Evolution?

I was most interested to see Glenn Branch's blog post What's wrong with 'belief in Evolution? and posted the following comment: 
As someone who is interested in the role of the brain's neural code in the evolution of humans I don't see any differences in the way the creationist and the scientist's brains work at the biological level. The basic processing mechanism favours confirmation bias – where new information that reinforces what you already know is readily accepted, while negative information is either “not seen” or deliberately ignored. Everyone has their own personal model of the world, and the rules by which new information is acceptable. Our intelligence is because we learn rapidly, using language, because we naturally believe what we are told! A belief in the value of the scientific method opens up a universe of practical knowledge on which our civilization depends, and I find such a belief system extremely satisfactory because it works.
However the brain is capable of working with other belief systems and many people find it more satisfactory to be in a supportive community which is (in my terms, but not in theirs) detached from reality. In effect out intelligence arises from our ability to learn much faster than animals (due to our language) but this has the disadvantage that there is a natural tendency to follow charismic leaders.
In evolutionary biological terms we all believe, without question, most of what we learn as children. And scientist and creationist brains work in the same way, trusting information from people who have similar belief systems to their own – and rejecting belief systems they find unacceptable.
If you assume the kind of brain model I describe on this blog we all "believe" without question what we have learnt throughout life - and we would be less mentally efficient is we spent time checking up on the validity of what we are told. We should no assume that the way a scientist justifies science is any different - in terms of biological activity at the neuron level - than the way a religious person justifies religion.

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