As a group, scientists are pretty smart cookies. I'd even bet that, if it could be determined, the thousand smartest people on the planet---those who weren't mathematicians---would include mostly scientists. Physicists, mainly.
Not all of them would be scientists and mathematicians, though, and if you rounded up the next thousand smartest, the percentage would drop and you'd start to find more musicians, artists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, professors and teachers in the humanities and liberal arts, engineers, architects, hedge fund managers (who are usually too smart for their own and our good), politicians (ditto), football coaches and baseball managers, quarterbacks, point guards, pitchers, and midfielders, accountants, actuaries, librarians, police detectives, astronauts, airline pilots, ship captains, ad execs, marketing gurus, and computer programmers and video game designers.
And priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, nuns, shamans, monks, lamas, and yogis.
And since not all geniuses express their brilliance in conventionally intellectual ways or get to live lives that allow them to express their brilliance at all---remember the story about the general who when he dies and goes to heaven asks God to introduce him to the greatest military mind in history and then is shocked when that turns out to be the old tailor from the village where the general grew up? God tells him, yes, he’s just a tailor but that’s because the country was at peace when he was young and he never had to be a soldier. But if there’d been a war, he'd have the chance to show the world his brilliance. And don't forget, God adds, he was a pretty good tailor, wasn't he?---the ranks of geniuses would include, well, tailors...
...and auto mechanics, cabinetmakers, plumbers, jewelers, farmers, fly-fishermen and fishing boat captains, secretaries, store clerks---yes, there are genius store clerks. You've dealt with them. They're the ones who make you say, How come every clerk in there can't be like that? Genius waiters and waitresses get a little more recognition and appreciation.---street sweepers, parking garage attendants, grape pickers, goatherds, and beggars and thieves.
There are a lot of very smart people who don't think like scientists.
There are scientists who don't think like scientists. Not all the time. Not on every subject.
And since you don't have to be a genius to be a good scientist, the great majority of scientists aren't geniuses and this means there are plenty of smart people who don't think like scientists who are smarter than majority of scientists.
Including some priests, nuns, ministers, rabbis, imams, lamas, monks, sachems, and yogis.
What I'm getting at is that there are many people who are smarter than most scientists who think in ways that aren't scientific and believe things that can't be proven by science.
For example, they believe in God.
Or a god or a godlike presence in the universe.
Some of these people who don't think like scientists all the time and believe things that can't be proven by science are...scientists.
Couple weeks back I wrote about a Gallup poll that showed that almost half of all Americans believe the Biblical story of creation is the literal story of creation. I was and still am skeptical of the poll’s results. I think people react to polls as if they're pop quizzes which means they think there's a right answer and they have to give it and that often causes them to in effect lie. They don't tell the pollsters what they think. They tell them what they think they're supposed to think. Often they don't really hear the question. They misinterpret it, miss the key point, or overthink it.
As I said, I'm sure a lot of people heard the question as an either/or.
Do you believe in God or do you believe in evolution?
The poll allowed you to answer both and some people did. About a third of all Americans believe that God created life through evolution.
So I'd bet that if you repolled the people who said they believe in the Biblical version of creation and made it clear it wasn't an either/or question and they could answer both, many of them would change their answer.
Many but far from all.
That's because there are a great many people who heard it as an either/or question heard it that way because to them it is an either/or question. There is no answering both.
Either you believe in God or you believe in evolution.
Here's the kicker.
A lot of people who heard it as an either/or question because to them it is an either/or question answered "evolution."
Not all these people are scientists. For one thing, some scientists would have had no compunction about answering "both." For another, there just aren't that many scientists. It's probable that most of the people who took that poll and answered evolution not only aren't scientists, they don't think like scientists.
Not all the time. Not on every subject.
I've observed before that on the left side of the bandwidth and among liberal pundits and writers and academics there's a near worship of science and scientists by people who back in eleventh grade chemistry routinely risked setting their classrooms on fire every time they picked up a beaker. In tenth grade biology, their scientific reaction to dissecting a frog was "Eew. Ick." They did not grow up to be scientists or even to think like scientists.
But they did grow up to think they're supposed to think like scientists.
In a post at the Nation responding to the poll, Katha Pollitt makes it clear she hears the question as an either/or because for her it is an either/or.
Do you know what the worst thing about the recent Gallup poll on evolution is? It isn’t that 46 percent of respondents are creationists (“God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last ten thousand years or so”). Or that 32 percent believe in “theistic evolution” (“Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”). Or that only 15 percent said humans evolved and “God had no part in this process.”
I think I’m reading her right. It looks to me that she’s pretty much lumping all believers in with creationists as if their answers to the question amount to the same thing and that she thinks that answer is wrong. The right answer is the one she’s dismayed that only 15 percent gave.
So it seems that as far as she’s concerned anyone who answered both just as good as answered that they don’t believe in evolution…because as she sees it, evolution precludes the existence of a God.
She equates a belief that evolution as the way God or a God-like intelligent being willed it or wanted it happen with the belief that God created the universe in six days a few thousand years ago with the express purpose of bringing humans into it and giving them dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every living creature that moves on the ground and laments both beliefs as proof that the American education system has failed. She moves on to focus on the bible thumpers but she leaves her either/or on the table.
Either you believe in science or you believe in fairy tales.
Like I said, I don’t know if I’m reading her right, but it sounds as though she’s calling into question the intelligence of anyone who believes in any sort of creator or at least calling into question the quality of their education.
I don’t know how Pollitt did in eleventh grade chemistry or if she blew anything up. I can’t picture her eww-icking over dissecting a frog. But however well she did in her science classes, she did not grow up to become a scientist. She’s obviously smart. But I’m fairly sure she’s not as smart as Pop Mannion. Pop Mannion did pretty well in his high school science classes. Actually, he did pretty well in all his classes. He was valedictorian. He did pretty well in college too, graduating as one of the top ten students in his class. He has a Ph.D. in physics. He spent his working life teaching computer science. That’s when he wasn’t busy running our town during his two stints as supervisor. Pop Mannion doesn’t believe in evolution any more than he believes 2+2=4. Evolution is simply how it is.
Pop Mannion believes in God.
To be continued. I’m not sure where I’m going with this. No way, though, am I about to make the case that because a guy as smart as Pop Mannion believes in God believing in God is the smart thing to do. I’ll figure it out as I work on the follow-up post. If you think you know where I’m going or where I should go, please feel free to tell me in the comments. I need help with this one, obviously.