Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry is ambivalent about the “theory” of evolution. He says it’s just one theory that’s out there, on equal footing with creationism. He’s proud of the fact that, in Texas, children are taught both, so they can choose for themselves.
There’s a serious problem with this approach to education, however. It has to do with humans’ very limited ability to weigh probabilities rationally. Calculating likelihoods and odds is tough cognitive work, and we only do it when we must. Years of research on human thinking has shown this. In place of the difficult mental work, the human brain substitutes a powerful urge for simplicity and purpose, called the “design heuristic.” It’s an inner theory of the world, likely rooted in our ancient mind, which is hard to shake.
Here’s just a bit of the voluminous evidence, which I examined in my book, “On Second Thought.” Work with children has shown that even very young ones have a natural inclination to see the world as purposeful and see things like stars, trees and rain primarily in terms of their function instead of their natural causes. Laboratory tests have shown this again and again: when psychologists ask children why mountains exist, most say they exist so animals have a place to climb. In kids’ “theory” of the natural world, trees don’t just happen to provide shade; making shade is their primary purpose. And so forth. In fact, unless there is really good evidence to convince kids otherwise, they want to see everything as having a precise function in the grand scheme of things.
Read the whole story: Huffington Post
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