Call me a sadist if you want, but I love watching a really dumb argument getting smashed to smithereens, maybe because I like blowing up dumb arguments myself. Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution Is True) performs the devastation on Robert Wright’s spectacularly lame speculation about the effect of angry atheism on the receptivity of non-scientists in America to evolution.
Wright’s speculation is based on this little snapshot of American attitudes about the origins of humans:
Wright is apparently stuck on the marked divergence in one year of the top two lines, each reflecting differing degrees of belief in theistic involvement in the appearance of our species. Wright’s “hypothesis”:
Over the past two years, the portion of respondents who don’t believe in evolution has grown by six percentage points. Where did those people come from? The graph suggests they’re people who had previously believed in an evolution guided by God–a group whose size dropped by a corresponding six percentage points. It’s as if people who had previously seen evolution and religion as compatible were told by the new militant Darwinians, “No, you must choose: Which is it, evolution or religion?”–and pretty much all of them chose religion.
Before reading any further, take a moment to take Wright’s argument seriously. Do you think he has a point?