December 22, 2008


The psychology of teleology: To understand public resistance to evolution, it's helpful to think like a child (Hania Köver, 12/10/08, Berkeley Science Review)

Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo, who is interested in why people find certain kinds of explanations more or less compelling than others, may have insight into at least part of the answer. Her research suggests that some theories, like evolution, may be difficult to accept because they are at odds with a human default for understanding the world in terms of design.

Lombrozo was motivated by the observation that young children often explain the existence of objects and phenomena with reference to their function, a kind of reasoning termed teleological. Ask a three-year old why it rains, for example, and you are likely to hear something like "so that plants have water to grow." Likewise, lions exist "for going to the zoo," and mountains "are for climbing." This tendency of children to infer design suggests an explanatory default: In the absence of competing knowledge, the best explanation for an object with a plausible function is that it was designed to fulfill that function.

Man has evolved so as not to believe in Darwinism. Those who believe anyway are imploding demographically, demonstrating at least a Darwinian unfittedness of survival. Those who find Darwinism comical are thriving. The latter are children, the former are Bright. Lewis Carroll would have hesitated to invent these characters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2008 4:30 PM
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