email - July 2008

Culture and Opinions

It is hard to write for a global audience.

One of our members (we will call him Brett, although that isn’t his real name) wrote to object to our Email column last month.

First of all, let me say that I unequivocally respect and support the work you do. You have a firm grasp of the material you discuss with regards to evolution and, perhaps more importantly, present your findings in a reader-friendly way.

I must say, however, that I find your recent discussion of Japanese culture grotesquely simple-minded and unsubstantiated. In fact, I had to go through it a second time to see if you had sources for any of your claims--you had none. To suggest that Japanese culture is as simple as the youthful boy respecting the elder male is simplistic, close-minded, and terribly understating the cultural milieu. …

Again, I sincerely appreciate your writing, the time you give to random emails like mine, your hard work, and, quite frankly, your intellect, but I think you fell terribly short and appear rather ethnocentric this time.

We tried very hard to make it clear that, unlike the vast majority of our articles which are based on fact, that our answer was merely an opinion. We specifically said,

Since we are unaware of any study that definitively answers Tim’s question, we will offer an opinion. It is my personal opinion that culture and religion are both involved.

Since this a personal opinion not based on any solid scientific data, …

We even highlighted the fact that we don’t have any sources for our claims.

Ethnocentricity

We try very hard not to be “ethnocentric.” We are well aware that we are no longer a local non-profit corporation in Ridgecrest, California. We have members literally all over the world. That’s why we agonized over using the word “billions” in the last newsletter. In America, a billion is a thousand times a million. That quantity is called a “milliard” in the British Empire. Outside of America a billion is a million times a million. So, the first sentence of last month’s newsletter was potentially confusing.

Last month we saw that rubidium-strontium isochron dating of the Apollo 11 moon rocks showed that the moon is 4.3 to 4.56 billion years old.

Should we have said, “4.3 to 4.56 billion/milliard years old,” or should we have inserted a footnote? We want to continue to “present our findings in a reader-friendly way” that is clear to all readers without being unnecessarily distracting. The solution we chose was to use scientific notation in the abstract.

Evolutionists say that the Moon is 4.43 ± 0.13 x 109 years old.

We figured that British readers would understand that we were using the American definition of billion, without unnecessarily confusing American readers. It was a tough call.

We also debated between the spellings “Moslem” and “Muslim.” We chose Moslem because Muslim suggests (to some people) the (possibly prejudicial) concept of “radical Black Muslim.” We were simply trying to identify a religious belief without the baggage that some people might associate with it.

Was our characterization of the Japanese culture as historically being more polite, respectful, and honorable than modern American culture too simplistic? Probably so. But the point wasn’t to present an in-depth analysis of cultural beliefs. We were trying to say that culture affects attitudes. Since we apparently didn’t do a very good job of it, let’s try again, taking a slightly different approach.

If facts are facts, and people are logical, then everyone should come to the same conclusion. Tim had noted that people in different countries come to different conclusions regarding the theory of evolution. So, there must be something more than facts and logic involved in reaching conclusions.

It is the function of the Supreme Court of the United States to determine if laws are constitutional or not. The Constitution clearly spells out what powers the United States government has. Laws are either constitutional or not. So, theoretically, every Supreme Court decision should be 9 – 0. It should not matter who is appointed to be a Supreme Court judge. Anyone who passes the bar exam should be acceptable. But Supreme Court decisions are often 5 – 4, and Supreme Court nominations are contentious. Confirmation hearings are heated because there is an expectation that judges will make decisions one way or another even before anyone knows what cases will be brought before it. Therefore, Supreme Court cases must be decided on something other than facts and logic.

If even Supreme Court cases are decided on something other than facts and logic, then it should come as no surprise that popular decisions about the theory of evolution are decided by something other than facts and logic. What is that other something? It is my opinion that culture and religion have something to do with it.

It might have been a mistake to use the stereotypical view of Japanese culture to make that point, but I still feel the point is valid. Specifically, people make decisions based on more than simply facts and logic. If people made decisions on nothing more than facts and logic, then the most qualified presidential candidate would be elected unanimously.

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