The Age of Disbelief

The March issue of National Geographic has a great article titled “The Age of Disbelief” discussing the rise of skepticism about science and our increased polarization. I found it fascinating.


Logan at Tulsa’s great Children’s Science Museum

It delved into the beliefs and disbeliefs of Climate Change, Evolution, The Moon Landing, Vaccinations, and Genetically Modified Organisms.


Indigenous South Dakota Giraffes


I liked the article because it delved into the reasons why people don’t accept science rather than attacking the people. Science, the article says, is often counter-intuitive. It doesn’t appear to make sense to us. Even scientists have trouble sometimes.

#sunrise #southtulsa #igersok #myoklahoma

For instance, I know in my head and believe with all my heart that the earth revolves around the sun yet I can see with my own eyes that the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. It takes considerable effort and the view of a night time sky to grasp the truth. That induces considerable awe when one begins to think about it and our place in the universe.


The whole evolution thing upsets lots of people. Many people don’t believe in evolution. The genius of the theory of evolution is that Darwin proposed it before we had any idea of DNA or RNA and all that. The problem of course with denying evolution is that one quickly moves to denying physics, chemistry, astronomy, and just about every other branch of science.


Logan at the wonderful City Museum in Saint Louis several years ago.


Vaccinations are another thing. Many well educated parents are not letting their children be vaccinated and that is endangering us all. The study published in 1998 in The Lancet has been thoroughly discredited but there are still many parents out there convinced that their children’s autism was caused by vaccinations.


Me, looking forward to more global warming


Climate change is getting a lot of press now. I’m a Chemical Engineer and I remember in my Heat Transfer classes  in school discussions in our classes and text about radiative heat transfer and how certain molecules such as carbon dioxide help hold the heat on the earth. They didn’t talk about global warming because that wasn’t a concern back in the 1970’s.


Closest thing to a lab photo I had.


Many people don’t understand that science is more than just a set of facts, it is a method. It is a method that eventually gets to the truth. Some of my creationist friends tell me that scientists are always changing their minds. Well, duh, yes. That is what you do when new facts force you to change your beliefs.


Logan’s old school


The article points to a kind of tribalism that affects beliefs. The article asserts that people believe things because their “tribe” believes them. I think they are on to something. I’ve been long fascinated how beliefs are grouped up to a great extent. So that it seems to me that many evangelical Christians are also Republicans and also believe in the right to bear arms, creationism, and support the Keystone pipeline. Other people are Unitarians, who tend to be Democrats, vegans, abortion rights, and oppose the Keystone pipeline. (Everybody understands I’m going extremes, right?)

So, the article asserts, we believe things in order to retain membership in our tribe. (Maybe that is why sometimes I feel like I don’t have a tribe. Let me see, I’m a Christian, who is ambivalent about Keystone, am a devout evolutionist. I think GMO’s are probably harmless but support labelling because I think people have a right to know what the heck they are eating. I firmly believe in human climate change but wonder about our ability to reverse the changes that are coming.) Anyways the article implies that the tribalism leads to polarization. And I think polarization is bad.


Non GMO sheep. These sheep are pets who will probably die of old age.


So maybe the way out is to talk with each instead of at each other. The older I get the more I think people are entitled to their beliefs. I also think that beliefs and acting on those beliefs have consequences. I also think that our often timid science education is partly to blame. Too many people don’t understand the scientific method and how unmerciful it is too erroneous thinking. I’m not a scientist, I’m an engineer and I’ve been to technical conferences where the debates about these technical matters really got heated. Science will win in the end.


Horse mounted YogiCam


What do you think?

Additional Information: Infographics, I love infographics. I am all over information in graphical form.

Infographic on Climate Change Denials from

++ Click to Enlarge Image ++

Source: Reusable Bags

Infographic on Americans Views on Evolution vs Creationism


America’s View on Evolution and Creationism (Infographic) | The BioLogos Forum.

Information on Vaccines and Autism

Vaccines and Autism

Are you still with me? How about another Infographic on the Scientific Method. I like it except it doesn’t show the feedback that often occurs between hypothesis and results. Scientists have to change their feedback if their experiement doesn’t work.

I have to tell you that finding a decent Infographic for GMO foods was hard. I hardly consider Monsanto and the American Enterprise Institute independent sources and I thought most of the anti GMO infographics were very sketchy and were also not independent. The university sponsored data were boring long youtube videos. Here is an infographic that I thought was pretty good from

GMO Infographic

12 thoughts on “The Age of Disbelief

  1. Birdman

    Well, you’ve set me up for one heck of a lot of thinking this weekend. And I thought I had the weekend free. I should have known better.

  2. Barb Behmer

    Good post with a lot to think about. I don’t know if I mentioned it to you before, but I believe you’d find the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman very interesting. It’s not an “easy” book to read – it’s pretty complex, though he does write it for the general population (he is a Nobel Laureate in Economics). It discusses how our mind makes judgements and decisions.

    1. yogisd7_wp Post author

      It looks like an interesting book. Thanks for the recommendation. I have added it to my GoodReads list.

  3. Gaelyn

    At least science is constantly evolving which is more than I can say for the other “theories”. Don’t get me started on GMOs because humans shouldn’t eat chemicals. Great post Alan. Very provocative.

  4. SandyCarlson

    I think if we all approached life and each other with a bit of humility, we’d be better off. It seems every new scientific report is the new last word on what we need to know–only to be followed up by the next one. (Hmmm…Maybe we need to cut down on the number of Ph.D. candidates out there!)

    1. yogisd7_wp Post author

      I think the more humility idea is a great one Sandy, starting with myself. I often wish my mouth were a lot slower than what it is sometimes.

  5. DrillerAA

    Wow! That’s a lot of information to ponder. I think some of the distrust in science is that fact that the information is constantly changing. One year a certain food is bad for you, the next year it’s critical to life itself. The folks in the Northeast are probably having second thoughts about “Global Warming” right about now. As an Evangelical Christian, I have to side with creation. Besides, Evolution is still a theory, I think. Have a blessed week-end.

  6. EG CameraGirl

    A provocative post and I pretty much agree with you. UH-OH! Did I really admit that?

    I must say it’s areal shame that Climate Change was called Global Warming in the beginning because it has closed so many minds about believing humans might be causing our extreme weather.

    I guess what bothers me the most is that so many people do have closed minds and are not willing to change what they think. Or even worse, are unwilling to think that anyone else might have a different opinion and could possibly be correct.

  7. Sallie (FullTime-Life)

    There are so many gray areas in this life. Sometimes I almost envy those people who don’t seem to have any…they march a straight and narrow path with no deviation; no thought necessary (because the tribe has spoken?) ! So much simpler. But I can’t do it, darn it. Because thinking is so much work.

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