Sunday, June 06, 2010

Evolution, theory, and infidelity

The table shows that General Social Survey respondents who accept evolution are less likely to think cheating on your spouse is always wrong, and are more likely to have strayed.

We know that correlation does not prove causation, but it doesn't seem unlikely to me that acceptance of evolution might lead some to justify infidelity.  Arguments like the following are easily concocted: "If bonobos are close cousins, can I really expect myself and others to remain monogamous?"   

This is a potential problem for any theory of humans, even if it is true. A theory doesn't just simply stand outside human society, explaining how things work. Theories are brought into a person's worldview and can affect his behavior.  So theories don't merely explain; they influence.


Anonymous said...

An agnostic friend of mine (a Chemist with a master's degree, a real sciency-guy) used to tell me, "if God didn't exist, he'd have to be invented".

I too, think many would misbehave rather grievously, if they really believed there was no hell to burn in post-death. That lingering doubt about eternal punishment probably keeps many more people in line than we care to admit.

Anonymous said...

However, had Voltaire not existed, it would not have been necessary to invent him. One of the things about Voltaire I didn't get was how much he disliked Euler. I like some of Voltaire's work, but Euler's work is just awe inspiring.

It's petty but it colors my view of Voltaire.

As for evolution, remember very few who claim to believe it really do in the sense of understanding any of it other than to state people evolved from X. So, a wide net like that is going to pull in a ton of mindless follower idiots with no grasp of evolution who may well use anything at hand to justify their behavior. Whereas the intelligent sorts who actually understand evolution whether they are religious or not, I would guess might be less likely to cheat. Just an opinion, of course.

SFG said...

I think you have to control for religiosity, honestly. Both of these things are just reflecting how religious people are...