Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Which sex is more likely to reject evolution, and why?

Research indicates that men have more general knowledge than women, and--important for this blog--men know more about science. People like Richard Lynn see this as evidence that men have, on average, higher levels of general intelligence. The idea is that smart people seek out and absorb more information than others.

Perhaps this is relevant to the issue of belief in evolution. Understanding science better, are men more likely than women to accept the theory of evolution?

The General Social Survey asked participants if they believe that man descended from other species. In a sample of 6,375, 59.1% of men and 48.2% of women answered yes. That's roughly an 11 percentage point difference.

Now, let's see if superior knowledge of science helps explain the gender gap. We'll use logistic regression.  Here is the relationship between gender and acceptance of evolution

Belief in evolution--logistic regression coefficients

Male   .44***

***p < .001, two-tailed test

Men are significantly more likely to accept Darwin. Now let's see how much the coefficient shrinks when scores on a science quiz are added:

Male   .38***
Science Quiz   .42***

So some of the gender gap is due to superior male knowledge of science. How about religion? Women are more religious than men, and there is a tension between religious belief and acceptance of evolution.

Male   .14**
Science Quiz   .27**
Belief in God   -.62***
Church attendance   -.18***

**p < .01, two-tailed test

The gap closes even more: Women are less likely to accept evolution, in part, because they are more religious than men.

My last hypothesis goes beyond the sex difference in religiosity--perhaps men are more likely than women to accept ideas that are unpleasant. Most people are not thrilled to think that life has no objective meaning or purpose, or that they have a monkey for a grandfather.

The question was asked if the respondent agreed with this: "Life is only meaningful if you provide the meaning yourself."

Let's add this variable to the model:

Male  -.05
Science Quiz  .15
Belief in God   -.62***
Church attendance   -.14***
Meaning subjective    .32***

Gender and even science knowledge drop to non-significance when the meaning variable is added. The gender gap in belief in evolution seems to be explained by men's harsher, more secular worldview.

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