ATLANTA -- Americans who base their view of reality on science are outnumbered nearly two-to-one by those who believe in creationism and New Age religion, a University of Texas researcher said Friday.
Social psychologist Raymond Eve, one of 4,000 scientists attending the annual meeting here of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said recent studies show about 40 percent of Americans favor a literal translation of the creation story in the Book of Genesis.
Another 20 to 25 percent subscribe to New Age theories, whether they involve psychic powers, the mystical properties of crystals, UFOs, Big Foot or tales of sunken continents.
"The U.S. in one sense almost tore itself apart in the early 1960s on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity," Eve told reporters before taking part in a scientific session on public attitudes towards science. "Now we seem to be in a second stage where rather than basing it on race and ethnicity, we're at least as angry at each other about how we shall decide what truth should be passed along to the next generation."
Eve presented evidence from a study he co-authored, called "Differential Ideology of Pseudo-Scientific Beliefs or Why Creationists Don't Go to Psychic Fairs."
An attempt to understand why people subscribe to so-called pseudo-sciences that incorporate the principles of Christian fundamentalism and New Age religion, the study subjected the beliefs of 400 students from the University of Texas at Arlington to computer analysis.
The result was evidence of two separate but consistent empirical domains of belief in American Society, both of which tend to reject the modern scientific model.
The largest domain, based on traditional religion, occurred among those demonstrating a consistency of belief in issues from creationism to anti-abortion, anti-gay and pro-school-prayer political stands. Eve said the beliefs appeared to be maintained by active social pressure.
"We also saw a second group of things emerge, where were things like mysterious monsters, sunken continents, psychic powers, UFOlogy. Those could all be separate areas...but they're not. They're all highly inter-related as if it were one empirical domain of belief," he said.
But Eve said the latter group, which he called the post-modernists, also appears to extend to those who follow the tenets of health food and feminism.
"The post-modern crowd is united only in their rejection of the rules for knowing that the other two use," he said.
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