Sunday, July 5, 2009

Compatibility and its Opposites

A discussion on Butterflies and Wheels has brought back a 2007 study by Pew Research on how Americans perceive compatibility between science and religion. From the report's summary:

How can Americans say that they respect science and even know what scientists believe and yet still disagree with the scientific community on some fundamental questions? The answer is that much of the general public simply chooses not to believe the scientific theories and discoveries that seem to contradict long-held religious or other important beliefs ... in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion. And when the two realms offer seemingly contradictory explanations (as in the case of evolution), religious people, who make up a majority of Americans, may rely primarily upon their faith for answers. [emphasis mine]
There is no clash? There is a clash, which is why one of the truth claims has to be embraced and the other ignored, bracketed, set aside, disbelieved, denied. This is what happens when contradictory truth claims collide, not when compatible truth claims coexist.

There are different levels of cognitive dissonance on display here -- embracing scientific findings while simultaneously eschewing inextricably associated scientific findings -- but one of the more glaring belongs to those who are speaking of contradiction and compatibility as though they're the same thing. They're not synonyms, they're antonyms. One would expect communications experts to have that down.

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