A Case of Sustained Internal Contradiction: Unresolved Ambivalence between Evolution and Creationism

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, US
  • | 2 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Villanova University, Villanova, PA, US
  • | 3 Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, US
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Many people feel the pull of both creationism and evolution as explanations for the origin of species, despite the direct contradiction. Some respond by endorsing theistic evolution, integrating the scientific and religious explanations by positing that God initiated or guided the process of evolution. Others, however, simultaneously endorse both evolution and creationism despite the contradiction. Here, we illustrate this puzzling phenomenon with interviews with a diverse sample. This qualitative data reveals several approaches to coping with simultaneous inconsistent explanations. For example, some people seem to manage this contradiction by separating out ideological claims, which prioritize identity expression, from fact claims, which prioritize truth. Fitting with this interpretation, ambivalent individuals tended to call explanations “beliefs” (not knowledge), avoid mention of truth or falsity, and ground one or both beliefs in identity and personal history. We conclude with a brief discussion of the affordances of this distinction.

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