Creationist and Evolutionist Dogmatism
George W Cooper, Jr
Abstract: The Dogmatism Scale was administered to 130 college students. The students classified themselves as "evolutionist" "creationist, "or "undecided" There were more creationists (42%) than evolutionists (28%). A one-way analysis of variance indicated no significant difference in dogmatism between creationists and evolutionists.
"Dogmatism is on the march again in America," according to one evolutionist in a public debate with a creationist. "Doubt is an integral part of science," said another evolutionist at another debate. "Doesn't creationism appeal to those who have a need for certainty," asked one interviewer.
The purpose of the present research is to find out whether creationists really are more closed-minded than evolutionists, as is commonly thought. Psychologists are familiar with the undesirable behavior of the authoritarian personality (Adorno et al 1950). Symptoms of this syndrome may be summarized as: ignoring differences; assumption of complete knowledge; overgeneralized reactions; rigid commitment to the past; demanding certainty; and refusal to consider alternatives.
A traditional fallacy of authoritarian theorists has been to concentrate attention upon the "hypocrisy of the right," whereas, according to Rokeach 11960), "A person may espouse a set of beliefs that are democratic in content yet adherence to such beliefs considered alone is not necessarily a true guide of an anti-authoritarian outlook. For a person espousing such beliefs may still strike us from the way he espouses such beliefs as authoritarian, intolerant of those who disagree with him and closed in his mode of thought and belief," (pp 14-15)
Elsewhere, Rokeach makes the point stronger: "The relative openness or closedness of a mind cuts across specific content; that is, it is not uniquely restricted to any one particular ideology, or religion, or philosophy, or scientific viewpoint. A person may adhere to communism, existentialism, Freudianism, or the 'new-conservatism' in a relatively open or a relatively closed manner It is not so much what you believe that counts, but how you believe." (p.6) Evolutionists, who claim that "creationists are dogmatic," are themselves espousing an out-moded ideology; to wit, the left is open, the right is closed. They demonstrate the "rigid commitment to the past," which we have seen is a characteristic of authoritarianism.
If this newer idea of Rokeach is correct, we should find equal dogmatism amongst evolutionists and creationists. Furthermore, although some might predict the uncommitted to be the least dogmatic, this hypothesis has no support from Rokeach. We are all familiar with agnostics who are very dogmatic in their agnosticism. Therefore, my hypothesis is the null hypothesis: no difference in dogmatism between evolutionists, creationists, and the undecided.
Dogmatism can be measured by several different instruments, including the California F Scale (F is for Fascism). In this study we will use the 66 item Dogmatism Scale developed by Rokeach (1960). This particular instrument seems the best choice because it is constructed to avoid liberal or other ideological bias. It is currently popular with human relations specialists (Pfeiffer at at 1976).
The Dogmatism Scale was administered to 130 students enrolled in one of six different sections of a course, "Psychology of Human Relations", taught by the author at Madison Area Technical College during the fall of 1981. Each student scored their own test, according to standard instructions. The students were then asked to write E, C, or ? after their own score to indicate whether they believed in evolution, creation, or were undecided. The anonymous papers were then collected for tabulation.
Tests were sorted into three groups (E, C, ?), and means and standard deviations computed for each group. Results are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Summary of Dogmatism scores
A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with unequal sample sizes (Welkowitz at all 976) was conducted to see if there was a significant difference between the group means. Such tests are the standard procedure for deciding whether the observed differences between the group means represent small random fluctuations of large systematic differences between groups. The results are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Summary of one-way ANOVA
|Source of variation||SS||df||MS||F|
|within groups (error)||196297||127||1546|
Since an F of 3.07 or greater is required with our degrees of freedom (df) in order to reject the null hypothesis at the .05 level of confidence, we decide to retain the null hypothesis and conclude: "There is not sufficient reason to believe that there are differences among the population means" (Welkowitz et at, p.219). In other words, creationists, evolutionists and the undecided in this sample were equally dogmatic or to put it in an opposite way equally open-minded
Contrary to the stereotypes of many evolutionists, who portray creationists as narrow-minded bigots and themselves as open-minded Scientists, the present research reveals equal doses of open-mindedness and closed-mindedness all along the spectrum from evolutionist to the undecided to creationist. Some problem behaviors associated with authoritarianism occur among evolutionists and are not a monopoly of the creationists.
Adorno, T., Frenkel-Brunswick, D., Levinson, J. and Sanford, R. The Authoritarian Personality New York: Harper, 1950.
Pfeiffer, J., Heslin, R. and Jones, J. Instrumentation in Human Relations Training 2nd ed. La Jolla, California: University Associates, 1976.
Pinnock, C. Reason Enough, Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1980.
Rokeach, M. The Open and the Closed Minot New York: Basic Books, 1960.
Welkowitz, J., Ewen, Rand Cohen, J. Introductory Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences. 2nd ed., New York: Academic Press, 1976.