Tom Rees has a really nice review of a study on cognitive biases and dogmatism which has considerable implications for how religious ideologies influence scientific literacy. I can’t improve on Tom’s summary “Geoffrey Munro, of Towson University in Maryland, has shown that people who are confronted with scientific evidence that conflicts with their beliefs are more likely to reject science as a source of evidence. Rather than modifying their beliefs, they move the goalposts!”
Over time, limiting information because of religious dogma–a “faith based” approach to information processing—can lead genuine cognitive deficits. If you don’t use your brain, it doesn’t work quite as well–or it certainly won’t have as much correct information stored in the hard drive.
Above you can see how this plays out using data from the 2006 General Social Survey. People who do not believe in evolution score a 58% on the scientific literacy exam (really simple stuff, go here for a full view), while people who believe in evolution get 73% of the science questions correct. American’s aren’t very bright in general….religion makes us even worse. Notably, the evolution effect is also evidenced in the vocabulary exam. The creationists get a 58% on the vocabulary exam, while those who believe in evolution score a 68%.
Given the low levels of scientific literacy among the creationists, it is frightening to think about them make decisions about their own and their families’ health, and it is even worse that many of these cretins are in positions of political authority to influence environmental regulation, scientific and medical research, and public education.