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The Acceptance of Evolution and the Path of Compliance

Here’s an old study that I recall reading about as an undergraduate psychology major. It is about groupthink, those who adopt it and those who don’t. As you read it, ask youself who in the debate over evolution and ID is following the path of compliance and, alternatively, the path of independence (note that the distinction is not quite as neat as pro-ID and anti-ID):

“Opinions and Social Pressure” by Solomon Asch
http://www.panarchy.org/asch/social.pressure.1955.html

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11 Responses to The Acceptance of Evolution and the Path of Compliance

  1. Good article. Reported in the conclusion:

    “..He may also draw some consolation from a further observation: those who participated in this challenging experiment agreed nearly without exception that independence was preferable to conformity.”

    Was that question asked in a group? ;)

    One intereting observation was when there was an extreme dissenter, then the individual was more prone to exress correct dissent when the group was wrong. Could the contrary be true? If the extreme dissenter dissented from a correct group answer, would it sway the subject? For example of analogy, I’ve read that Hitler said the public was more likely to believe a big lie than a small one… So, would a bg lie be more persuasive in misguiding someone from a correct group opinion?

    If true, then one could suggest that Dawkins book – The God Delusion – is intended to be such a big lie.

  2. It’s amazing how much better writing once was in academia.

  3. Sad, isn’t it? … I had a similar impression when reading it.

  4. “More disquieting were the reactions of subjects who construed their difference from the majority as a sign of some general deficiency in themselves, which at all costs they must hide. On this basis they desperately tried to merge with the majority, not realizing the longer-range consequences to themselves.”

    Does this not seem true of some of those who hold fiercly that unguided NDE has no conflict with Christianity?

    “The presence of a supporting partner depleted the majority of much of its power …. the feeling toward him was one of warmth and closeness; he was credited with inspiring confidence.”

    Hence Blogs and discussion groups like Panda and UD.

    ” that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern.”

    Amen to that!

  5. Regarding the study and the social dynamics, this reminds me of an anecdote in Darwin’s Nemesis.

    One thing that was pointed out in Darwin’s Nemesis is that in days gone by, dissenters from Darwin were isolated were basically starved and isolated. One account of Phil Johnson in Darwin’s Nemesis shows an innovation to cure the isolation:

    Two moves on his part proved crucial for organizing the fledgling ID movement. The first was to organize a private several-day meeting of potential leaders in the ID movement at Pajaro Dunes….
    The second was to insist that the participants get on e-mail and be part of a listserve…Today everyone has e-mail. That was not the case in 1993….But Phil saw what was coming and how the Internet would allow for the dissemination of knowledge that would make it increasingly difficult for secular elites to maintain control over what people think. He even offered to buy e-mail accounts for those of us who were without university appointments and thus without free access to university servers….

    One reason nothing like the ID movement critical of Darwinian naturalism had blossomed previously is that critics of Darwinism were typically isolated; thus the Darwinian establishment could go after them mercilessly without anyone coming to their aid. With Phil’s virtual community that was no longer the case

  6. Dr Dembski-

    This post is a bit off topic, but I wanted to get your take on this fellow:

    http://goodmath.blogspot.com/2.....s-bad.html

    I know that you do not have time to scour every blog and answer every challenge to most of the mathematical arguments that you make but I thought you should see the blog entry and I did not know if your research staff stumbled across it or not.

    As a casual observation: Reading the responses in Chu-Carroll’s blog was like reading Daily KOS, or Democratic Underground–Quite a lot of name calling.

    I really love reading your work. Unfortunately, as an undergraduate I only had 2 semesters of Calculus, 1 semester of statistics, and 1 semester of Quantitative Analysis so I have to do quite a bit of research to understand any of your more advanced topics.

    Thanks for everything you are doing. (A. Coulter’s Description of you and you colleagues in her Acknowledgments in “Godless” was classic)

  7. Ken,

    This is, Salvador. Thank you for visiting our weblog. What has happened in the past is Bill will post at ARN or ISCID and invite the critics to offer direct comments to new papers. The responses are usually horrifically bad. The one time a good comment was offered was by Comza Shalizi.

    Chu-Carrol is very bright, but when it comes to ID, he has no inhibition about using highly disingenous tactics like misrepresentation, equivocation, and strawman arguments. I highly encourage you to read their battle tactics manual here: Infidels Manual.

    I was about to start a thread here on some of Chu’s misrepresentations, and we could make it a discussion, that might be an appropriate place to take the topic up further. How does that sound.

    It’s very important to me that the undergraduates out there who read this debate have their questions answered. What I will suggest is if our discussions here can’t clear things up, I can write Bill for a clarification. I have found, however, it is a good excercise to see if the critic’s statements are an accurate representation of what ID theorist say. Usually not, it is some disigenous strawman.

    What I find is when the critics are confronted with their mis-representations, they make even more. Eventually it just gets tiresome confronting them.

    Just so I can get a feel for where you are in your program of study, what is your major. Have you had any classes in the art of mathematical proof or logic? Computer Science?

    Thank you so much for visiting. It is a delight to hear from college students.

    regards,
    Salvador

  8. Howdy Salavador-

    I’m sorry–My original post was unclear. I have a BS in computer information systems (with a double major in network administration and database design). I design databases for a living. I am currently (part time) prusuing a MS in Technology Systems (computer network managment) at ECU.

    My undergrad classes in math was limited to calculus (single and multi variables) Statistics and Quantitative Analysis (linear programming, simplex, integer and zero-one programming, goal programming, and a bit of non-linear programming.)

    I look forward to reading this blog as well as the other design blogs. We are fighting an uphill battle but one that our side must win.

    I hope Dr Dembski takes a look at the link and will respond to Chu-Carrol’s claim or that you will start a thread of discussion on it here on this blog.

    Thanks ever so much for the warm welcome.

    Ken

  9. Ken,

    Chu and the blogsphere are an excellent example of compliance and using authority to influence others. It’s very powerful and his readers lap it up.

    That is not to say their criticism aren’t highly valuable. With the internet, IDers use the critics for free editorial help, and many times they’ve help clean up our initial offerings considerably….

    That said, before posting on it more, I found the weakness in Chu’s boasting:

    In my taxonomy of statistical errors, this is basically modifying the search space: he’s essentially arguing for properties of the search space that eliminate any advantage that can be gained by the nature of the evolutionary search algorithm. But his only argument for making those modifications have nothing to do with evolution: he’s carefully picking search spaces that have the properties he want, even though they have fundamentally different properties from evolution.

    Chu fails to describe what the properties are for the search space of “evolution”. If he claims it’s one where competitive agents prevail as a general principle, he is asserting the very thing that is in question, thus he is arguing circles. If one is brave enough, on can confront him on this. He may or may not give a good answer.

    He’ll have to justify why his model of evolution is in line with physical reality.

    Let me look into it more. I have to write something that will also be amenable to our non-technical readers.

    Sal

  10. Sal-

    Thanks. Below is a snippet that I especially wanted Dr Dembski to clear up.

    Competitive fitness functions can have that property. But if you’re considering evolution, that doesn’t matter. In an evolutionary process, you’d wind up picking one, two, or all three as the fittest. That’s what speciation is. In one situation, A is better, so it “wins”. Starting from the same point, but in a slightly different environment, B is better, so it wins.

    You’re still selecting a better result. The fact that you can’t always select one as best doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t change the fundamental outcome, which Dembski doesn’t really address, that competitive fitness functions do produce a better result that random walks.

    Ken

  11. Hi Ken,

    There is a long discussion on that very thing here.

    The giest is that for all things random functions perform just as well as directed (competitive fitness) functions since the directed ones perform more poorly than the random ones when faced with problems for which they are not designed.

    Who is to say what fitness is? Bacteria remains bacteria after hundreds of millions of years and remains everywhere. If fitness is the determining factor for evolution why did bacteria move on to something else since bacteria is finely fit as is?

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