In an article on powerline, the author complains of being called stupid. His crime is real enough: “happening to believe that the theory of evolution is not correct”. But he’s in plenty of company.

It is ironic to what extent otherwise intelligent people can close their minds so completely on certain topics. The powerline guy uses his critical faculties in overdrive when it comes to logical analysis of liberal silliness. But when it comes to articles of religious faith, snap! go the padlocks of the mind, the sense of inquiry. The same person who would advocate putting creationism stickers on biology textbooks would have his head explode if someone were to nail analogous “this book contains only a story, not a fact” stickers onto his treasured bibles.

(By the way, the “it is a theory, not a fact” warning illustrates a serious ignorance of science, bordering on a category error. Of course no theory is a fact – that’s not possible by definition. Science collects facts (observations), and formulates theories (“laws”) that aim to explain and predict them. New facts cause reexamination of prior theories, so as to asymptotically approach the truth.) UPDATE: See also this Bad Astronomy article.

There are other examples everywhere, like the tremendous amount of superstition out there. I know a recent biology Ph.D. graduate who studied breast cancer. This same person is obsessed with oriental nonsense like having lucky mirrors hanging in front of her house, and asking temple gods and astrologers for answers to everyday questions. (Of course these answers correlate better with coin tosses than with intended outcomes.) A person whose profession is logically deducing relationships between sickness and its causes seriously believes in her time off that lucky charms have an effect. And yet her mind doesn’t comprehend the absurdity of believing both those things.

Such selective detachment from reality is probably a mental illness, but afflicts so many people that it is useless to diagnose it.