Intuitive Knowledge and the Image of God, Part 1 of 4
In a study of university biology students, researchers found that people often experience an innate, intuitive resistance to accepting Darwinian evolution as an explanation for life’s existence and diversity. In this four-part series, I will explore the implications of this study and the support it provides to the biblical worldview.
Have you ever had a “gut feeling” that Darwinian evolution is an inadequate explanation of life’s origin and of the many life-forms we observe? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent study,1 many people share this impression. In fact, this “gut feeling” appears to be the strongest factor prompting people (in general) to reject biological evolution.
This study and the conclusions of the researchers are described in a paper titled “Feeling of Certainty: Uncovering a Missing Link between Knowledge and Acceptance of Evolution,” Because this topic is of great interest, Dr. Fazale Rana explained and responded to the paper on RTB’s Science News Flash podcast (“Evolution Belief a Gut Feeling?”).
The authors of the paper tried to understand why many people resist accepting the theory of evolution.2 They stated that, “many, including biology teachers . . . do not accept evolutionary theory as an adequate explanation for the diversity and unity of life on Earth”3 and, “numerous studies have revealed that many biology teachers are partial to non-scientific or antievolutionary worldviews, despite significant coursework in both biology and evolution.”4
With this motivation, the researchers surveyed 124 students in biology-teacher preparation programs at two Korean universities. These particular Korean students were chosen because they were essentially “of the same age; completed the same coursework requirements; displayed comparable intellectual abilities as measured by a standardized exam . . . and completed the same program (no students dropped out).”5 These consistent factors presumably minimized extraneous variables. In addition, the researchers tested the students’ knowledge of evolutionary theory and took into account their religious or nonreligious background.
After asking the students pertinent questions, the researchers determined that the greatest resistance to evolution (over the student population) was surprisingly due to a “feeling of uncertainty,” an intuitive (gut) feeling that evolution was not true6—despite the biology curriculum promoting Darwinism! Some students from a variety of religious backgrounds and academic levels resisted evolution based on this feeling of uncertainty.
Dr. Rana offered the following observation during the podcast,
Within neuroscience, there is this recognition that . . . there are two components to understanding a phenomenon. One is knowledge and the other is an intuitive feeling of certainty as to whether or not that knowledge is indeed correct.
That is to say, in acquiring knowledge, we not only assimilate information; we also experience an intuitive feeling that the information is true, or in some cases, not true. An article from LiveScience.com underscores the point, “. . . the human brain doesn’t judge the merits of an idea solely on logic, but also on how intrinsically true the idea feels.”7 In fact, according to the researchers, this intuitive feeling “may have a greater influence on final decisions, dispositions, or actions than conclusions arrived at through principled reasoning.”8
Dr. Rana also pointed out that intuitive knowledge can be valuable in certain situations, such as with firefighters who, in the midst of a blaze, have “gut instincts” that guide them and enable them to survive. He remarked, “People can make sound decisions using their intuition . . . it’s a valuable component of our ability to understand . . . to think through circumstances and determine the course of action.”9
On the other hand, the researchers viewed intuitive knowledge as distinctly inferior to reflective or intellectually apprehended knowledge. They implied that reflective knowledge is trustworthy, whereas intuitive knowledge is suspect and unreliable, especially when it resists evolutionary theory!10 The researchers came to believe that strategies should be developed as to how to teach these concepts (regarding intuitive knowledge) to the students, in an effort to help them consciously overcome intuitive resistance.11
Nevertheless, I believe that an entirely different paradigm should be considered in regards to the value of these intuitions. Based on Scripture and on the insights of theologians, I submit that these intuitive feelings against Darwinism arise from God’s image in man (Genesis 1:26–27). His image or likeness in man enables us to be receptive to the “testimony” of His existence through creation, which we see in Psalm 19:1–4, Isaiah 40:26, Romans 1:18–20, and in a number of other verses as well.12
To those who are willing to see it, the Creator’s handiwork13 is quite apparent—a concept inadvertently supported by the researchers in their paper, as they referenced a study which held that children “generate intuitive creationist beliefs about origins.”14 Why don’t children generate intuitive evolutionary or at least naturalistic beliefs? I submit that they don’t because they (and all of us) possess the image of God and because they’ve not yet been taught to rationalize away creation’s testimony.15
We’ll delve into specific features of the Creator’s “testimony” to His handiwork that His image enables us to discern, in part two of this four-part series.
Roger Bennett is an apologist and former amateur astronomer. He has also studied chemistry, physics, theology, and biblical Greek. This article has been reviewed by RTB biochemist Fazale Rana.
- Minsu Ha, David L. Haury, and Ross H. Nehm, “Feeling of Certainty: Uncovering a Missing Link between Knowledge and Acceptance of Evolution,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 49, no. 1 (January 2012): 95–121.
- The paper pertains to unguided, naturalistic, Darwinian evolution as taught in most schools and universities.
- Ha, “Feeling of Certainty,” 95–96.
- Ibid., 102.
- Ibid., 110, 114–15, 117; “FOC” stands for “feeling of certainty,” the intuition that a concept is true or untrue.
- See LiveScience.com, “Belief in Evolution Boils Down to a Gut Feeling,” posted January 20, 2012, http://www.livescience.com/18051-belief-evolution-gut-feeling.html.
- Ha, “Feeling of Certainty,” 99.
- Fazale Rana, “Evolution Belief a Gut Feeling?” January 23, 2012, Reasons To Believe, Science News Flash podcast, http://www.reasons.org/podcasts/science-news-flash/evolution-belief-a-gut-feeling.
- Ha, “Feeling of Certainty,” 114–16.
- Ibid., 115–16.
- See Psalm 33:5; 50:6; 97:6; 98:2–3; 119:64; Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 3:3; Acts 14:16–17.
- For my description of a layman’s perspective on the Creator’s handiwork, and scientific confirmations of this perspective, see part 2 of this series.
- E. Margaret Evans, “Cognitive and Contextual Factors in the Emergence of Diverse Belief Systems: Creation Versus Evolution,” Cognitive Psychology 42, no. 3 (May 2001): 217–66, quoted in Ha, “Feeling of Certainty,” 99.
- See endnote 12.