Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Poll numbers

This is depressing. It turns out that only 12 percent of Americans think evolution-only should be the way to teach science classes. As Matt Yglesias writes, "The evolution-only view is less popular than gay marriage, less popular than the abolition of the death penalty, and generally speaking one of the very least popular liberal cultural causes."

What can we do about that? I'm not sure. Matt thinks we need to persuade people, but how? The evidence is already there and people are choosing not to be persuaded. Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.


At 11:31 AM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

What? I know that half of this country is stupid on this issue, but there is no way that that poll is accurate. I'd like to see the sample size, makeup, etc. I'd also like to ask about the "all three" option, and why no explanation was given, when an explanation was given for the other three options.

That leaves the answer open to some interpretation.

Still, scary.

BTW, did you catch Christopher Hitchens toungue-in-cheek response to the president's "teach all sides" answer today in the slate?


At 11:41 AM, Blogger dhodge said...

These numbers aren't as depressing as they sound. In the long run, I think ID is going to drive more people over the evolution camp than the creationism camp. By wrapping creationism in a scientific-sounding package, ID proponents are giving creedence to the idea that the way to learn things about the natural world is through scientific inquiry, not blind faith. This will hopefully inspire the students of ID to study its claims and then invalidate them through science.

The 20-25% creation-only demographic is probably not going away anytime soon, but I think that a solid majority of Americans (at least on a national level) can agree that people who believe that all knowledge comes to us from the Bible shouldn't be in charge of determining what is taught at public schools. I'm also pretty sure that a large percentage of the all three camp don't think evolution/ID/creationism should be taught as three equally valid theories, they think that evolution should be taught as the scientifically valid theory and creationism should be mentioned as alternate explanation with the disclaimer that it is not rooted in science. Most people probably don't know enough about ID to have an opinion.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger MDS said...

Thanks for the link. That was a great essay. Hitchens is at his best when he's channeling Orwell and taking on these issues. I especially like the way he talks about teaching Darwin as both science and history. I learned nothing about Darwin in all my years of schooling. I highly recommend Janet Browne's two-volume Darwin biography for people who want to know more about him.

As I've written before, though, Hitchens is wrong to suggest that Inherit the Wind is an accurate representation of William Jennings Bryan's arguments in the Scopes trial. Inherit the Wind is a good play, but it's fiction.

I hope you're right about the methodology problems with the poll.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

Agreed. I've been on a big Hitchens kick lately, but it seems like he's been more prolific lately too.

I remember a couple of years ago reading a piece in The New Republic by Gregg Eaterbrook on the Scopes trial that was very interesting (and pointed out that Inherit the Wind was, in fact, fiction).

I'm going from memory here, but I believe he asserted that some leaders of Dayton Tenn, believed that it would put them on the map as an enlightened place, or at least make them look positive in some way. Instead they ended up looking like hicks in history's looking glass.

And I believe this was a typical test case where a teacher broke the law intentionally just to get it into court, not some egregious stand against authority.

It was a good article. Can't seem to find it though.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger MDS said...

I blogged about the Scopes trial here.

You're right, the leaders in Dayton thought the trial would be good publicity for the town. It wasn't necessarily that they thought it would make them look enlightened, but they at least thought it would bring attention to them, tourism, and free advertising for their businesses.

Scopes very intentionally got arrested because he wanted to prove a point. One thing that was interesting was that a lot of the people on both sides personally liked and respected each other; I believe several people who opposed evolution still offered to pay the small fine that was imposed on Scopes.


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