Tim Blair writes:

Michael Gawenda, The Age’s man in Washington, reports:

The majority of Americans believe in creationism rather than evolution.

And I bet Gawenda can’t name a single one of them. Also, his data may be a little astray; according to this round-up of polling on the issue, creationism—although widely supported—is yet to reach majority-belief levels.

The round-up of polling reports that about 45% of Americans that God created humans pretty much in their present form at some time in the last 10,000 years. But this is just the number who believe in Young-Earth Creationism, which is only one flavour of Creationism. A CBS News Poll conducted in November 2004 found that 55% of Americans believed that God created humans in their present form, 27% believed that humans evolved with God guiding the process and just 13% believed that humans evolved without divine guidance. And I don’t think that Gawenda would find it difficult to name an American who doesn’t believe in evolution because I’m pretty sure that Gawenda has heard of one George W Bush. Furthermore, Gawenda’s point was that this was a major difference between Australians and Americans and Australian polling data supports him, with just 28% of Australians opting for the religious explanation for the origins of life.

Blair continues:

Gawenda’s assertion puts him in the same dumb club as John Quiggin: “The great majority of climate change sceptics, globally speaking, are also creationists”.

Blair doesn’t offer any reason why Quiggin’s claim might be false. Apparently he thinks that calling Quiggin dumb is enough to refute him.

Comments

  1. #1 jre
    June 14, 2005

    The CBS News poll appears to reflect the grisly truth regarding most Americans’ scientific knowledge (or lack of it). It should be noted that CBS News itself is part of the problem when it uncritically repeats the Discovery Institute’s atrocious “Ten Questions.”

  2. #2 ben
    June 14, 2005

    care to expand, jre, on the *atrocious* “Ten Questions” and what exactly it is that makes them *atrocious*? At least point me to your favorite website that discusses issues related to the ten questions.

  3. #3 jet
    June 14, 2005

    jre,
    Just because Americans believe in Creationism does not make them ignorant of Evolution. So your “grisly truth” impugning “Americans’ scientific knowledge” is a bit misguided. But certainly your comment implies a lack of tact.

  4. #4 Irant
    June 14, 2005

    jet,

    I’d say they are ignorant of evolution. If you were to ask the creationist American would they be able to describe the basic evidence and concepts of evolution using the terminology correctly?

    Tim,

    I don’t think there is a necessary correlation between creationism and being a global warming skeptic. Ian Plimer is a good example.

    10 Questions [answered at Pharyngula](http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/ten_questions_to_ask_your_biology_teacher/)

  5. #5 jre
    June 14, 2005

    ben:

    Happy to oblige.

    jet:

    Just because Americans believe in Creationism does not make them ignorant of Evolution.

    Yes it does. Are you saying that most Americans understand the principles of evolutionary biology, are familiar with the evidence for living things being related by descent, and have come to the considered conclusion that Creationism is a better explanation? That is silly, and you know it.
    You’d get more traction disputing the results of the CBS News poll. It’s possible that CBS got it wrong, and that Americans are not as ignorant of the last 146 years of biology as these numbers would suggest. But if they are correct, the truth is grisly indeed.

  6. #6 ben
    June 14, 2005

    >Yes it does. Are you saying that most Americans understand the principles of evolutionary biology, are familiar with the evidence for living things being related by descent, and have come to the considered conclusion that Creationism is a better explanation? That is silly, and you know it.

    Evolution, so far, does not offer, as far as I can tell, an answer for why anything exists at all, that is, the origins of life the universe and everything. It also doesn’t answer *why?* which is the question that most people want answered. Why is there simply not just nothing?

    And so people who beleive in creation, don’t necessarily reject evolution, at least not in terms of how it explains how life forms change within a species, but not how a new genus , family, order, or class is arrived at. I don’t know much about the topic, but I’m not convinced, although I’ve not rejected either, that current evolutionary theory answers the *where all life forms come from* question.

    Thanks jre, I’m looking now.

  7. #7 ben
    June 14, 2005

    BTW, Tim, the site is very good. I like the style and the layout.

  8. #8 Helen
    June 14, 2005

    Congratulations on the new layout Tim. It looks great.

  9. #9 Ian Gould
    June 14, 2005

    >

    Ben, you’re correct. But then it was never intended to.

    Many years ago I attended a debate between creationists and evolutionists.

    The three scientists speaking in defence of evolution were all members of mainstream Christian denominations.

    One in particular, a geologist, was quite forceful in saying that his religious faith included the commandment “thou shalt not bear false witness”.

    The evidence available to him proved, to him, that God had used evolution to create the biological world as it exists today.

    To deny this in favor of a literal reading of Genesis, to him, would be to bear false witness.

  10. #10 jet
    June 14, 2005

    jre,
    I think it is quite presumptive to believe there is a different average level of understanding of Evolution between those who believe in Creationism and those who believe in Evolution. Most students in the US pick up a basic level of Evolution during junior high and high school, regardless of their faith. And at my university I received a perfectly unbiased education (so I believe) from my Biology and Astronomy professors who I know both believed in Evolutionary Creationism.

    Your belief (unsupported by any facts) that people who believe in Creationism simply haven’t been exposed to “the truth” because they are ignorant is hardly academic in nature and certainly not compelling on its “merits”.

  11. #11 jre
    June 14, 2005

    jet:
    Perhaps we are misunderstanding each other. As best I can tell, most people understand the word “Creationism” to refer to the belief that the living things of the world (and, for that matter, the world itself) were brought into being more or less the way we see them by a supernatural agency. That was clearly the sense in which the word was used by the CBS poll titled Poll: Creationism Trumps Evolution. Without talking to your biology and astronomy professors, I can’t venture a guess as to what they thought “Evolutionary Creationism” is all about, but I daresay that most folks would be just as puzzled as I am by that phrase. So — to make myself clear — people who believe in Creationism, as that word was used in the discussion above, are indeed uninformed as to the nature of evolutionary biology and the evidence that all life on earth is related by descent. That position is extremely well supported by the success of evolutionary biology in explaining observation, and by the failure of any competing theory to offer a credible evidence-based alternative.
    Today in the US there exists a thriving cottage industry in lobbying for Creationism (under any of its many aliases) to be taught as a respectable alternative to mainstream biology. I have never encountered a single lobbyist for Creationism who understood evolutionary biology, or who evinced an honest desire to come up with a better explanation. Rather, their position seems to be “We don’t need to offer an alternative theory. We just want to show that evolution is controversial, and to get schools to teach that it is controversial.” Wrong. In science, that’s not the way the game is played. You first need to show that you understand the argument you are opposing, then convince the world you can do better. Until I see someone make an honest attempt to do that, I’ll stick by my position: people who believe in Creationism as that word was meant in the opening post do so for religious or philosophical reasons, and are only able to do so because they do not understand the evidence for the other side.

  12. #12 Niall
    June 15, 2005

    Blair merely adopts the Howardian modus operandi, which is relatively common to most conservative puppets. To conclusively dismiss an opponents claims, one merely needs to ‘reject’ them, as we’ve seen Howard do all too often. Doesn’t mean said claims are wrong or baseless, but the faithfull will believe that they are. QED.

  13. #13 Steve Bloom
    June 15, 2005

    Remember that a very wise man once said:” Nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

    Seriously (well, even more seriously), one thing I wonder about such poll questions is that the answers given might be affected by a desire to fit in with what is perceived to be the prevailing view in society, and by less than complete certainty that participarion is truly anonymous. Remember the poll from a year or so ago where, just after the Shrub had been forced to admit that there in fact had not been any Iraqi WMDs, a majority of Americans still believed there had been. And these are the same people who understand evolution?

  14. #14 Steve Reuland
    June 15, 2005

    I strongly doubt that the prevalence of creationism in America is due to simple ignorance. It’s true that the average American is scientifically illiterate, but surveys show that the same is true in Europe and other Western nations.

    Creationism is prevalent in America because religious dogmatism is prevalent. Specifically, the fundamentalist and evangelical strains of Christianity usually hold to a literalist interpretation of Genesis (and the rest of the Bible), and often teach their members from a very young age that belief in evolution is a sin. The problem has gotten worse since the Phillip Johnsons of the world have made an ideological crusade out of the whole issue, convincing many evangelical leaders that the very existence of our ‘culture’ is at stake.

    That being said, my experience is that most online creationists, even those who appear obsessed with the issue, know very little about evolution. Most of what they know appears to come from creationist sources, which at the very least, are misleading and incomplete. More importantly, most creationists know very little biology, and seem uninterested in learning more.

  15. #15 Dominion
    June 15, 2005

    As an American, I can attest to my fellow countryman’s woeful ignorance in science. However, it is more than just science itself, it is the scientific method that also seems to completely flummox people.

    I can’t count the number of times I have been discussing evolution vs creation and have someone start to bring up some supernatural agent to explain something. I say “No no, can’t do that”. They seem absolutely mystified when I explain that we have to ignore supernatural explanations for natural phenomenon. Why it doesn’t seem fair, why not include “Godedit”? Well your welcome to use Godedit if you got nothing better, but when you do, you are no longer doing science.

    I tell ya, sometimes it is downright depressing to be an American…

  16. #16 ben
    June 16, 2005

    I tell ya, sometimes it is downright depressing to be an American

    as opposed to? I’d sure like to know which culture it is today that is blessed uniformly with scientific enlightenment. Is it the French?

  17. #17 snuh
    June 16, 2005

    ben says: Evolution, so far, does not offer, as far as I can tell, an answer for why anything exists at all, that is, the origins of life the universe and everything. It also doesn’t answer why? which is the question that most people want answered. Why is there simply not just nothing?

    if i believed that god created the first form of life to have existed on earth, but that all subsequent forms of life are the result of evolution/natural selection, would i be a creationist?

    i tend to think someone like this should probably not be described as a creationist, which explains why i think ben’s comment misses the point. evolution isn’t about explaining why life itself exists, merely it explains why particular forms of life exist, and the processes under which those forms derived from previous forms, tracing back to the earliest known forms of life. it is not a flaw in the theory of evolution that it cannot explain why there is life, because it doesn’t need to, and has never pretended to.

    the point is that i can imagine someone [honestly] describing my imagined god-believing evolutionist as a creationist, which may have some bearing on the q of how many people are counted in particular surveys as “creationist”.

    but otoh, CBS’s survey seems to go out of its way to address this, so maybe not.

  18. #18 Ian Gould
    June 16, 2005

    <<I’d sure like to know which culture it is today that is blessed uniformly with scientific enlightenment. Is it the French?>>

    Ben,

    I’ll happily criticise the French – (we can start with their hypocritical attitudes to trade; their interference in their former colonies (although Chirac doesn’t seem as bad as Mitterand in this regard); their retention of nuclear weapons and their support for the Common Agricultural Policy, which is possibly the dumbest and most destructive policy of any major Government in the world today with the exception of Bush’s opposition to Kyoto.)

    But we have to accept that one of the most serious problems facing the world today is the rupture, which is cultural as much as political; between the US and the rest of the developed world.

    Capital punishment, abortion, creationism, gun control; health care – there’s a fundamental moral division on all these issues.

    I won’t pretend to know what’s behind it.

    I will note though that John Howard – staunch ally in the war on terror; personal friend of George Bush; former missionary and the man who takes pride in being “the most right wing Prime Minister Australia has ever had” – has views on health care; gun control; capital punishment and abortion which would place him to the left of John Kerry and Howard Dean.

    We need to find a way past this division because over the next couple of decades the rise of China and India is going to confront us all with a challenge that’s probably an order of magnitude greater than that presented by the Soviert Union.

    Potentially, twenty years fron now we COULD be living in a world where political and economic reform in China and economic reform in India have extended prosperity and freedom to billions of more people and fundamentally altered the course of human history.

    But I believe that that will only happen if “the west” (essentially the US, the EU and Japan plus minor hangers-on like Australia) acts jointly to deter any Chinese or Indian aggression.

    We need to move beyond arguments from entrenched positions to try and understand what it is that separates us.

    We will never reach total agreement but we may be able to establish sufficient common ground to revitalise the alliance that won the Cold War and liberated Russia and Eastern Europe.

    Now let’s go back to mocking the French.

  19. #19 Eli Rabett
    June 16, 2005

    Well, most religions offer answers wrt the origin of the universe, life, etc., the problem being that they are metaphysical (and usually in conflict with the paleoevidence) so you have to then believe in a devious god(s) or abandon your faith. You either accept religious answers or not, questioning being a futile pursuit.

    Evolution offers consistent and testable answers at least to the question of the origin of life although they may not fit your faith. YMMMV as in all things.

  20. #20 ben
    June 16, 2005

    Capital punishment, abortion, creationism, gun control; health care – there’s a fundamental moral division on all these issues.

    I’ll have to agree, but I think in general, in the US we come down on the correct side. I lived in Canada for half my life, the universal access to health care waiting lists really sucked. The gun laws sucked. That they didn’t execute people who tortured, molested and killed little children sucked.

    We allow abortion here, and should. We allow anyone to believe whatever they want about evolution or creation or grblofludge or whatever, as we should.

    How is the rest of the world affected by the US stance on health care and gun control exactly? We have less crime than some places with more gun control, and more crime than other places with less gun control and the opposite as well, guns aren’t the problem. Our health care problems can largely be linked to crappy lawyers and too much government interference, but whatever its cause, I don’t understand the link to India and China. The more prosperous those countries become, the less they will be able to hold back the tide of liberty, hopefully. If not, it will be their backwards peasant populations that are their undoing, as in Iran and the Soviet Union of days gone by.

    If they actually become aggressive, I’m sure a common ally will help us forget a lot of this nonsense anyway, especially the gun control, no?

  21. #21 Meyrick Kirby
    June 16, 2005

    >We have less crime than some places with more gun control, and more crime than other places with less gun control and the opposite as well, guns aren’t the problem.

    Bet you have more gun related crime though.

    >Our health care problems can largely be linked to crappy lawyers and too much government interference

    Ummm, more likely the hospitals screw the health insurance companies, who in turn screw the insurance policy holders.

    >The more prosperous those countries become, the less they will be able to hold back the tide of liberty, hopefully.

    Yes, because Singapore’s prosperity has brought about plenty of democracy.

    Finally, not all the French are that bad!

  22. #22 Meyrick Kirby
    June 16, 2005

    Well, I see my attempts at putting in quotes failed miserably.

    Tim, could kindly fix my mistake please?

  23. #23 Ian Gould
    June 16, 2005

    >How is the rest of the world affected by the US stance on health care and gun control exactly?

    As usual Ben you totally miss the point.

    The US is affected by the willingness of the rest of the world to support you militarily.

    Oddly enough, constant lectures by people such as yourself about how morally inferior and degenereate we all are make us less willing to send our troops to die at your request.

  24. #24 Tim Lambert
    June 16, 2005

    You should use Markdown for making quotes. A single greater than sign > at the start of the paragraph that is a quote is all that you need.

  25. #25 Eli Rabett
    June 16, 2005

    Evidently Ben has either always had health insurance or money. The health care problems in the US have a lot to do with the 1/3-1/2 of the population that don’t.

    A short comment on health care and lawyers. Someone with any hint of self examination would ask why this is not an issue elsewhere and why payouts are low in countries with universal health care. The answer is that juries are not stupid and they know that severely ill and hurt patients need to cover very high health care costs, so the occasionally give large awards.

  26. #26 Dominion
    June 16, 2005

    as opposed to? I’d sure like to know which culture it is today that is blessed uniformly with scientific enlightenment. Is it the French?

    Why ben, how provincial of you.

    Believe it or not, the rest of the world is not a cesspool. As a self employed person unable to get affordable health insurance, a long line sounds a lot better to me than no line at all.

    As far as scientific enlightenment goes, I suppose anywhere the majority of the people don’t “put their faith” in a silly story, rather than looking to the evidence and thinking would be more enlightened than we are. At least I would not have to fight with my kids school teacher as to whether or not Ken Hovin is a good scientist or not!

    Which I have actually had to do.

    I mean, really, do you think a society that was “enlightened” scientifically would allow it’s leader to “cook” science so that it came out the way he wanted??

  27. #27 ben
    June 17, 2005

    Evidently Ben has either always had health insurance or money. The health care problems in the US have a lot to do with the 1/3-1/2 of the population that don’t.

    Argh! When I was 11 years old, back in 1983, I lived with my divorced mother and my sister. My mom was going to school and we lived in the most run down, ramshackle housing you can imagine in the USA. We had pots to collect the dripping rainwater and all that. We had no health coverage. I had my nose severely broken and required surgery. It put my mother in the hole $10,000 and ruined her credit. However, I did not have to wait. My friend in Canada with cancer in her neck had to wait over a month for surgery while the stupid thing continued to spread!

    1/3 to 1/2 the population don’t have insurance? Ha! Back that up if you can. That figure is bogus. The “44 million” figure is bogus and that only constitutes about 1/7 to 1/8.

    And yeah, those are a lot more frequent and ridiculous than you imagine.

    Now, Dominion:

    Believe it or not, the rest of the world is not a cesspool. As a self employed person unable to get affordable health insurance, a long line sounds a lot better to me than no line at all.

    That’s precisely the point I was making about the USA! It’s not a cesspool any more than any other country in the developed world is a cesspool. Sheesh, you guys really need it beat into you with a big heavy thing sometimes. Anyway, if you like lines so much maybe you could trade places with some Canadians who don’t, then it’d be win-win, no?

    And the fact that big payouts don’t happen when you have universal waiting lists is because the government controls the waiting lists and the courts! Shocking but true! They don’t let themselves get sued don’t you know.

  28. #28 ben
    June 17, 2005

    er, “those” being payouts and lawsuits. Sorry.

  29. #29 Peter M
    June 17, 2005

    Got more than one poll Tim? CSICOP’s round up seems quite compelling.

  30. #30 Louis Hissink
    June 18, 2005

    As a geologist might I be permitted a comment?

    Evolutionists are really nothing but liberal creationists. Following Lyell’s lead during the early Nineteenth century, in wich Lyell, with a rhetorical device shifted creation from the immediate present to is existing, more distant, origin, explain extant biodiverisity mechanically.

    Neither seem satisfactory from a scientiific stance.

    But then this site never did pretend to understand science, so ……

  31. #31 Ian Gould
    June 18, 2005

    Louis,

    I certainly don’t understand your attempted contributions to it. But then your own understandign of English grammer seems to have failed you during your last epistle.

    Still waiting for your explanation of the historical evidence that the length of the day hasn’t varied significently in the last couple of thousand years.

    Presumably the people on Tim Blair’s site who derided your bolide theory of the Aceh tsunami are equally lacking in scientific understanding.

  32. #32 Ender
    June 18, 2005

    Also still waiting for the Earth heat data Louis.

    Perhaps you should give them the one about the Earth not being a greenhouse.

  33. #33 Meyrick Kirby
    June 20, 2005

    But then this site never did pretend to understand science, so

    Whereas you Hissink pretend to know something about scientific evidence.