Stranger Fruit

Gallup Poll on “belief” in evolution

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More here. My gut feeling is that an improvement in general science education in this country could swing many of the “no opinion” folks towards evolution.

Comments

  1. #1 Braxton Thomason
    February 13, 2009

    Wow, that is a terribly phrased poll question. If asked, I would probably grind my teeth and answer “Believe in evolution”, but I *hate* the word “believe” in this context.

    Question would be better as “Do you accept the evidence as demonstrating the general validity of the theory of evolution”

  2. #2 Braxton Thomason
    February 13, 2009

    Also, I would expect that there may be a lot of theistic evolutionists out there who might answer “No opinion” because they believe in God, not the theory of evolution.

  3. #3 Morning Angel
    February 14, 2009

    1,018 people over the age of 18 (and who have a phone) were polled. Only 55% could correctly associate Darwin’s name with the terms evolution or natural selection. I consider that a significant problem.

  4. #4 DaveW
    February 14, 2009

    Agree with Braxton that the use of the term “believe” is non-scientific. But in this context, belief may be the appropriate term since the poll’s respondents can only “believe” rather than accept from a scientific basis.

    More troubling is the use of an undefined term “evolution.”

    Gil Dodgen proposed the following:

    1) Do you believe that all living things came from a universal single-celled common ancestor? 2) Do you believe that random mutation or random variation and natural selection explain the origin of all life and its complexity? 3) Do you believe that humans evolved from a primitive ape-like ancestor in the last several million years, and if so, does the Darwinian mechanism in question 2) explain how it happened?

    An improvement in critical thinking in this country would end stupidly phrased poll questions such as this one.

    How do you folks define evolution?

  5. #5 Amadán
    February 14, 2009

    A lot depends on whom you want to address your argument to. The Don’t Knows are more likely to respond to straightforward explanations of what science is, the type of data available, and the reasoning that leads to conclusions taught as science.

    But the anti-science crowd will generally be impervious to that because they have already made up their minds about science. They will regard you as a competitor religion trying to overturn their foundational beliefs. Facts and logic are largely irrelevant because they (like the rest of us) have beliefs in which they have invested too much to lose, at least for reasons (science education) that they consider unimportant.

    So you can trot out all the peer-reviewed papers you like; the faithful will take not a blind bit of notice. Where you may get through to them is highlighting the rather elastic relationship that the mouthpieces of creationism have with the Ninth Commandment. Some will just shoot back that “Well Dawkins is an atheist”, which of course evens the score. But most of them take issues of morality very seriously and will look askance at some of the (rather plentiful) lies that Ham/Gish/Dembski/Wells scatter about.

  6. #6 DaveW
    February 15, 2009

    Amadan, I’ve never met someone who is anti-science or anti-evolution. Maybe you could define what you mean by science and evolution and then demonstrate how certain people fit that definition. (You know, be scientific regarding your claims)

    I think that there are many reasonable-minded people who are anti-scientism, or evolutionism, and perhaps those are the people you are referring to.

  7. #7 Norm Olsen
    February 15, 2009

    There is nothing wrong with phrasing an acceptance of the evidence for evolution as a “belief” in evolution. If you accept the evidence for evolution, then you believe evolution to be true. I wish people would stop being so pedantic about this. It’s like saying, oh I hate to say I believe that the Earth revolves around the sun. Rather, I accept the evidence that demonstrates the general validity of the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. Give me a break!

    PS I believe in the theory of evolution!

  8. #8 William Wallace
    February 15, 2009

    Electrical engineers and physicists are just not obsessed with convincing the masses that light and radio are both EMF waves.

    I wonder why biologists are so concerned with getting people to believe evolution?

  9. #9 John Lynch
    February 15, 2009

    Paging Abbie!!! Can you please take Wallace back. He’s infecting things over here.

  10. #10 John Lynch
    February 15, 2009

    @ DaveW

    > How do you folks define evolution?

    Are you serious? Really?

    Here’s one standard definition:

    “[C]hange in the properties of populations of organisms or groups of such populations, over the course of generations … Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportions of different forms of a gene within a population, such as the alleles that determine the different human blood types, to the alterations that led from the earliest organisms to dinosaurs, bees, snapdragons, and humans.”

    Douglas J. Futuyma (1998) Evolutionary Biology 3rd ed., p.4

    > I’ve never met someone who is anti-science or anti-evolution.

    You need to get out more.

    What is this “evolutionism” of which you speak? Because evolutionary biologists don’t use the word to describe what they do (neither do the use “Darwinism” or “Darwinist”, FYI).

    Your troll-fu is weak, I’m afraid. Try harder.

  11. #11 Jared
    February 15, 2009

    We need to have a very basic logic course (logical fallacies and such) around age 6 for kids when they’re getting these silly notions like the world was created in 6 days hammered into their heads…

    In any event, Louisiana’s “Science Education Act” (SB 733) will be doing damage here as far as the number of people who understand evolution will decline substantially from the less than one percent of individuals I have met with even cursory knowledge.

  12. #12 DaveW
    February 15, 2009

    John:

    Thanks for the definition. Now, we can all clearly see the problem in the survey question. The survey asks if people believe in the theory of evolution (E.g., the mechanism(s) of evolution) not whether people believe in what evolution is.

    And of course, this definition is compatible with creation and design. Just change some of your terms with those of designed/created artifacts like automobiles and you’d see what I mean.

    So, when you use the word creationist, do you mean the biblical young earth creationists? Or do you mean anyone who thinks that creators or designers played a role in some part of getting life started or helping it to evolve?

    So first, which theory? There isn’t a single theory of evolution that all evolutionary biologists agree to, rather there are many theories that are in some cases complementary and in other cases in conflict. Asking lay people this question is flawed from the start. And, there’s no single theory that explains everything in the definition you provided, just portions of it. I’d be very interested to see you provide a table that maps the key hypotheses in the definition of evolution to the various theories that attempt to explain how evolution happens.

    Why anyone would try to infer meaning from this survey escapes me.

    This is why I much prefer the questions posed by Gil Dodgen as an alternative to this question which just serves as fodder for those who promote evolutionism.

    So, what do I mean by evolutionism? I consider it to be a belief system that promotes a a much broader, entirely materialistic, and less precise definition of evolution than DF’s as the explanation for everything. (origin of life, origin of universe, origin of matter, explanation of behavior, and so on)

    Darwinist, Darwinism, and Evolutionism – yes, these are words that bother some evolutionary biologists. But not all. Sorry if I offended you by using the word evolutionism. There’s an interesting article up on today’s NY Times by Carl Safina about Darwinism, as a matter of fact.

    DaveW

  13. #13 Amadán
    February 15, 2009

    Sorry for the delay in replying: Ireland v Italy had to be attended to. (It wasn’t too pretty, but a win’s a win).

    In response to Dave W’s question, I’d have to point out that I’m not a specialist in this area so my response is an imprecise layman’s one. By science I mean the rational enquiry into the observable by means of observation and logic. The term ‘evolution’ is a bit more difficult because it has been abused by the denialist fringe so as to apply everything from cosmology to literary criticism. I understand the term to cover accounts of changes in genetic and morphological form of living things over time.

    Not great definitions, I know, but we’re not drafting laws here.

    I’d point out that there are lots of anti-science types out there. It is anti-science to misrepresent the published words of scientists because science depends on the accurate reporting of data and conclusions. It is anti-science to knowingly present faked data. It is anti-science to maintain that divine intervention is the only possible explanation for a gap in scientific knowledge (particularly when that gap is subsequently filled by further scientific enquiry). It is anti-science to describe a fringe position as suppressed, or mainstream positions as controversial, when the motives for doing so are political rather than scientific. And it’s anti-scientific to seek to put lies, misrepresentations and irrelevancies in children’s science books.

    Perhaps you haven’t met people like that, Dave, but believe me, they’re out there. I’m sure you know it – you wouldn’t post on this blog if you weren’t aware of the problem – but perhaps you just want to get into a definitions war. If so, sorry, I’m not biting.

  14. #14 Modusoperandi
    February 16, 2009

    DaveW “So, what do I mean by evolutionism? I consider it to be a belief system that promotes a a much broader, entirely materialistic, and less precise definition of evolution than DF’s as the explanation for everything. (origin of life, origin of universe, origin of matter, explanation of behavior, and so on)”
    So, modern synthesis + evo psych + abiogenesis + a bunch of things that (can) use “evolution” (but evolution in senses other than the biological one: like stellar evolution). Essentially, the Ben Stein version of ToE (where “Darwinism” is supposed to explain everything, and proven false because it can’t explain gravity).
    Perhaps “naturalism” would be a more precise term? I heard that those crazy naturalists believe that everything came from nothing! Imagine such a thing!

    “Darwinist, Darwinism, and Evolutionism – yes, these are words that bother some evolutionary biologists. But not all.”
    They’re just taking back the word from the haters, man, like brown people and that word I’m not allowed to use (even using “niggardly” is imprudent).

    “There’s an interesting article up on today’s NY Times by Carl Safina about Darwinism, as a matter of fact.”
    Here.

    Posted by: DaveW

  15. #15 Modusoperandi
    February 16, 2009

    Wups. Ignore that last line. (Copy & paste, you’ve made me a fool for the last time!)

  16. #16 James F
    February 16, 2009

    > I’ve never met someone who is anti-science or anti-evolution.

    You need to get out more.

    Pwned.

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