Last night, several folks on twitter expressed similar concerns about the wording of the survey I created and blogged about a couple days ago. Some folks taking the survey were confused about whether I wanted respondents to rate the answers by whether or not they answered the question, or by how well the ideas expressed by the contestants matched the raters’ own beliefs (even if they didn’t quite answer the question).

I wanted the latter, and have updated the instructions to clarify. If you took the survey before, and if this clarification changes how you would have answered, please consider taking the survey again.

As I said before, this survey will help me come up with a less subjective measure of the quality of the different replies, a measure that will be useful for a project I’m working on and hope to reveal as soon as next week.



  1. #1 csrster
    June 30, 2011

    I have a PhD in physics and I still don’t know the correct answer to the question about whether an electron is larger than an atom.

  2. #2 Duane
    June 30, 2011

    small typo you should be aware of:

    “I’m a science education advocate and researcher, and I’m doing some on some research on the recent, much-discussed Miss USA answers to a question about evolution.”

    “and I’m doing some on some research”

  3. #3 MiddleMan
    June 30, 2011

    @csrster: Now don’t you start! ;P

    “I think that we should definitely open up to offering differing ways to teach students about everything: different thought processes, different ideas, because it’s important to let students just decide their own ideas and what they want to believe in. So if it’s something that they do teach, I think they should teach evolution and just other concepts as well so that they can definitely decide what they believe in themselves.”

    I wish you had a “You had me up until your last sentence” choice.

  4. #4 MiddleMan
    June 30, 2011

    “Well, I was taught evolution in my high school growing up, and I do believe in it, I mean I’m a huge science geek, so I like to believe in like the big bang theory, and you know, the evolution of humans you know, throughout, you know, time.”

    And a “Marry me!” button…

  5. #5 rob
    June 30, 2011

    i am a physicist and i had to resist the urge to google where the sex of kids comes from. XY, XX, YY…i forget what is what. stoopid biology!!!11!! :)

    most of the answers made me cringe. it is disturbing how many incorporated the “just a theory” or “hear all sides and decide what to believe” canards.

    reality isn’t decided upon by popular opinion.


  6. #6 abb3w
    June 30, 2011

    A bit longish, but what can be expected when you’re reviewing most (all?) of the 51 responses, a couple added statements from professionals, and a few general science knowledge and demographics questions.

    I’d also think using the (omitted) “tomatoes” science knowledge question might be more illuminating than some of those that were picked; OTOH, it hasn’t been used as long or as widely, so there might be reasons the others were better.

  7. My problem was that a lot of the answers were pointed in the right direction but contained stuff that was quite mistaken. I fully accept evolution but it’s far from the most important topic that needs to be included in a high school biology class. Its importance is way, way overblown in society and education.

    I’d like to know why someone who doesn’t use the ideas of evolution in their work would need to know about it more than they would those topics that are relevant to the mundane areas surrounding sanitation and nutrition. When’s the last time that got more attention than an accurate knowledge of the present state of the science surrounding evolution?

    As mentioned, the cultural use of evolution is in the strife between materialist fundamentalism and biblical fundamentalism. That is the reason it’s attained such overblown status in popular culture.

    Evolution’s most important appearance in the general culture is the role it plays in the attack on the Wall of Separation of Church and State, which is a serious problem but not nearly as important as its denial used as the template for the climate change denialism promoted by the stupendously corrupt and rich extraction industries and their shills in government and the media.

    Quite frankly, I’d trade dumping it from the curriculum if it meant people would face up to what human beings are doing to end so many lines of evolution, mostly likely, eventually, including our own. When we go the struggle over teaching of evolution in the schools won’t matter one bit. That deal will never be offered but if it was possible it’s clear what’s more important.

  8. #8 Jean Kazez
    July 2, 2011

    I am confused. You could be saying (1) I should assess the answers by my own lights, deciding whether they say the right thing *and* support their position well. Or you could be saying (2) it’s a simple matter of “matching.” So if they say “yes, evolution should be taught” I have to give that answer a 10, since I agree 100%.

    I thought you meant (1), based on the original instructions, but did you mean (2)? That’s how it appears, based on this post.

  9. #9 randyextry
    July 3, 2011

    That survey was nearly impossible to complete with any kind of consistency. For example, “yes evolution should be taught…I think it’s important to teach both sides.” I could give that a 10, for saying yes, or a 1 for apparently equating evolution and creationism. I tried to be more nuanced, but then another problem arose. One can assume that if this was Miss Rhode Island, she’s advocating the addition of creationism to the biology curriculum; whereas if this was Miss Alabama, she’s bravely suggesting the local teachers actually do their job and teach real science.

    I doubt this survey has any internal reliability (or validity). If you put the same exact answer on the first and last pages, I probably would have given different grades to them. I got so confused with my own strategy for trying to achieve some kind of consistency, that I basically had to give up by the end. If she says “yes it should be taught, but I don’t believe it,” is that better or worse than “it should be taught if it’s ok with the parents.” Does “teach all theories and let the children decide” mean to let them believe whatever they want, or to teach them how to evaluate evidence and draw valid conclusions? Does “evolution and religion should both be taught” mean “in the same science classroom” or “as part of a well rounded education?” And on and on.

    Sorry, I think the survey is waaaay to confusing to be valid for any kind of data analysis.

  10. #10 V. infernalis
    July 6, 2011

    It’s a fine idea, just poorly executed. What you should have done was summarize and paraphrase the contestants’ answers to reflect the full spectrum, instead of using their answers verbatim. So one answer could have been “teach creationism and evolution”, one could have been “leave it up to the local school boards”, one could have been “religion doesn’t belong in science class”, etc.

    That would have cut down on the length of the survey and greatly increased the validity and consistency of respondents’ answers. The way it’s setup now leaves it up to the respondents to interpret the contestants’ word salads.

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