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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Stupid is catching

On first glance this is disheartening:

More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.

Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

Oh fantastic. At least this isn't a political football over here.

Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

  • 22% chose creationism
  • 17% opted for intelligent design
  • 48% selected evolution theory
  • and the rest did not know.

When asked about what should be taught in science lessons in British schools:

  • 44% said creationism should be included
  • 41% chose intelligent design
  • 69% said evolution.

Exactly how these two gel together I am not sure. I would like to know how the questions were put together. For example were they given the option of expressing an option for ID or creationism to be taught in schools but not in a science class? I went to a Roman Catholic school and was taught evolution in biology; I was taught about creationism in Religious Education (though with an emphasis on the metaphorical nature of the book of Genesis) and we discussed ID, though it was not called that at the time (we had the whole watchmaker argument), in RE as well.

The poll was comissioned for an episode of Horizon and the editor had this to say:

"I think that this poll represents our first introduction to the British public's views on this issue. Most people would have expected the public to go for evolution theory, but it seems there are lots of people who appear to believe in an alternative theory for life's origins."
Not to nitpick but as I am sure Hrun would say, evolution does not deal in Life's origin. Don't be fooled by 'The Origin of Species'; the key word there is species not life. Evolution does not speak to where life originated, it only speaks to how life developed. Hence the book is called 'The descent of man' not 'The origin of man'. To reiterate, evolution does not offer any perspective on how life started or came to be, it only describes how life changes from one form to another.


Back to the poll. The slight breakdown of the numbers that is offered is intriguing:

Participants over 55 were more likely to choose evolution over other groups, while those under 25 were most likely to opt for intelligent design.

So is this perhaps an indication of how our education system has been failing in the past few years? A number of younger people have no concept of what 'science' is or else they suffer from the crime of instincitive inclusion: all points of view are equally valid and so should be included even if, in fact, they are meritless. That sound harsh but when it comes to whether I think Creationism or ID should be taught in science classrooms I state that the argument for inclusion is completely without merit.

I would also like to know how the numbers broke down by religious demographic and educational background. I don't necessarily expect something, but would be intrigued to see whether these views are spread across all walks of life anc culture or whether they are tied to particular parts of our community.

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