Monday, July 11, 2005


The Numbers Paradox

A few days ago, we reported on a nationwide Harris Poll of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone by between June 17 and 21, that found nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults believe human beings were created by God.

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the survey was that when pollsters asked, "Do you think human beings developed from earlier species or not?" 54 percent of respondents said no. That's up from 46 percent in 1994.

The Kansas City Star also published the results of a poll on public attitudes toward teaching evolution, intelligent design, and creationism that showed when asked which best described their view on the origin of life, 39 percent said creationism; 26 percent said evolution; 16 percent said intelligent design; and 19 percent said other.

And yet, the numbers don't seem to tell the whole story. Consider, these recent, real world reversals for Christian fundamentalists, intelligent design, and creationism:

It seems that poll numbers don't tell the whole story. In many cases, when parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and legislators are confronted with an actual challenge from intelligent design and creationist forces, they tend to unite behind science education.

This is not to ignore the counter-examples from Cobb County, Georgia; Dover, Penn.; and the expected vote to add pseudoscience to the Kansas science standards later this summer. But, even in those cases, the issue has galvanized people in those communities to step forward to defend science education. As in Kansas in 1999, we can expect that some of those decisions can and will be reversed.

It could be that people respond reflexively to pollsters questions -- it may seem more democratic to teach all the "theories" when first confronted by the question -- but when they begin to pay attention to the issue, are forced to think more deeply, or when they actually see the antiscience forces in action, they begin to change their minds.


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