This is Vexing
The New York Times is reporting on a new poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. The results are annoying, but mostly unsurprising.
Here's one of the surprising ones:
The poll showed 41 percent of respondents wanted parents to have the primary say over how evolution is taught, compared with 28 percent who said teachers and scientists should decide and 21 percent who said school boards should. Asked whether they believed creationism should be taught instead of evolution, 38 percent were in favor, and 49 percent were opposed.
Creationism should be taught instead of evolution. Thirty-Eight percent. As Bill Maher likes to say, why must we live in a dumb country?
Meanwhile, 41% think parents should have the primary say over how evolution is taught. No doubt that's because 41% of parents have a deep understanding of modern biology, and are in a better position than teachers and scientists to know how to teach the subject.
Here are some other findings:
John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection. Mr. Green called it a reflection of “American pragmatism.”
“It's like they're saying, 'Some people see it this way, some see it that way, so just teach it all and let the kids figure it out.' It seems like a nice compromise, but it infuriates both the creationists and the scientists,” said Mr. Green, who is also a professor at the University of Akron in Ohio.
I often tell people, in an attempt to make them aware of the severity of the problem, that if you ever put this issue to a vote, and the courts agreed to get out of the way, then you would have creationism taught in virtually every school district in the country. They almost never believe me. No, no, they assure me, it's just certain parts of the red states where creationism has any following. Sadly, that's baloney. The number of fire-breathing creationists may be relatively small, but there are an awful lot of people who are sympathetic to their view of things. And their are an awful lot of people who think that simple fairness requires that popular crackpotism be taught alongside science.
A few more numbers:
The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that “living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was “guided by a supreme being,” and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.
Actually, that 42% seems lower than figures I've seen in other polls. There also seems to be some confusion in the poll questions. Believing that evolution occurred primarily via natural selection does not preclude also believing that evolution was guided by a supreme being.