Evolution Survey Nonsense

8 06 2007

Every time I see a new national survey about evolution, I cringe. Hell, there are so many of the things that you can cite just about any percentage, it seems, and there will be some poll to back you up. The latest, which came to my attention through Pharyngula and Stranger Fruit, suggests that that more Americans think evolution is wrong than think it is accurate (the term “percent” doesn’t seem to be used on the page, so I’m tentative about saying that 66% of Americans are YEC’s). Of further interest is that most people surveyed seemed to say the issue of evolution/creationism isn’t important to the current presidential race, and that reflects the reaction of many people I’ve spoken to on the topic, the most usual reaction I hear being “Who cares? Why is it important?”

But can we really say this poll speaks for all Americans? There are so many, and I given the information supplied on the USA Today/Gallop Poll website, I don’t think this one tells us anything significant at all. According to the website, the number of U.S. adult (people aged 18 and up) polled was 1,007, a pretty paltry number for a survey, especially if people are going to claim it speaks for the whole nation. Driving on Rt 1 to work every day I probably pass 1,007 people, but let’s put that number in proper perspective.

According to the U.S. Cenus population projection for 2005 (I’m trying to be conservative in the estimate, although you could try the same simple calculation with the 2010 estimates), there should be approximately 221,868,077 people over 18 in the United States at the moment, a pretty big number if you ask me. In fact, if you quickly do the division, the national population of people over 18 is 220,325.8 times larger than the survey sample size, so it would be pretty foolish to think that such a minuscule and superficial survey spoke for everyone.

Over the past few weeks especially, I’ve run into plenty of people who’ve never seriously considered evolution because they don’t know anything about it or never followed up on creationist claims they heard at church; their intuition is their “default setting” but if you engage them about evolution and science, they are interested. I don’t have a poll of my own to back this up, but I suspect that there are plenty of people who just don’t know enough about evolution that they default to creationism or intelligent design because it’s what’s comfortable and not-in-conflict with their beliefs. There are a lot of people who do take creationism seriously and are very adamant about their beliefs on the matter, but if we’re to base our entire reaction to creationism based upon misleading surveys spat out by crappy newspapers, we’re not too smart. Not only do we need to combat creationism, but we need to work to make sure evolution is being taught effectively and accurately in schools around the country, and I can’t help but wonder if part of the current “creationist crisis” stems from our failure on this issue. For more on the topic of effective evolution education, check out this post from Chris Harrison (who is now a big-time science reviewer, congratulations Chris!)


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6 responses

8 06 2007
Chris Harrison

Good point about the small number of people polled. I agree that this sample size is *far* too small to be considered an accurate representation of public opinion.

Oh, and thanks for the link of course, although I don’t think I can really call myself a science reviewer yet! I

8 06 2007
laelaps

Thanks Chris; like I mentioned in the post, there are so many poorly done evolution surveys I’m pretty much sick of seeing them (why not do like the politicians do in their debates, and just raise our hands if we don’t believe in evolution?😛 )

And don’t be so modest; you took some initiative and are now getting paid off with some good work to do. I recently got some good news as per scientific work for the summer, but since I don’t have all the details yet “mum’s the word.” Still, you’ve been making your voice heard and it’s encouraging to see other good bloggers get attention for what they do (now all you have to do is plug a job like Bora and you’ll be set!).

8 06 2007
Chris Harrison

I would be very happy to get a science/research job that paid this summer, but that’s definitely not going to happen due to my living location.

Anyway, I hope you get something worked out for yourself. Let us know of any developments.

12 06 2007
Jim

No default, just common sense.

If evolutionists want to end the arguments all they have to do is, get their brilliant heads together and assemble a ‘simple’ living cell. This should be possible, since they certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about what is inside the ‘simple’ cell.

After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago,according to the evolutionists, having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely then the evolutionists scientists today should be able to make us a ‘simple’ cell.

If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so. It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try answersingenesis.org. The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

13 06 2007
“Make me a cell, darn it!” sez Jim « Laelaps

[…] a commenter named “Jim.” Apparently Jim finds much of what I wrote in my post “Evolution Survey Nonsense” to be contestable, and in order to “put me in my place” offers up a Hovind-esque […]

10 07 2007
Varied Reactions to the Creation Museum « Laelaps

[…] reactions to AiG’s Creation-themed funhouse, and there are some interesting trends. While past surveys have suggested that most Americans don’t understand evolution, the DEFCON/Lake Research […]

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