The Evil Monkey has announced that there’s a new poll up about 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 Partners survey suggests that about half of evangelicals don’t think that Ham & Co. have got it right either.
The survey took responses from 800 people by phone, although there’s no way to know how many of these people actually visited the museum. Be that as it may, about 50% of those polled rejected AiG’s attempt at a museum as inaccurate, either in terms of theology or science. There was a large portion of people who said they were not sure, definitely enough to swing the results either way. While it could be suggested that many of the people in the middle favored intelligent design, the poll results showed that about 60% believed in either a strong or weak form of creationism (I would assume this includes day-age creationism and other variants). Indeed, this total about about 60% likely can be attributed to those who said they were “Not Sure,” preferring the creation account although they might not know anything about the current issues surrounding creationism.
The poll does make a mistake in interpreting these results, however. It states;
Unlike their elected leaders, evangelicals reject intelligent design and solidly favor traditional creationism.
First, I was not aware that the creationist public at large “elected” any leaders; ministries start and gain power through the amount of support they get (although they tend to be short-lived overall). Second, AiG and other creationist organizations have had strong words for the leaders of the intelligent design movement, rightly noting that if you’re going to claim that there was a Creator you should be forthright enough to say who that Creator was (Mark 8:38 – “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”). From this we can conclude that while ID advocates are actually just creationists that are just a bit more liberal (and less forthright with their beliefs), creationists make no qualms about their interpretation of nature. Creationists do use what have been branded as “arguments from design,” but these arguments are not the exclusive property of ID, and either through convergence or intellectual borrowing young earth creationists use design arguments to support their view of Genesis as historically accurate.
[Update: scordova at UD and MikeGene at Telic Thoughts complain that ICR’s John Morris considers ID non-Christian. They then turn around and claim that ID is superior to creationism because it does not require a prior philosophical/theological commitment like young earth creationism, but despite this it is clear that ID advocates want some amount of “creation” without having to pin a creator or any details for their hypotheses.]
As Toumey noted in God’s Own Scientists and Sagan explained in The Demon-Haunted World, the trivial model of science is what is most familiar to the public and can be co-opted by nearly any group to make them appear more credible than they truly are. This was further evidenced by the interview with Senator Edwards, where science as technology and an economic springboard are more important than the overall understanding of the universe and the ability to attain knowledge about nature. Until people are taught sorely-needed critical thinking skills and skepticism, the symbols of science will likely hold more sway amongst the uninformed than what we actually do or do not understand, one of the biggest problems being a lack of these skills being taught in public education systems. In any case, this survey showed that amongst the 800 people polled, opinions about the creation museum were essentially split. Over time, I think AiG is going to run itself into the ground in one way or another and go the way of Mystery Park, but that is going to depend on how informed scientists and skeptics react to creationism and other pseudoscience in the coming weeks, months, and years. Indeed, the creation museum just opened the “Dino Den” section of the museum, and I’m sure that in it they’re attempting to take advantage of the popularity of dinosaurs amongst children in order to make their half-baked assertions seem more accessible. If you’re an educator and you’re looking for dinosaur information for your own class, check out the resources posted on the Dinos Alive! promotional page, including a pretty nifty stratigraphy game.
While striking down creationism wherever it should show up is important, I think there should be a larger focus on accurately and effectively teaching evolution and critical thinking skills to public school students; just because a school doesn’t teach creationism doesn’t mean that the students are gaining a good understanding of the importance of evolution.