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Education United States Science

48% of Americans Reject Evolution 1856

Posted by Zonk
from the we-need-just-a-touch-stronger-educational-standards- dept.
MSNBC has up an article discussing the results of a Newsweek poll on faith and religion among members of the US populace. Given the straightforward question, 'Is evolution well-supported by evidence and widely accepted within the scientific community?', some 48% of Americans said 'No'. Furthermore, 34% of college graduates said they accept the Biblical story of creation as fact. An alarmingly high number of individuals responded that they believe the earth is only 10,000 years old, and that a deity created our species in its present form at the start of that period.
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48% of Americans Reject Evolution

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  • by Kelson (129150) * on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:33PM (#18558441) Homepage Journal
    America continues to worry about losing its edge in the high-tech industry.

    But that couldn't possibly be related to poor science education, could it?

    Note: I'm referring specifically to the 48% who believe that evolution is not well-supported by scientific evidence and that it is not widely accepted within the scientific community. Well, and the people who think the universe is less than 10,000 years old, despite all the evidence to the contrary. You can believe in God and have an understanding of science, just like you can have morals without being religious. But thinking that evolution isn't supported by evidence, or isn't widely accepted by scientists, is just plain ignorance.
    • by 808140 (808140) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:39PM (#18558531)
      Frankly, even the rabidly fundamentalist anti-evolution junkies are aware that evolution is widely accepted in the scientific community. This doesn't stop them from trying their best to discredit the theory and convert people over to their way of thinking, but they'd have to be utterly daft to not realize that most scientists do not in fact agree with their point of view.

      I agree; this has to be ignorance, not religious zealotry. It's one thing to say "Evolution is bunk, and there's a pervasive anti-religious conspiracy in academia promoting it" and quite another to say "No scientists really believe in evolution." As far as I know, none of the fundies are actually saying the latter and expecting to be believed. The former, however, is one of their standard talking points.
      • by Gerzel (240421) * <brollyferret&gmail,com> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:44PM (#18558609) Journal
        Most of them just use the tactic of saying things longer and louder than everyone else in the room and eventually people will believe you.

        In America this has worked.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cyphercell (843398)
          Personally, I often just stop talking to people like that, doesn't mean I believe them. Of course the average person seems to think that the last person talking wins.
        • by casper75 (44745) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:00PM (#18559661)

          In America this has worked.
          should read "This has worked."
          No single group of humans has a monopoly on ignorance.
          • by Andrew Kismet (955764) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:20PM (#18559919)
            Not yet, but the USA is trying damn hard.
            • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @06:48PM (#18560981) Journal
              I know how fashionable it is to bash the USA, but if you think we're ahead in that race, then you need to visit a few more countries. I could tell you about places where people believe in witchcraft and have been known to hack their neighbors to pieces over it, and I'm not talking about things that happened centuries ago.

              -jcr

              • by phrasebook (740834) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @07:10PM (#18561215)
                So you're better than what, parts of Africa and the Middle East?

                Have a gold star.
              • America the Great (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Mark_MF-WN (678030) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @11:17PM (#18563545)
                Don't you love how Americans can only maintain their delusions of adequacy by comparing their nation to the very shittiest, backwards little hellholes on the entire planet? God forbid Americans ever compare their nation to, you know, other modern industrialized nations?

                Here's the deal: stop saying that America is the greatest nation on Earth, the most advanced nation on Earth, the home of the free, the home of the brave, or any of that other bullshit, and MAYBE people will stop pointing out that every one of those claims is a baldfaced lie.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by daniel23 (605413)

      There is a theory that the day the soviet union ceased to exist after decades of cold war, some folks in the US started to believe that from now on all limits had gone. Multilateral treaties? Climate change? Geneva Convention? Any science with unwanted results? All those questions get answered like:

      "We're an empire now, the rules have changed. We don't have to ask, we define what is real and what not."

      There is another theory that this in fact is the truth.
  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:34PM (#18558457) Homepage Journal
    Ok, there's a mislabeling of vitamin C, and NY politicians are posturing about something, and a majority of Americans are christians.
    THIS IS NEWS????
    C'mon editors, what happened to news for nerds, etc?
  • by ReidMaynard (161608) * on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:35PM (#18558469) Homepage
    I'm keeping a close eye on my neighbor's 911 Turbo with the I Love Jesus bumber sticker. The minute The Rapture hits, that baby is mine!
  • by Raindance (680694) * <johnsonmx@gm a i l .com> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:36PM (#18558487) Homepage Journal
    This is interesting, but not for the obvious reasons.

    The poll looks fairly well-constructed, but the problem is that evolution has become extremely politicized. For many, this question wasn't asking about science-- it was a political question (are you with the conservative-christians or the liberal-atheist-scientists?).

    I think the real story here is the process by which scientific issues get politicized. It's a process that we really need to understand. John Timmer over at Ars Technica often writes about this.
    • The mindset is simply this: Any agenda, promoted by anyone, that contradicts something said in the bible, is an attack on its literal truth and thus, an attack on fundamentalist Christianity.

      That's all you really need to know.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:40PM (#18558557)
      Actually that's not a well constructed poll. It's asking 2 things at once in a single yes/no question (Is evolution well supported, is evolution well accepted). So of the people who said no are they saying no to one of the questions or both?
      • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:15PM (#18559013) Homepage Journal

        Actually that's not a well constructed poll. It's asking 2 things at once in a single yes/no question (Is evolution well supported, is evolution well accepted). So of the people who said no are they saying no to one of the questions or both?

        My thought exactly, except that I'd point out another aspect of the question that's overly broad. "Evolution" isn't a single theory, it's a whole complex set of theories, some of which have very solid observational evidence supporting them and others of which are almost pure hypotheses. For example, on the one hand, it's scientifically indisputable that species do evolve. We have seen it happen under controlled conditions in the laboratory, as well as having a deep fossil record. On the other hand the theory of punctuated equilibrium is just a fairly random stab at trying to explain why the fossil record seems to show long periods of little change separated by short periods of massive change. There are lots of other examples all across the spectrum.

        Personally, I'd have had a hard time answering yes to the question "Is evolution well supported", not because I don't believe it is, but because I *know* it's a political question, not a scientific question, and I know that if I say "yes" I'll be indicating assent to a much broader range of ideas than those I actually believe are supported.

        A better poll would have asked several, more precisely-focused questions, such as: "Do you believe evolution occurs?"; "Do you believe that the large number of species that exist today evolved from a small number of ancient species?"; "Do you believe that humans evolved from earlier species?"; "Do you believe that evolution is a result of purely random chance?"; plus similar questions oriented towards getting the individual's opinion about the scientific support and opinions of scientists, such as "Is there solid scientific evidence that evolution occurs?" and "Do most scientists believe that evolution occurs?".

        The result would have been a much better view into the understanding and beliefs of Americans, rather than just their religio-political views.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Odin's Raven (145278)

        Actually that's not a well constructed poll. It's asking 2 things at once in a single yes/no question (Is evolution well supported, is evolution well accepted). So of the people who said no are they saying no to one of the questions or both?

        Yes.

  • by mark0 (750639) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:38PM (#18558503)
    Anyone who believes in Intelligent Design has never considered the prostate, let alone actually had prostate trouble. Even a human engineer wouldn't design a component like that. They want me to believe omnipotent, omniscient being did that?
    • by ewhac (5844) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:50PM (#18558681) Homepage Journal
      Dude, it's even worse than that. Consider the entire region of genetalia. What kind of "intelligent" designer puts a recreational facility next to a waste disposal site?

      :-),
      Schwab

      • by Khaed (544779) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:05PM (#18558891)
        You've obviously never been to New Jersey.
  • And? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kingrames (858416) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:38PM (#18558511)
    99.9% of humans have more than the average number of arms.
    So why does this statistic matter?

    So long as the people in charge are smarter than that, we should be okay.

    *ulp*
  • Glass half full? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:38PM (#18558523)
    It wasn't that long ago that we were having evolution trials, witch burning and with most of the world's states controlled by various churches.

    Even with the rise of the evangelistic movement and the ties many have to the anti-evolution movement, they still pull only 48%.

    Sounds not half bad to me.

  • I know why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geek (5680) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:46PM (#18558623) Homepage
    Most Americans (people over the age of 35ish) were never taught evolution in school and those who were have been taught poorly. I didn't realize the piss poor job my teachers did in junior high and high school until I took an anthropology class in college. People still like to quip that we evolved from monkeys but don't realize we evolved seperate from monkeys and share a common ancestor.

    The ignorance to evolution is amazing in this country. It's no surprise at all people haven't embraced it here like they have overseas in Europe.
  • by ewhac (5844) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:46PM (#18558627) Homepage Journal
    ...And 33% of people polled still think Bush is doing a good job in Iraq.

    People wonder why this country lost its lead in manufacturing and, most recently, technological development. Why is a fairy tale -- and an expurgated, badly translated fairy tale at that -- so much more compelling than the tools and concepts that allow you to take control of your own life and environment?

    Schwab

  • by ewhac (5844) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:55PM (#18558749) Homepage Journal
    Facts -- like gravity, and the sphereoid shape of the planet -- exist whether or not people "believe" in them. A leaf doesn't have to believe in photosynthesis to turn green.

    Schwab

  • by PrvtBurrito (557287) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @03:56PM (#18558757)
    My take on this issue is that people who do not have extensive scientific educations are being asked to 'believe' in science in a manner similar to how they 'believe' in religion. Science is fundamentally based on observations and the progression of the scientific method. That said, for most of us, we never see the evidence, nor do we see the details of each hypothesis test. This is further complicated because the body of scientific literature is massive and for every scientific field you can find crap science. Peer review is fallible.

    I think we are requiring people to 'believe' in science, simply because science has become too complicated to cover adequately with a standard, non technical education. This creates a conundrum. These people are being required to choose religion -- remember they have been in church since birth -- or science. For them, this must be very difficult. When we listen to a scientist, we hope we are hearing testimony based on evidence, when we hear a preacher we hope we are hearing testimony based on belief.

    That said, as a scientist familiar with evolutionary theory, I am troubled by the level with which we understand the mechanisms of evolution and that 48% of people don't even understand the most basic of concepts within it. Should we require people to swallow science without evidence? Should we follow *anything* without evidence? I know I don't, ironically, science doesn't allow me to.
  • by igb (28052) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:01PM (#18558835)
    Constructing a poll on a topic as politicised as this is incredibly hard. As another /.er points out, it's a proxy for `are you a godless liberal or a True American', and unless the poll is taken in secret any area in which morons with a belief in creationism are prevalent will over report a belief in creationism. Once the opinion is taken in secret, the game changes, as those anti-abortion politicians in whichever state it was with the proposed law found out: people may support you when their neighbours can hear, but not when they're in private. Moreover, knowledge of how accepted an idea is in scientific discourse is hard to judge for anyone who doesn't follow the topic reasonably closely: as I suspect the vast majority of the world goes about their daily business without worrying about the current status of punctuated equilibrium versus gradualism, why would they care?

    Anyway, enough of this. I want someone to help me evolve the long, thin, incredibly strong fingers I'm going to need to open up ther case of the Mac Mini to my right and slot in the replacement disk drive.

    New Doctor Who was great tonight, by the way. Rose was great, but you're all going to love Martha Jones. Except for the creationists, of course, who are going to hate The Doctor kissing (whisper it) a black woman.

  • Beyond Belief (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nih (411096) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:11PM (#18558961)
  • by fireweaver (182346) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:22PM (#18559105)
    The next time a jesus chrispie gets in your face about this, ask him this: "OK, so the bible says god this, that, and the next thing. Does it say anywhere HOW he did it? And if it doesn't, did you ever wonder why? Did it ever occur to you that if god is POWERFUL enough to make a universe and populate it with life, then he might also be SMART enough to make it run AUTOMATICALLY according to certain laws, such as gravitation and evolution, that don't require constant meddling and micromanagement? And that these laws are simple enough that us mere humans can actually learn and understand them?"

    I.e. "In the beginning, god created heaven and earth. For further details, consult a science book".
  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:26PM (#18559167) Homepage Journal
    Why is it that we insist on freedom of thought, unless it's thought we don't want people thinking? Am I the only one who sees the inherent hypocrisy of orthodox free thought?

    You're not going to Hell for not having a literalist interpretation of Genesis. But... neither is society going to hell in a handbasket because not enough people believe in evolution. It's okay if your auto mechanic believes something different from you. Your software isn't any better or worse because an evolutionist|creationist wrote it.

    Really, it's no big deal. Take a deep breath and relax. You'll find you'll live longer for it.
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:42PM (#18559405)
    It's not in TFA, but the poll also reported the following statistics:

    27% of Agnostics and Atheists think God guided the process of evolution
    13% of Agnostics and Atheists think God created man in his present form.

    So a better title for the article might have been "40% of Atheists believe in God".

    When you're getting that kind of result, it might be a clue that there's something wrong with your methodology.
  • by kentrel (526003) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:50PM (#18559513) Journal
    ...and goodbye to democracy. How can a country remain remotely democratic when AT LEAST 48% of people are completely ignorant of basic natural realities.


    This kind of ignorance makes it possible for once again, the same few to control the many.

  • by BetaJim (140649) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @04:56PM (#18559601)
    Because of my car's bumper stickers I'm frequently asked: "Do you believe in evolution?" Instead
    of just saying that I do, I try to raise their consciousness a bit by answering "No, I accept
    that evolution is the theory that best explains the evidence." This usually gives them a pause.
    Belief is often closely associated with faith, and faith is something that isn't necessary to
    accept evolution. Only evidence is needed and there is lots of that available.

    I'm a teacher and my bumper sticker if very appropriate and funny in several different ways, it
    reads: "Leave no child behind - Teach Evolution." I wish I had another one as this one is very
    faded.
  • by Eric Pierce (636318) on Saturday March 31, 2007 @05:22PM (#18559935)
    Did anyone read the actual poll response in question?

    "Do you think the scientific theory of evolution is well-supported by evidence and widely accepted within the scientific community?"
    48% = Well-supported
    39% = Not well-supported
    13% = Don't Know


    39% not 48%. Zonk, you're fired.
  • by alexo (9335) on Monday April 02, 2007 @01:06AM (#18570825) Journal
    Rather, it's about Revolution.

    Ignorant people are easier to manipulate.
    They are less likely to question the acts of their government.
    They are less likely to cause problems.

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