Poll reveals public doubts over Charles Darwin's theory of evolution
By JONATHAN WYNNE-JONES, TELEGRAPH UK
Added: Sat, 31 Jan 2009 00:00:00 UTC
Reposted from here.
Belief in creationism is widespread in Britain, according to a new survey.
More than half of the public believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the full complexity of life on Earth, and a "designer" must have lent a hand, the findings suggest.
And one in three believe that God created the world within the past 10,000 years.
The survey, by respected polling firm ComRes, will fuel the debate around evolution and creationism ahead of next week's 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.
Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, said the findings revealed a worrying level of scientific ignorance among Britons.
In the survey, 51 per cent of those questioned agreed with the statement that "evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages"
A further 40 per cent disagreed, while the rest said they did not know.
The suggestion that a designer's input is needed reflects the "intelligent design" theory, promoted by American creationists as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.
Asked whether it was true that "God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years", 32 per cent agreed, 60 per cent disagreed and eight per cent did not know.
The findings – to be published tomorrow in a report by Theos, a theology think-tank – follow a row over the place of creationism in education.
A recent poll of science teachers found that one in three believe creationism should be taught in science classes alongside evolution and the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.
However, Michael Reiss, a biologist and Anglican cleric, was forced to resign as the Royal Society's director of education after suggesting that creationism should be discussed in lessons "not as a misconception but as a world view".
Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool last year, Professor Reiss estimated that about one in 10 children was from a family which supported a creationist rather than evolutionary viewpoint.
He said his experience had led him to believe it was more effective to include discussion about creationism alongside scientific theories, rather than simply giving the impression that such children were wrong.
The research for Theos shows that the level of support for creationism is much higher than Professor Reiss's estimation, but also indicates that many people who believe in God also consider evolution to be the most realistic explanation for the origins of living things.
Paul Woolley, the director of Theos said: "Darwin is being used by certain atheists today to promote their cause.
"The result is that, given the false choice of evolution or God, people are rejecting evolution."
While many fundamentalist Christians believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible's account of the earth's creation, the Church of England last year issued a statement conceding it had been over-defensive in dismissing Darwin's ideas in the past.
The Church launched a website promoting the naturalist's evolutionary views on which it said: "Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still."
Prof Dawkins expressed dismay at the findings of the ComRes survey, of 2,060 adults, which he claimed were confirmation that much of the population is "pig-ignorant" about science.
"Obviously life, which was Darwin's own subject, is not the result of chance," he said.
"Any fool can see that. Natural selection is the very antithesis of chance.
"The error is to think that God is the only alternative to chance, and Darwin surely didn't think that because he himself discovered the most important non-theistic alternative to chance, namely natural selection."
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, accused Dawkins of evolving into a "very simple kind of thinker".
He said: "His argument for atheism goes like this: either God is the explanation for the wide diversity of biological life, or evolution is. We know that evolution is true. Therefore, God doesn't exist.
"I'm an evangelical Christian, but I have no difficulties in believing that evolution is the best scientific account we have for the diversity of life on our planet."
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