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Britons unconvinced on evolution - Comments

kfrancist's Avatar Comment 1 by kfrancist

hmmm...this conflicts with the poll in the "unscientific american" article. i wonder which is more accurate?

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 17:37:00 UTC | #16730

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 2 by MIND_REBEL

Looks like Dawkins should mind his own backyard.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 17:51:00 UTC | #16734

DavidJMH's Avatar Comment 3 by DavidJMH

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It matters not how the various surveys differ, what is notable is the number of people who do accept Darwinian evolution as fact. Considering less than 10% of any given population are well educated, it is amazing that after thousands of years of religious dogmatism, as many as +/- 40% do consider it valid after only 150 years.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 18:06:00 UTC | #16735

Scramble's Avatar Comment 4 by Scramble

A worrying statistic, but it is a year old (26th Jan 2006). I hope there has been some change since!

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 18:25:00 UTC | #16737

denoir's Avatar Comment 5 by denoir

This was probably not a very well constructed poll. The terms 'intelligent design' and 'creationism' are American and not commonly used in British public discourse. When people are not interested or are ignorant about the issues, minor variations in the poll questions will yield completely different results.

In the US you have some 80-90% believers of which 40-50% are fundamentalists. So creationism is an important issue. In the UK you have 40-50% believers of which 5-10% are fundamentalists, making such issues less relevant. People are not interested and don't know so a poll produces arbitrary results.

The producers of Horizon should really know better.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 18:33:00 UTC | #16738

Dogbreath's Avatar Comment 6 by Dogbreath

Comment #18743 by DavidJMH "It matters not how the various surveys differ..."

Whilst agreeing with the sentiment of your post, it actually does matter how (and WHY) the various surveys differ. Whilst standard survey methodologies (with strict adherence to stratified random samples) tend to control response deviation to within 6%, many media "straw polls" (and, I'm sad to say, many university research-inspired polls) have no accurate sampling methods, or no sampling at all. Consequently, you might find one survey with 10% support and one with 10% disagreement for the same proposition, and both could be completely inaccurate.

ICM is a respected organization and their methods are published. For the point in time of the survey this will accurately predict the opinions of the population were they all asked. Personally, as a Brit living in the USA, it's the most depressing item I've read for a week. I've come to accept religious nutcases over here as par for the course, but my secular roots in the UK are looking decidedly shaky.

As for MIND_REBEL "Looks like Dawkins should mind his own backyard"

...well, I don't think Dawkins is under any doubt about the nature of the challenge of raising the public understanding of science above the dark ages imposed by "modern" religion. I'm sure he will express his gratitude for your strong and undying support.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 18:35:00 UTC | #16739

JackR's Avatar Comment 7 by JackR

Okay, that's surprising and depressing. What the hell has happened to my country?

We live in the Dim Ages.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 18:46:00 UTC | #16743

mmurray's Avatar Comment 8 by mmurray

Before you read any poll you should read this famous quote from the British programme `Yes Prime Minister'

[Sir Humphrey demonstrates how public surveys can reach opposite conclusions]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there is lack of discipline and vigorous training in our Comprehensive Schools?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think young people welcome some structure and leadership in their lives?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do they respond to a challenge?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Might you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?
Bernard Woolley: Er, I might be.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes or no?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Of course, after all you've said you can't say no to that. On the other hand, the surveys can reach opposite conclusions.
[survey two]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Are you unhappy about the growth of armaments?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there's a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think it's wrong to force people to take arms against their will?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Would you oppose the reintroduction of conscription?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
[does a double-take]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: There you are, Bernard. The perfectly balanced sample.


Mon, 22 Jan 2007 19:10:00 UTC | #16748

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 9 by Zaphod

# 22% chose creationism
# 17% opted for intelligent design

so 39% opten for creationism.

They are the same thing.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 19:49:00 UTC | #16750

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 10 by Zaphod

1 more thing. 1 stupid opinion pole doesn't mean shit. They are usually biased and skewed to make them more likely to sell newspapers.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 19:49:00 UTC | #16751

Satanburiedfossils's Avatar Comment 11 by Satanburiedfossils

A biblical apologist's guide to Intelligent Design:

The earth started out as flat (these things are only possible on a flat earth):

Daniel 4:10-11 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:

Mark 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

More specifically, the earth was a flat disk:

Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Or maybe the earth was more like a pie pan since God could invert it and shake out its inhabitants like crumbs:

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.

Job 38:13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?

Or maybe the earth was more like a round table top:

Isaiah 66:1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Since biblical authors could reach no clear consensus, God decided to lop off some of the earth's sides to create four corners:

Ezekiel 7:2 Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.

Revelation 7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

Squaring the earth got him nowhere, so God returned to the proverbial drawing board and saw fit to bend the earth into a sphere. What shape he decides on next is anyone's guess (what about a dodecahedron? -- that would make the earth look really cool!)

A curious structure called the "firmament" once supported the heavens (the sky also appeared blue for an entirely different reason -- there used to be a huge ocean up there):

Genesis 1:7 And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

Ezekiel 1:22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above.

Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Psalm 150:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

God once sat on a throne atop the firmament:

Ezekiel 1:26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.

Later, God tore down the firmament (perhaps it looked really tacky over the balled up earth) -- a fact for which NASA is no doubt eternally grateful. (Interesting note: God's throne sometimes turns up at flea markets.)

The earth once had a foundation and did not move:

Psalm 18:15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

Psalm 104:5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

Job 38:4-6 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

Psalm 93:1 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

1 Chronicles 16:30 Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.

Little know fact: The sun orbited the earth in biblical times:

Joshua 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

Isaiah 38:8 Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.

God, the fickle renovator, eventually pulled the earth off its foundation and set it in orbit about the sun. He probably got the idea from Copernicus; however, it is unknown whether the Almighty first tested the changeover with focus groups.

He also made some radical alterations to the universe, such as greatly increasing the size of stars and planets, which in biblical times were just tiny little lights a few miles above the earth (Job 22:12, Isaiah 34:4, Daniel 8:10, Mark 13:25, Revelation 6:13, Revelation 12:4), and moving them into deep space. He probably did this in the daytime so that no one would notice.

As a final touch, God -- shrewd craftsman that he is -- gave the earth and the universe that antique look, most likely to increase its collector's value.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 22:21:00 UTC | #16759

mr_zero's Avatar Comment 12 by mr_zero

Out of interest; does anyone in the UK know anyone who believes in creationism?

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 22:38:00 UTC | #16760

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 13 by Russell Blackford

One thing that is a cause for slight optimism is that it is the over-55's (a group which I am, alas, getting closer and closer to joining) who are most favourable to unscientific viewpoints. Us baby boomers tend to worry that the generations following us will turn out more like our parents' generation in their values and worldviews, but thankfully there is no real evidence of that happening. I'm always cheered by my dealings with younger people.

All the same, one might hope that evolution would, by now, be completely uncontroversial in a country as economically and socially advanced as the UK.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007 23:04:00 UTC | #16763

Homo economicus's Avatar Comment 14 by Homo economicus

I had a letter published about that court case and how ID was creationism and should not be in the the science classroom. A little old lady read my letter.

When I asked her what she thought about the issue she said "I have never liked cremation."

"Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister" rocks. I have never relied on polls when I took part in a MORI poll and to balance the survey I had to be 'Jane'. Thinking about transport issues from a female perspective was interesting but it does not strengthen my feelings about polls.

Having said that since when should we allow polls to dictate the science curriculum? I would rather have science do that. I guess the story is never be complacment in the battle of ideas.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 00:36:00 UTC | #16766

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 15 by scottishgeologist

Hey satanburiedfossils (cracker of a handle BTW!) I refer to your question about the earth as a dodecahedron - yes that would be cool. but I remember reading in Arthur Mees "Childrens Encyclopedia", years ago, about the earth as a Tetrahedron.

The same picture and the same piece can be found in this article:

Actually, there is something rather disturbing about that tetrahedron pic. The interesting thing about this article is that it was written pre-Plate Tectonic Theory.

Interesting that some people thought that the earth was evolving from a solid shape that has the GREATEST volume for a given surface area to the solid shape that has the LEAST volume for surface area. (Have I got that right....?)


Tue, 23 Jan 2007 01:10:00 UTC | #16769

Richiechivz's Avatar Comment 16 by Richiechivz

What I think is a key point this survey highlights is the majority of people who seem to support ID/Creation 'theory' are over 55 years old. As we all know, religion has dropped in interest over the generations. Younger people seem to be more rational and logical in their approach.

What needs to happen is that the religous fundementalists are stopped from reaching our younger generations first with dogma that effects their future ideas.

If children are taught to be rational and logical just as easily as they are taught relgious stories at present - theres a good chance that religion can diminish even further. This is surely where we can all come in.


Tue, 23 Jan 2007 01:19:00 UTC | #16770

KeithMcW's Avatar Comment 17 by KeithMcW

Reply to Comment #18768 by robives on January 22, 2007 at 10:38 pm
"Out of interest; does anyone in the UK know anyone who believes in creationism?

I used to work with someone from Carlisle that did. Luckily he moved off to the USA. He was a young earth believer. He even got rid of his TV as it was showing material that contradicted his world viewpoint and was destroying the minds of his kids with its blatant lying against God! I think it was when his kids were watching a program about fossils that he decided to get rid of it. They were beginning to ask too many questions!

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 02:18:00 UTC | #16778

mr_zero's Avatar Comment 18 by mr_zero

Carlisle! I used to teach in Carlisle before I escaped from the classroom. I did once teach a Jehovah Witness - they had some very weird beliefs.


Tue, 23 Jan 2007 02:31:00 UTC | #16781

Luthien's Avatar Comment 19 by Luthien

12. Comment #18768 by robives on January 22, 2007 at 10:38 pm
Out of interest; does anyone in the UK know anyone who believes in creationism?

Sadly I know 2 people, one whom I have had long discussions with on the issue (because I enjoy a challenge :-P).

On the bright side, many people in work have asked to borrow "The God Delusion" from me, and every person who reads it recommends it to someone else. My sister is reading it, I bought the audio book for my dad, my mum is going to read it too. My partner bought it for his mum who loved it, now his dad is reading it and his brother has gone out and bought it too. My dad says that there is a guy where he works that is lending it out to people too.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 03:25:00 UTC | #16788

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 20 by BaronOchs

As someone in the UK I have known several people who were creationists of a particular sort, including a high school english teacher. None of whom seemed to have read a book about either evolution or creationism and will not commit themselves to a value of the Earth's age or a specific account of what actually happened like the genesis account for instance.

The British anti-evolutionist seems motivated by indignation at "descending from monkeys" and more or less complete apathy towards our origins.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 03:44:00 UTC | #16796

Chris Davis's Avatar Comment 21 by Chris Davis

This is a year-old poll, and has been rather superseded by a more recent one with less horrifying figures. Should be somewhere hereabouts.

When these figures came out it shocked the hell out of many here. I immediately began drawing up plans to fly a hang-glider into St Pauls. The newer figures were more reassuring. I think the big difference in the approach of the new poll lay in not presupposing that the respondents had a religious attitude.

If asked what religion they are, many Brits will say that they're CofE. If asked whether they have a religion, most Brits say they don't.

When asked about cosmogony, biogenesis etc., I think the answers are often a mess. Many Brits don't have a firm clue either way, but don't want to be among 'don't knows' in such an important matter. So they'll clutch at whatever straws are offered. Most have heard - thanks to Discovery Institute propaganda - that there's a 'controversy' over evolution, so they might not grasp at that one too enthusiastically anymore. The '[something] did it' argument sounds simple and reassuring, and doesn't specifically mention de Lawd, so perhaps they choose that.

The education system here clearly has a major task ahead. Even simply literacy seems a hard goal to reach.


Tue, 23 Jan 2007 04:05:00 UTC | #16805

jeepyjay's Avatar Comment 22 by jeepyjay

This is old news, and it was a badly flawed poll. During 2004-5 I tried to get some views about the evolution / creationism debate from the bishops of the Church of England and it was apparent then that many of them did not understand the issues:

It is perfectly possible for religious believers to believe in both evolution and creation (in fact that is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church). So they can call themselves both evolutionists and creationists.

Of course what is now meant by most commentators when referring to "creationism" is not merely belief in a creator, but "young earth creationism" (YEC) that takes Genesis as literal, in some interpretation, including the chronology based on the biblical genealogies back to Adam and Eve, which Bishop Ussher famnously traced back to 4004 BC. However most modern creationists are now extremely vague on the actual date of creation, possibly because they deny the validity of all scientific dating methods, so have no reliable way to decide the issue.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 04:11:00 UTC | #16807

NJS's Avatar Comment 23 by NJS

On the point of the respondent age aspect I remember remarking at the time that it was good to see the dogamatic ignorance "dying out" with entrenched generations.

I know this a terrible generalisation but I equated this with racism amd hompohobia to a certain extent as well.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 04:37:00 UTC | #16813

jesus_christ_himself's Avatar Comment 24 by jesus_christ_himself

Does this mean that we can't be smug about America anymore?

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 06:41:00 UTC | #16833

Alan Stewart's Avatar Comment 25 by Alan Stewart

Truly outrageous! This is a UK survey! Is this really what the general public think? This maps out clearly the enormity of the task ahead for the RDF. We need to start thinking of ways to counter this almost unbelievable level of scientific ignorance.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 06:51:00 UTC | #16835

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 26 by BaronOchs

"It is perfectly possible for religious believers to believe in both evolution and creation (in fact this is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church)"

The Catholic Church's official position is ambiguous. Christoph Cardinal Schonborn nailed his colours to the mast in his NYtimes article:

"Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

He seems to be suggesting evolution owes its success to a planning office in heaven and that is an affront to science.

The full text of his article is here:

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 07:41:00 UTC | #16839

padster1976's Avatar Comment 27 by padster1976

Dear everybody,

this is a duff piece of reporting.

Here's my interpretation....

Over half of britons UNDERSTAND and except evolution. = MAJORITY!

39% think there is a god (note they were unchallenged and we don't know how the ?'s were posed)

48% (MAJORITY!) UNDERSTOOD evolution and hence it's beauty in explaining the way variation and selection produce evolution.

(Note that creationism got an explanation at this point and evolution didn't - this is duff journalism and slants the entire piece in a biased way)

69% Wanted evolution in the classroom.

Now look at the report at this point. I'm thinking that the author may have leanings towards a biblical view - i.e stooopid.

44% + 41% + 69% = 154%!!! Duh!

Just ignore it - file it under fiction.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 07:42:00 UTC | #16840

don malvado's Avatar Comment 28 by don malvado

Padster1976, If you look they were allowed to pick multiple answers, which while it makes it a poor question will allow a total of 154%

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 11:05:00 UTC | #16865

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 29 by Russell Blackford

The multiple answers point applies to the "what should we teach in school"? question. However, it's still true that an awful lot of people want creationism or intelligent design, or whatever, taught, even if they also want evolution taught. The fact that it adds up to more than 100 per cent (which is not uncommon with polling) does not make it less worrying.

The other question, the one about the respondent's own explanation for life does seem to be one where they had to make one choice, so it should actually add up to 100 per cent. Here, it's worrying that so many people did not give support to evolution. Of course, they were asked for what "best described" their view. Some could actually believe in all the options - i.e. the world was created by God, who intelligently designed things so that certain things would happen that cannot be explained naturalistically, but it is also true that evolution by natural selection accounts for most of the diversity and history of life on Earth. That could actually be quite a common position. A person with that combination of beliefs might well choose "intelligent design" or even "creationism" but would not be a nutty young-Earth creationist.

We really need to see a figure on the simple question, "Do you accept the evolutionary account of the history of life on Earth?" Any question will have some ambiguity, but that one would get a lot of "yes" answers from moderate Christians.

What I really want to know is how many people totally reject evolutionary biology, based on a literal reading of Genesis (or some other holy book, such as the Koran). We have reason to think it's a high percentage of Americans; I wonder how high it is in other Western countries.

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 14:39:00 UTC | #16892

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 30 by MIND_REBEL

Pretty funny to watch all you brits dismiss science as "fiction" when you don't like the results. Who's to blame?

Tue, 23 Jan 2007 18:05:00 UTC | #16922