Thursday, January 26, 2006

Very surprising results from the BBC biological origins poll.


In connection with tonight’s Horizon program on BBC2 examining intelligent design the BBC conducted what is probably the first poll on British attitudes to biological origins.

The results are shown here and are very surprising indeed. There was two parts to the poll with some analysis of the answers by age.

In the first part 2000 people were asked about their personal views on biological origins.

22% indicated their belief in “creationism”
a further 17% indicated their belief in “intelligent design”
with 48% indicating their belief in “evolution.”

The remaining 13% indicated that they “did not know.”

In the second part of the survey respondents were asked about what they thought should be taught about biological origins in science lessons.

In each case respondents were asked whether they thought each subject should be taught in science lessons.

44% said creationism should be included 41% intelligent design 69% wanted evolution as part of the science curriculum.

These are really quite surprising results as presumably the 31% who responded negatively to the teaching of evolution thought that NO evolution should be taught in science lessons!

With thanks to Wires from the Bunker

10 Comments:

Blogger Lifewish said...

Yeah, that startled me too. Frankly I'm slightly surprised that that high a proportion of the public have even heard of ID - I thought it was mostly an American phenomenon (present company excepted, of course :P).

Any thoughts as to the implications of this poll?

11:09 pm  
Blogger Jeffahn said...

The majority of people are scientifically illiterate, and the second question:

"When given a choice of three descriptions for the development of life on Earth, people were asked which one or ones they would like to see taught in science lessons in British schools:

* 44% said creationism should be included
* 41% intelligent design
* 69% wanted evolution as part of the science curriculum."

...is loaded to suggest that ID is scientifically valid; rendering the results practically pointless.

1:05 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Jeff,

Presumably the creationism option is also loaded??

11:59 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I'm with andrew on this - the results as stated are too definite to be smoke and mirrors.

However, I would like to see a few other surveys done with, for example, different wording, to see how much variance that can introduce into the results. My feeling is that this experiment would be fairly easily prejudiced by comparatively subtle factors, since it deals with an issue that most people simply don't think about that much.

1:37 pm  
Blogger Mike Godfrey said...

Hi Andrew -completly off topic im afraid-just wanted to commend you on your blog and to ask if your isp hosts this blog or blogspot?
Also the images you use -do you seek permission from every source ?
Cheers,
great blog !

1:11 pm  
Anonymous Peter C Glover said...

I was a surprised as anyone when I thought of notifying Andrew of this own.

But, just for the record, in a similar survey just a few months ago two-thirds of Americans are more than happy to have Creationism (not just ID) taught in schools.

The point is this (as the US survey made perfectly clear - and perhaps helps explain the UK one) - people basically know that evolution IS a theory and not a matter of fact. In other words it too is faith-based. The fact that a lot of people believe i and that a lot of people equally believe the Creationiism and/or designer option means that people, being fairer than we might otherwise think, are quite happy for it to be taught as an alternative 'theory' or 'possibility'.

Essentially, the raison d'eter behind both poll findings is that even though many may not believe in God or a Designer, they are still open to it being taught because so many other do (and they recognise the basic unfairness of the present biased situation).

5:00 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

In other words it too is faith-based.

My understanding is that the point of science is to avoid faith wherever possible. I'd say that the "modern synthesis" variant of evolution is approximately as faith-based as the existence of the Holocaust (justification available on request - it was getting lengthy so I cut it).

The fact that a lot of people believe i and that a lot of people equally believe the Creationiism and/or designer option means that people, being fairer than we might otherwise think, are quite happy for it to be taught as an alternative 'theory' or 'possibility'.

I think your use of the word "theory" differs from how most scientists would use the word "theory". They use it to mean "something that we're damn sure is almost totally accurate"; you're apparently using it to mean "just another conjecture".

and they recognise the basic unfairness of the present biased situation

I'd note that flat-earthers could also make the argument that the current teaching of geography in favour of the spherical Earth theory is deeply biased against their "theory". Surely once we stop being so unfair we'll teach flat-earth theory alongside more scientific approaches?

Point being that the word "biased" also has a very specific meaning in science and, again, it's not particularly related to the way that you're using the word. See here for a brief description of what bias means to science.

1:23 am  
Blogger inunison said...

lifewish, if I understand you properly you equate criticism of Neo-Darwinism to Holocaust denial? Where did I hear that before?

8:42 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

lifewish, if I understand you properly you equate criticism of Neo-Darwinism to Holocaust denial?

Not even slightly, or the majority of biologists alive today would by analogy be Nazis. I do, however, feel that attempts to claim that acceptance of evolutionary biology is faith-based are approximately as valid as attempts to claim that acceptance of the Holocaust is faith-based.

I have absolutely no problem with people dismissing evolutionary biology as it stands today because they've examined it in detail and decided it's incorrect on one or more points - that's how science works. I do have a major problem with people dismissing it because it's "just another belief".

12:17 am  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Perhaps Wormwood isn't dead after all! I'm sure that somewhere, someone celebrates a call to ignorance.

8:10 am  

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