NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/07/03
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A survey of opinions on evolution from ten countries was released. And paleontologists took a trip to the Creation "Museum" and were dismayed by what they saw.
OPINIONS ON EVOLUTION FROM TEN COUNTRIES A recent international survey conducted by the British Council investigated awareness of Darwin, acceptance of evolution, and attitudes toward evolution and faith. In a June 30, 2009, press release, Fern Elsdon-Baker, the head of the British Council's Darwin Now program, commented, "The international Darwin survey has thrown up some very interesting results, especially as it includes data from countries not previously covered before. The most encouraging aspect of the survey shows that whilst there are diverse views on Darwin’s theory of evolution, there appears to a broad acceptance that science and faith do not have to be in conflict. Whilst the results show that there is some way to go in communicating the evidence of evolutionary theory to wider audiences, it is evident that there is clear space for dialogue on this sometimes complex area of debate." The survey was conducted in April and May 2009 in ten countries: Argentina, China, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. For the question "Have you heard of Charles Darwin?" Russia led the list with 93% of respondents saying yes, with Great Britain and Mexico tied for second at 90%, and China a close third at 90%; the United States was fifth at 84%. For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that it is possible to believe in a God and still hold the view that life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection?" India led the list with 85% of respondents agreeing, with Mexico second at 65% and Argentina third at 62%; the United States was fifth at 53%, just behind Great Britain, Russia, and South Africa, which tied for fourth at 54%. For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that enough scientific evidence exists to support Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution [sic]?" -- posed to respondents who had heard of Charles Darwin and knew something about the theory of evolution -- India led the list with 77% of respondents agreeing, with China second at 72% and Mexico second at 65%. The United States was ninth at 41%, just behind South Africa at 42% and well ahead of Egypt at 25%. In keeping with reports on previous international surveys on public attitudes toward evolution, such as Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article in Science in 2006, the United States was also conspicuous for the level of disagreement with the theory of evolution: 30%, second only to Egypt's 63%. Only 29% of respondents in the United States indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed or didn't know. Respondents were also asked which of the following was closest to their own view: "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which no God played a part"; "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time in a process guided by a God"; and "life on earth, including human life, was created by a God and has always existed in its current form." (Respondents were also offered the response, "I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list.") The first view was preferred in China by 67% of the respondents, in Mexico, Great Britain, and Spain by 38%, in Argentina by 37%, and in Russia by 32%; the third was preferred in Egypt by 50% of the respondents, and in India, South Africa, and the United States by 43%. In no country was the second view held by a plurality of respondents. For the press release (PDF), visit: http://www.britishcouncil.org/darwinnow-survey-global.pdf For information about Darwin Now, visit: http://www.britishcouncil.org/darwin-homepage.htm For NCSE's report on the 2006 Science article, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2006/08/public-acceptance-evolution-science-00991 PALEONTOLOGISTS DISMAYED BY CREATION "MUSEUM" Paleontologists took a trip to Answers in Genesis's Creation "Museum" -- and were dismayed, unsurprisingly, by what they saw. The Ninth North American Paleontological Convention was held June 21-26, 2009, at the University of Cincinnati, attracting several hundred paleontologists from around the world to present their latest research, as well as to attend a plenary session on evolution and society featuring NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. The organizers of the convention also offered a side trip to the nearby Creation "Museum," explaining that "it is essential for professional paleontologists to become better aware of how their work and their roles in society are portrayed by creationists, themes that are conveyed vividly at the museum." Reporters accompanied the bemused paleontologists on their excursion, with stories subsequently appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer (June 24, 2009), The New York Times (June 30, 2009), and Agence France-Presse (June 30, 2009). A few representative reactions from those stories: "I'm not offended, just annoyed" (Julia Sankey of California State University, Stanislaus); "I think they should rename the museum -- not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum" (Lisa Park of the University of Akron); "This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it's just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science" (Daryl Domning of Howard University). Scientific criticism of the Creation "Museum" is nothing new. When it opened in 2007, over 800 scientists in the three states surrounding it -- Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio -- signed a statement sponsored by NCSE expressing concern about the effect of the scientific inaccuracies of its exhibits on local students. Shortly thereafter, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology issued a press release contending that "the museum presents visitors with a view of earth history that has been scientifically disproven for over a century" and accusing it of "undermining the basic principles of science, eroding the public's confidence in science, and causing a general weakening of science education in the country." For the announcement of the trip, visit: http://www.napc2009.org/creationmuseum For the stories, visit: http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090624/NEWS01/306240055/Scientists+tour+Creation+Museum http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/science/30muse.html http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jiVuN2BMp6tmuGBGOedALIY4_FaA For the NCSE-sponsored statement, visit: http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/aig-creation-museum For the SVP press release, visit: http://vertpaleo.org/news/index.cfm?mode=viewEntry&id=09647CC3-A12B-5FD2-C6DA5855160D5FFC Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncseweb.org Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition! http://ncseweb.org/evc Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://ncseweb.org/nioc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncseweb.org/membership