NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/05/28
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The results of a new survey appear, with questions on evolution, religion, and scientific consensus. The polymathic Martin Gardner is dead. And NCSE is pleased to offer a sample chapter of Daniel Radosh's Rapture Ready.
NEW SURVEY RESULTS ON EVOLUTION Included in the Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey for 2010 were a number of questions about evolution, religion, and scientific consensus -- and as usual there were few surprises in the results. Asked "[w]hich of these statements comes closest to your views on the origin of biological life," 43% of respondents selected "God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time," 24% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process," and 18% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process." (The remaining 16% of respondents selected none of these choices, said that they did not know, or refused to answer the question.) Note that the wording of these choices is similar, but not identical to, the standard Gallup choices. Respondents were also asked "How much have you heard or read about the theory of evolution"; 44% of respondents selected "a lot"; 32% selected "some"; 23% selected "not too much" or "nothing." Asked "would you say the theory of evolution conflicts with your own religious beliefs, or is mostly compatible with your own religious beliefs," respondents were almost evenly split, with 42% reporting conflict and 43% reporting compatibility. Unsurprisingly, "[t]hose who say the Bible is the actual Word of God are more likely than others to adopt a creation perspective about the origins of life and report that the theory of evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs." Asked "do you think the evidence on evolution is widely accepted within the scientific community, or do many scientists have serious doubts about it," 53% of respondents indicated that they thought that it was widely accepted and 31% indicated that they thought that many scientists have serious doubts about it. The report noted that "[t]hose who report being more informed about scientific and medical discoveries are more likely than those who report being less informed to view the theory of evolution as widely accepted in the scientific community," and emphasized that evolution is indeed widely accepted in the scientific community. The results are broadly consistent with results from a previous VCU Life Sciences survey from 2005, in which 42% of respondents preferred "God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time," 26% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process," and 17% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process." In that survey, the second ("God guided this process") option was misdescribed as "intelligent design"; the 2010 report describes the option as "compatible with an 'intelligent design' or a 'theistic evolution' view." The survey, conducted for VCU Life Sciences by the VCU Center for Public Policy, was conducted by landline and cell telephone with 1001 adults nationwide, from May 12 to May 18, 2010. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. For the report (PDF), visit: http://www.vcu.edu/lifesci/images2/survey2010.pdf For the report of the 2005 survey (PDF), visit: http://www.vcu.edu/lifesci/images2/survey2005.pdf And for NCSE's collection of materials on polls and surveys, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/polls-surveys MARTIN GARDNER DIES The polymathic Martin Gardner died on May 22, 2010, at the age of 95, according to the obituary in The New York Times (May 23, 2010). Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on October 21, 1914, Gardner studied philosophy at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1936. After working as a reporter and in public relations, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1946, and then launched a freelance writing career. In 1957, he began writing his "Mathematical Games" column for Scientific American, which ran until 1981. A prolific writer, he wrote books not only on recreational mathematics but also on science and philosophy, literary topics (including his celebrated The Annotated Alice), and pseudoscience. In 1976, he was one of the founders of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). In a 1998 interview with Skeptical Inquirer's Kendrick Frazier, Gardner said that as a high school student, "I actually doubted the theory of evolution, having been influenced by George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist creationist. A course in geology convinced me that Price was a crackpot. However, his flood theory of fossils is ingenious enough so that one has to know some elementary geology in order to see where it is wrong. Perhaps this aroused my interest in debunking pseudoscience." Gardner's first book In the Name of Science (1952; reissued as Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, 1957) devoted a chapter to "Geology versus Genesis"; and he returned frequently to the topic, with his collection Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? (2001) even taking its title from a classic challenge to creationism. For the obituary in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/us/24gardner.html For the interview of Gardner, visit: http://www.csicop.org/si/show/mind_at_play_an_interview_with_martin_gardner/ CREATIONISM IN RAPTURE READY! NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Daniel Radosh's Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture (Scribner 2008; Soft Skull 2010) -- featuring Radosh's account of his visit to Answers in Genesis's Creation Museum. "It took a few hours after leaving the Creation Museum for my head to clear enough to understand how utterly bizarre it was," Radosh writes. "Even if there were other creationists out there who were nuttier than Ken Ham -- Kent Hovind with his tax-evading dinosaurs, Carl Baugh with his pink sky and giant humans -- the ingenuity and sophistication with which Answers in Genesis pursued its agenda pretty much had me persuaded that my quest for the strangest and most hostile manifestation of Christian pop culture had come to an end." For the preview (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--formatted--footnotes.pdf For information about the book, visit: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Rapture-Ready!/Daniel-Radosh/9780743297707 Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- 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://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership