We seem to be told again and again that the majority of Americans reject evolutionary science. But is this true? After all people often draw unwarranted conclusions from polling data.
A recent Gallup poll seems to contradict the popular view. It’s worth considering this poll because the questions asked are similar to those used in last year’s UMR Research poll showing 75% of New Zealanders accept evolution (see New Zealand supports evolution).
The questions asked in the Gallup poll were: “Which comes closest to your views:
- Humans developed over millions of years, God guided;
- Humans developed over millions of years, God had no part;
- God created humans as is within the last 10,000 years.”
Results showed 50% accepted evolution while 44% rejected it.
In fact this level of acceptance has not changed markedly over the last 26 years. Polling using these questions shows creationist support varying between 43 and 47% since 1982.
Support of theistic evolution
We can also compare the proportion of theists who accept evolution in the two countries. This poll indicates 45% of US theists accept evolution. In New Zealand the figure is 53%.
However, a worrying conclusion from this poll is the role that organised religion may play in promoting unscientific beliefs. The level of support for creationism rose from 24% amongst those who seldom or never attended church, to 50% amongst those attending monthly, and 70% amongst those attending weekly.
I can appreciate that people may attend church regularly for a sense of community, social support and spiritual satisfaction. But it is sad if this turns them against scientific knowledge.
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Republicans, Democrats Differ on Creationism
Posted in belief, creationism, evolution, faith, god, intelligent design, New Zealand, religion, science, supernatural, superstition
Tagged poll, USA
Christian creationists have launched another attempt to introduce intelligent design into New Zealand’s schools. Focus on the Family recently sent intelligent design (ID) material (The Privileged Planet CD and booklet) to 400 high schools, requesting they be made available to science teachers and school libraries (see Christians challenge teaching of evolution ).
Focus on the Family’s executive director Tim Sisarich said the material was intended to expose pupils to an alternative theory of cosmology.
“We’re a Christian organisation so we believe that God made the planet and God made the cosmos … Science takes a theory and tries to establish it as the truth, and that’s all this is.”
Of course, what Focus on the Family are attempting to do is take a belief, and try to present it as the truth. ID/creationism is only a belief – it doesn’t have the evidential basis of a scientific theory.
It’s not the first time Focus on the Family have carried out such a campaign. In 2005 they sent unsolicited DVDs and workbooks to 500 New Zealand schools (see Intelligent design – coming to a school near you and Religious crackpots send their anti-evolution propaganda to 500 NZ schools).
New Zealand supporters of ID/creationism have swung in to action defending the action. They are presenting the same tired old mantras against evolutionary science (see comment under Christians challenge teaching of evolution ). Polling shows most (75%) New Zealanders reject creationism (see New Zealand supports evolution) so hopefully this attempt to introduce it into in our schools will be roundly rejected. However, there are several fundamentalist groups in New Zealand actively campaigning on the issue. Their websites include Focus on the Family, TBR.cc, Investigate magazine, Christian News New Zealand, Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society, Christian Apologetics Forum and Thinking Matters. They get ideological, and probably material, support from groups such as the US ID Center for Science and Culture (at the Discovery Institute) and distribute their material here.
More information on this material and the motives of Focus on the Family is provided by the Radio New Zealand (RNZ NTN: Creation vs Evolution in Schools) interview with Tim Sisarich (Focus on the Family) and Dr Alison Campbell who helped develop New Zealand’s school science curriculum.
Thanks to Warren for bringing this to my attention.
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The Privileged Planet invades New Zealand Schools
CREATIONISM RAISES ITS SILLY HEAD AGAIN for some background on Focus on the Family.
“Coming out” for evolution
Teaching science in faith schools
Driving the wedge into Christianity
Expelled for supporting evolutionary science
Intelligent design and depression
Posted in belief, Christianity, creationism, evolution, faith, god, intelligent design, New Zealand, religion, science, supernatural, superstition
An important element of the scientific method is that hypotheses must be testable, potentially falsifiable, to be scientific. That we build theories by testing hypotheses and rejecting them if proved wrong by experiential evidence. And not just hypotheses. Prevailing theories are also constantly open to potential falsification, testing against new evidence and changing to incorporate new findings.
The concept of falsification in science was popularised by Karl Popper.
But who does this testing?
It’s not a matter of personal responsibility. A scientist who advances a new hypothesis is not just left alone to try to falsify it. After all, scientists are human too. They have their own emotions, biases, beliefs and preconceived ideas. They are just a susceptible as anyone else to adopting a blinkered approach to any such testing. In fact, most scientists probably look for experimental procedures which would show their pet hypothesis in a favourable light, rather than seek consciously to develop experiments aimed at proving their hypothesis wrong.
Mind you, even an experiment designed to confirm a hypothesis may, in the end, show it to be wrong.
It’s amazing how many times we see ‘paradigms’ used as a justification for scientific acceptance of intelligent design (ID) and other ideas which lack evidential support. The argument is that science progresses by changing paradigms – ‘paradigm shifts. New paradigms replace old, outdated paradigms. The “materialist” or “evolutionary” paradigm has been around for a while. It needs to be changed. Therefore science should accept new paradigms involving ‘supernatural explanations.’ No evidential support needed!
Posted in belief, creationism, evolution, intelligent design, religion, science, supernatural, superstition, theology
Tagged dogmatism, paradigm, paradigm shift, Thomas Kuhn
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe says ‘Only God’ can remove him from office. Now the opposition MDC has pulled out of next week’s run-off election. But the immediate cause of the withdrawal is not the fear of God but the escalating violence again them. No doubt Mugabe would claim the violence is inspired by God.
Mr Mugabe told local business people in Bulawayo – Zimbabwe’s second largest city – that: “Only God who appointed me will remove me, not the MDC, not the British.” And, of course, the purpose of his claim is “The MDC will never be allowed to rule this country – never ever.”
And it’s not just Mugabe talking like this. A member of Zinbabwe’s parliament also claims President Robert Mugabe was God-sent and should not be challenged in elections. Kudakwashe Killion Gwanetsa, ruling ZANU PF MP for Chiredzi South, deified Mugabe as the leader chosen by God who should not be contested.
Quoting Romans 13 in the Bible that encourages people to subject themselves to the governing authorities, the retired army brigadier general said only those involved in illegal activities were opposed to Mugabe’s rule.
“For there is no authority except from God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad,” he said.
Mind you, I don’t think Mugabe is the only leader who considers himself appointed by God.
It does show, however, how convenient this God concept is. You can justify any action, any idea, by claiming God as your support.
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Currently the US intelligent design (ID) movement seems to be in disarray. They have, for the moment, forgotten their story about ID being a scientific issue. For the moment they have put aside their persistent attacks on science, particularly evolutionary science. Instead they are directing their invective as theistic evolutionist. They are exposing this as a religious fight, not a scientific one.
And it’s getting pretty extreme. Bill Dembski’s called for bloodletting in his comment on Kenneth Miller’s new book Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. Dembski has followed this with other articles attacking theistic evolution. (Mind you he always seems to mention his upcoming book so perhaps he’s using extremism as a gimmick to get publicity).
Posted in atheism, belief, Christianity, creationism, Darwin, Dembski, evolution, Expelled, faith, human rights, intelligent design, religion, science, supernatural, superstition
Do scientists ever concern themselves over terms like ‘materialist,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘supernatural’? I don’t think so – at least those scientists working at the coal face. I have never heard any scientist posing the question - “is this phenomenon ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’?” before investigating something.
Yet today science is attacked by some people for limiting itself to only ‘natural’ phenomena. Intelligent design (ID) proponents (and they aren’t the only ones) rail against the ‘materialism’ of science. They demand that science should be changed to include ‘supernatural’ explanations.
These are attempts to introduce dogma into science.
Posted in belief, creationism, evolution, Expelled, faith, intelligent design, Newton, religion, science, supernatural, superstition
Tagged dogma, Einstein, materialism
A pernicious feature of current attacks on science is the promulgation of the idea that scientific knowledge is “just a belief.” That it has no more validity than any other belief. That non-scientific beliefs should be given the same status or legitimacy as scientific theory.
This idea is promulgated by “secular” new age, post-modernist and similar ideologies. It is also promoted by some religious groups advancing creationist ideas. For an example of the latter have a look at the documentary video “In Good Faith” showing a “science lesson” at the Australian Pacific Hills Christian School (see also Teaching science in faith schools). In this “lesson” students were offered a range of beliefs about biology and told they should consider them and choose which best fitted their religious views.
Posted in belief, creationism, evolution, intelligent design, religion, science, supernatural
Tagged alternative health, contoversy, faith schools, new age, post-modernism, school, teaching the controversy
Posted in belief, Christianity, creationism, Darwin, Dembski, evolution, faith, god, intelligent design, religion, science, superstition
Tagged Ken Miller, only a theory
It’s always interesting to know more about where you come from. I recommend the book In Search of Ancient New Zealand by Campbell Hamish & Hutching Gerard to all New Zealanders interested in the origins of their country. It’s an exciting book and will also interest non-New Zealanders who want to find out more about the history of our planet.
New Zealand is actually part of the mostly submerged continent of Zealandia which broke away from Godwanaland 83 million years ago. Subsequently Zealandia sank and may even have become completely submerged. Twenty three million years ago New Zealand began to emerge as volcanic and tectonic forces produced an upwelling of the continental crust.
I found the book exciting because it showed how our current knowledge results from a multidisciplinary approach. Evolutionary and tectonic theory, together with information from geology, sedimentology, chemistry, biology and fossils come together in this book.
Like any real scientific knowledge there is still a lot to learn about New Zealand’s history. Our plants and animals are unique. They did not come from Godwanaland so must have arrived more recently. Much of the fossil record is tantalisingly limited – especially for animals. The book makes clear there is still a lot to learn and names many of the scientists involved in this process of discovery.
It’s a well illustrated high quality book which also gives brief outlines of some of the scientific techniques used in this work. The book really underlines to me how important modern theories of evolution, plate tectonics and climate change are integrated into our understanding of the history of our planet.
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In Search of Ancient New Zealand reviewed by Frogblog
In Search of Ancient New Zealand at Amazon