Well, that’s my conclusion from the poll commissioned by the UK theological think tank, Theos.
However, the headlines give a different message. The UK Telegraph declared Poll reveals public doubts over Darwin’s theory of evolution. The intelligent design (ID) proponent Discovery Institute’s blog claimed 51% Percent of British Public Doubts Darwin; 10-20 % Attend Church. And the poll sponsors Theos summarised the data from the poll as Half of Britons sceptical about evolution.
The Telegraph headline was picked up and promoted by some other anti-evolution blogs (e.g. Popularity Poll; How to get up Richard Dawkins’ nose; Survey suggests a third of the UK population believes a god created the earth within the last 10,000 years; Poll: 51% of UK Pubic Accept Intelligent Design).
But these are the inevitable biased interpretations. The Theos report “Rescuing Darwin: God and Evolution in UK Today” can be found here and the actual Data are in these tables. Here is a brief summary of the questions used and the responses:
Question Definitely or probably true 1: Young Earth Creationism – the idea that God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years. 32% 2: Theistic evolution – the idea that evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth. 44% 3: Atheistic evolution – the idea that evolution makes belief in God unnecessary and absurd. 34% 4: Intelligent Design – the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages. 51% Total 161%
So we can see where they get the 51% from. But what about support for evolution – surely this amounts to 44 + 34 = 78%! So why not a headline “78% of Britons support Darwin”?
The poll is obviously not well designed. A total response of 161% indicates “double dipping” and poor phrasing of the questions. There is obviously confusion about the meaning of terms like “Young earth creationism”, “Theistic evolution”, “atheistic evolution” and “design.”
And the headlines obviously indicate biased interpretation.
Theos is disingenuous
I question the morality of the Theos headline. As the sponsors of the poll they would have been aware of the difficulties and the data yet they chose a misleading interpretation. I also question their decision to divide evolution between “theist” and “:atheist” types. This invites negative reactions.
Paul Woolley, the director of Theos, has the audacity to complain that Darwin:
“is being used by certain atheists today to promote their cause. The result is that, given the false choice of evolution or God, people are rejecting evolution.”
And Nick Spencer, the director of studies at Theos and co-author of the report, said:
“The problem is that evolution has become mixed up with all sorts of ideas – like the belief that there is no God, or no purpose or no absolute morality in life”
Isn’t Theos actively mixing these ideas by commissioning such a report to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, entitling it “Rescuing Darwin: God and Evolution in UK Today,” and introducing “atheist” and “theist” interpretations of evolution into the survey questions?