Monday, 9 November 2009

Evolution is a Mystery

As evolution gains another victory for sense and reason against the superstitious forces of ignorance and religion, with the announcement that the theory will soon be added to the primary school curriculum here in the UK, I feel it’s finally time to dispel a ludicrous myth that has been doing the rounds under the guise of "journalism” over the past few weeks.

"Teach both evolution and creationism say 54% of Britons" ran a headline in the Guardian on Monday, October 26th, followed by the worrying first paragraph: “More than half of British adults think that intelligent design and creationism should be taught alongside evolution in school science lessons – a proportion higher than in the US”, and for the next 24 hours, you couldn’t move online without seeing a link somewhere to this report, citing it as some kind of evidence of our intellectual downfall as a nation.

54% of people in favour of teaching creationism?  What are we – America?

Well, what people didn’t seem too keen on exploring was the actual details behind this misleading headline.  Namely, that the question within the Ipsos Mori survey which led to this supposed conclusion did not actually ask British adults whether or not they thought that creationism should be taught in schools alongside the theory of evolution.  Rather, it asked if participants agreed or disagreed with the statement: "Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism."

Of the 973 people polled, about 54% said that they “agreed”.

So really, the headline is that the majority of people polled believed that evolution, not creationism, should be taught in schools, alongside theories such as “intelligent” design and creationism, which the wording of the question makes it appear are already being taught there, with evolution pitched as the interloper.

Maybe as well as adding evolution to the primary school curriculum, we might do well to add a little critical thinking and philosophy in there too, to prevent any further misunderstandings of relatively simple poll data?

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