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Many people are familiar with surveys that claim that only a small percentage of Americans "believe" in Evolution. Surveys have come out in the past showing as that creationism is in the Majority.

This month the  Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology have  an editorial around their a survey that gives a somewhat more optimistic view, and suggests that politicians claiming to support Creationism may have hitched their cart to the wrong Equus caballus

First they asked these two questions

Question 1

Some people think that all living things have evolved over time. Others think all living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Which comes closest to your view?

Question 2
Some people think that humans and other living things have evolved over time. Others think that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Which comes closest to your view?

The results are as follows :

Even at the most biased, less then half of the population believed in creationism. These numbers are still shockingly low compared to the rest of the world - some of you may remember the survey a few years back that ranked the United States 2nd last, beating only Turkey - but not as low as many people have claimed in the past.

As an interesting followup, then they asked the following three questions to gauge the respondants level of scientific literacy :

Please state true or false to the following statements
The continents or land masses on which we live have been moving for millions of years and will continue to move in the future - TRUE (79% answered correctly)
Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria - FALSE (43% answered correctly)
The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs - FALSE (53% answered correctly)

Here is the graph for the people who got 0 or 1 correct next to the graph for the people who got 3/3

As scientific literacy grows, belief in Creationism plummets. It's almost like there was some once-secret plan to destroy scientific  literacy in the United States in order to promote creationist beliefs.

In closing, the FASEB editorial describes the solution :

There is a clear need for scientists to become involved in promoting science education. Challenges to teaching science undermine students’ understanding of the scientific method, how scientific consensus develops, and the distinction between scientific and non-scientific explanations of natural phenomena. If our nation is to continue to develop the talent necessary to advance scientific and medical research, we must ensure that high standards in science education are maintained and that efforts to introduce non-science into science classes do not succeed. Failure to reach out effectively to a public that is supportive of science and open to information from the scientific community is not just a missed opportunity, it is a disservice to the scientific enterprise.

Originally posted to oznick on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  In other news from the Front Lines.. (14+ / 0-)

    The National Academies of Sciences 2008 pamphlet "Science, Evolution, and Creationism" is available to buy, or you can read it online for free

  •  Thank God!!! (6+ / 0-)

    "There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always." -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by duha on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:26:07 PM PST

  •  Nicely presented. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, Rex Manning, lineatus

    It is clear that increasing scientific literacy is key to good decision making.  

    If we could only move some of those funds from abstinence-only education...

  •  shockingly bad (5+ / 0-)

    These poll results are still shokingly bad

    •  I bet a majority believe in (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      madmsf, lineatus

      angels.  They're such a nice thing to believe in.  And miracles.  

      Mandatory, universal education if the only answer to this crap.  And that'll take a generation (at least).

      "Deforestation can never be stopped as long as trees are worth more dead than alive" - Mark Lynas

      by Bob Love on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:01:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We Had Very Close to That for Several Generations (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love, lineatus

        The fact is there's not much need felt by the individual for much more scientific literacy than understanding power switches and plugging in earbuds.

        It may take a generation with a good universal education program but that won't be politically possible in this country within half a century, now that fundamentalism has become so strong.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:09:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think this is a very important subject (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bob Love, lineatus

          How much control should parents have over their children and can they keep them deliberately ignorant?  

          It's not just scientific literacy that we're in trouble over it's constitutional literacy and historical literacy.  

          Reading about those fundamentalist LDS polygamists who set up their own towns and force little girls to marry 40 year old men I have to wonder how we can allow this to happen.  How can we allow in the name of religious liberty horrendous tyranny?

          I don't have any answers but it's an important subject.  How do we teach a good universal education program when people are more concerned with allowing tyrannical control over children then making sure those children the get the knowledge they need?    

          ...that cannot be a wise contrivance which in its operation may commit the government of a nation to the wisdom of an idiot. Thomas Paine Rights of Man

          by Rebecca on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:16:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Kids' Rights was going to be the next (0+ / 0-)

            Civil Rights movement, but it got derailed by Reaganitis.  Parental control has been somewhat restricted by law over the last century - child labor laws, etc.  But as long as children are considered to be possessions of their parents, progress wil continue to be too slow.

            "Deforestation can never be stopped as long as trees are worth more dead than alive" - Mark Lynas

            by Bob Love on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:31:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The untouchable status of religion (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bob Love

              also plays a role here.  As long as a parent's religious liberty over rides the child's rights we're not going to make any progress.  I think we need to start with the truly egregious examples like the Fundamentalist LDS types and work to make it illegal to keep a child so completely ignorant they can't function in modern society except on a menial basis and also make sure that no one can force a child into marriage.  

              By starting with the groups few if anyone will want to defend perhaps we can alter the conversation about children and their rights.  

              ...that cannot be a wise contrivance which in its operation may commit the government of a nation to the wisdom of an idiot. Thomas Paine Rights of Man

              by Rebecca on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:44:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Sad to say, my sister (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love

        college educated, smart, liberal for the most part, not overly religious (although a believer in the existence of a supreme being of some sort), accepts evolution pretty much, seriously believes that angels exist.

        Sigh.

    •  Just listened to a story on NPR about (0+ / 0-)

      A scientist is suing the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, saying he was fired from his job at the prestigious lab because he does not believe in the theory of evolution. Woods Hole says believing in evolution was part of the job description.

      http://www.npr.org/...

      Sounds like Woods Hole won the initial round(s), thankfully.

      Now, go spread some peace, love and understanding. Use force if necessary. - Phil N DeBlanc

      by lineatus on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 05:43:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  An interesting follow-up question: Do you think (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ORDem, Owllwoman

    humans will evolve in the future (smarter, stronger, healthier, etc.) or will they remain in their present form?  

    Even if they think we came into existence as we are now, maybe they could believe that we could be even better.

    Now, go spread some peace, love and understanding. Use force if necessary. - Phil N DeBlanc

    by lineatus on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:33:31 PM PST

    •  From an evolutionary view, is that true? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ORDem, marykk, lineatus

      Modern medicine (and modern social beliefs) mean that people who for most of the evolutionary process would have died before child-bearing age live to adulthood. Weak immune systems, diabetes, mental impairment, etc., were things that were weeded out when no one could do much.

      It is a good thing that we now treat people and prolong their lives, don't misunderstand me here, but it does change the process of evolution.

      •  better (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ORDem, lineatus

        Evolution doesn't do better.  It's all about adapting to current environmental conditions.  So smarter, stronger and healthier are all dependent on the conditions the species lives in.  When conditions change it's the animals that survive that pass on their genes.  If being small, weak and stupid allowed them to be the ones to do that then they are the ones that will breed and prosper.  

        Our civilization hasn't changed the process of evolution.  The process is the same whether in the wild or in the corporate boardroom.  As long as we have the means to support our civilization people who wouldn't have survived will survive.  That merely means we are adapting to the current environment which is our scientifically/technologically supported environment.  If our civilization collapses huge swaths of our population will die and the evolutionary process will continue as it does with us in a different environment.  It's no different then when the ice age ended and with it the age of the mammoths and sabre tooths and other large mammals.  

        ...that cannot be a wise contrivance which in its operation may commit the government of a nation to the wisdom of an idiot. Thomas Paine Rights of Man

        by Rebecca on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:58:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Knowledge and Tools (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lineatus

          If our civilization collapses huge swaths of our population will die and the evolutionary process will continue as it does with us in a different environment.

          This is why reliance on high tech tools to the exclusion of survival knowledge is a killer mistake. A GPS is a great tool, but knowing how to orient and travel without one is important as well. I can start a fire, build tools to hunt, make clothing, build a dwelling, and live in comfort without any "modern" convenience. It isn't all that difficult to learn. I do enjoy modern living, I'm not a Luddite, and I like tech- I make my living from it currently. But we should not abandon our knowledge of "Stone Age" to "Iron Age" tech. I find the simpler living usually uses this older knowledge. It is easier to find his works in the UK, but take a look at the work of Roy Mears. He came before Bear Grylls ("Man vs Wild") and Les Stroud ("Survivorman").

          Vote with your conscience, O Progressive, for there are many Conservatives who will vote without one.

          by MahFellaMerkins on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:34:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not to hijack the thread- sorry. n/t (0+ / 0-)

            Vote with your conscience, O Progressive, for there are many Conservatives who will vote without one.

            by MahFellaMerkins on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:42:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  It doesn't have to be a civilization collapse (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MahFellaMerkins

            for those skills to be needed.  Too many people drive their cars blithely into snow storms and end up in the middle of no-where with no cell phone coverage.  How many people die each year because they don't know what to do?  

            A walk in the woods.  How many hunters and hikers have gotten lost in the woods and don't know how to survive for a few days in the wilderness?  

            Feeling so safe in our technology can be deadly under certain circumstances.

            ...that cannot be a wise contrivance which in its operation may commit the government of a nation to the wisdom of an idiot. Thomas Paine Rights of Man

            by Rebecca on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 06:56:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Human Beings are Natural, Therefore All Human (0+ / 0-)

        effects on reproduction necessarily constitute evolution.

        It only means that the specifics of selection have changed.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:11:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Good point. (0+ / 0-)

        I guess I was thinking in terms of talking to those who can't imagine human evolution.  It seems like they'd be able to accept that humans might improve, and from there you could walk them back through the idea that humans may represent an improvement on an earlier "model".  But if you were to point out that current activities mean that we are likely weakening the species, they would probably not accept that idea.  (As a diabetic, I'm one of the defective ones - but I'm not breeding so it's a wash...)

        Now, go spread some peace, love and understanding. Use force if necessary. - Phil N DeBlanc

        by lineatus on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:18:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  But for pure creationists ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lineatus

          (and I suppose I'd fall more into evolution that God put into motion, because I do believe in God) there is no improving mankind in that sense. They see humans as perfect in how God decided to make us and yet imperfectable because of original sin.

          And yes, we could have a three-year discussion on why that is bad theology, bad science and just plain not using the brain they would credit God for giving them. :)

        •  If you're a (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lineatus

          Type 2 diabetic, it's likely because you have a pattern of genes that would actually increase your chances of being able to survive a famine. In evolution, "fitness" is always defined in terms of a current environment. In both of our cases, we have a genotype that promotes survival in an environment where food is scarce (as in most of the time and space humans have occupied) but interferes with it in an environment where food is plentiful (a relatively small percentage of contemporary humans live in such an environment). Same with, say, the heterozygous sickle-cell trait; it's an advantage if you live in a place where malaria is endemic (less likely to be infected) but a disadvantage if you live in a malaria-free place (increased chance of having homozygous kids with sickle-cell disease). That latter condition might change if global warming leads to a change in the geography of malaria.

          Evolution is not a form of "progress." It's simply a form of adaptation. "More evolved" and "less evolved" are biologically meaningless terms.

          I do like conducting hearings in an actual hearing room -- John Conyers

          by ebohlman on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 07:47:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  We will be lucky if we live long enough to find (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ORDem, lineatus

      out. We need to spend more time and money helping the people rather than killing each other.

      "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

      by Owllwoman on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:47:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Our continued evolution (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, Kingsmeg, lineatus

      will be by design.  Personally, I can't wait for more RAM.

      "Deforestation can never be stopped as long as trees are worth more dead than alive" - Mark Lynas

      by Bob Love on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 03:58:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You'd Better Throw In With the Bushes Then (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love, lineatus

        because there are going to be profound upgrades, and since we've obligingly returned power concentration to the historic norm of a few aristocrats, they're going to be the ones getting the upgrades.

        I figure the very best we can hope for continuing to be one arguably equal species is about mid century.

        More likely about 2030 or so we're going to begin to be presented with private and public leadership candidates who are provably Better™ people than any of us can be. Possibly sooner given some of the experimenting with memory I hear about already in mammals.

        It should be feasible to make individuals smarter, stronger or whatever sooner than changing the genome of their family line.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:16:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  So when will Americans start voting (0+ / 0-)

          for the the Better candidate?  More likely they've vote for the unenhanced doofus, whoever they'd wanna share a beer with.  Good answer, tho.

          "Deforestation can never be stopped as long as trees are worth more dead than alive" - Mark Lynas

          by Bob Love on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 04:27:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I've wondered about the effect of c-sections... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lineatus

      and a lessening of the evolutionary pressure on not having a head too big for the pelvis, with the rapidly growing prevalence of c-sections, that balance could change rather rapidly methinks. Good question.

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