Sunday, February 01, 2009

A year on and the news is just as depressing ...

Okay, I wasn't expecting to add any more to the blog today but I couldn't let this article go by without commenting. I'm actually quite fond of The Guardian newspaper but the headline 'Half of Britons reject evolution, survey finds' - apart from the terrible English - was more worthy of the tabloids or the shoutier papers. To make things even worse, that headline gave the impression that fully 50% of Britons reject Darwinism. This is simply not true.

As the article goes on to say 50% of the 2,060 people interviewed believed that evolution is either'definitely true' or 'probably true'. Only 22% actively supported any kind of creationist or intelligent design theory. And even among the ID followers, many accepted the concept of evolution ... they just believed that it has some form of direction.

I guess my first point is that the answers given by a mere 2000-odd people cannot possibly be an accurate reflection of national belief. I mean to say, this is a country of 60,943,912 individuals (figures from July 2008). My second point was mirrored by James Williams, a lecturer at Sussex University, who is mentioned in The Guardian feature: 'Evolution is very badly taught in schools so the results of the survey don't surprise me.'

In a country that produces people who think that 'the funny men who once entertained kings and queens at court' were called lepers (real answer given on LBC's Big Quiz), or that there are three wheels on a unicycle, or that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1866, or that Bill Clinton's vice-president was Al Jolson (Richard and Judy Show, ITV) ... what chance do we have of people understanding how evolution works?

I know from personal experience (three children) that none of them truly understands how evolution works despite being intelligent, well-balanced 20-somethings. I know because I've asked them and we've had long, interesting discussions about the fact. A week or so ago, the BBC ran a fascinating programme called 'What Darwin didn't know' that discussed the evolution of the theory of evolution. At the end of it, one of my daughters said, 'Why weren't we taught that in school?' Just as 2000 people is no indicator of an entire nation's beliefs, so my three children's experience cannot be held up as proof of failings within education. But it's enough to make me ask the question: Why don't people understand this most fundamental and serious piece of real science?

It scares me. It really does.

I ranted about this a year ago, See The old fox terrier problem and Ignore that nasty Mr Darwin and he might just go away.


Raph G. Neckmann said...

Goodness me, I confess I've not really thought about whether I was created or evolved!

punk in writing said...

I haven't read the article, but it sounds like bad journalism (says the journalist).

Like all knowledge, creationism should be taught properly. Once you are educated on an issue you can decide how you relate to it.

punk in writing said...

I meant to say both the concepts of creationism *and evolution* should be taught, as they are both debated in relation to each other.

As well as the history of the theories. Understanding how something developed into its present form is key.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Raph - It's sad but true that the evolution of your neck is often used to incorrectly teach the process of evolution. But the giraffes are not to blame.

Punky - For once I have to disagree. Evolution is based upon science, research and evidence. Creationism is based purely on belief, much of which ignores or completely contradicts the evidence without a viable alternative. A theory is a testable hypothesis. Creationism is not a theory by any stretch of the imagination. But I'm happy to dispute the fact! I do like a good discussion!