12 February: Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday

YOUR CURMUDGEON has been struggling to decide how we should celebrate today with you. What shall we say? Darwin’s theory has been successful. The evidence is overwhelming. Virtually all scientists agree that evolution is the foundation of biology. The evolution-deniers are a woeful lot, and as we said here: A creationist is either an ignoramus, a simpleton, a fanatic, a charlatan, or some combination thereof.

All of that is settled, at least to the satisfaction of the sane and knowledgeable members of society. So what’s left? Alas, there’s still the deplorable public-relations battle, being relentlessly waged by the misguided enemies of Western Civilization. Therefore, on the occasion of Mr. Darwin’s birthday, we’ll give you a report on public opinion.

At the website of the Gallup Organization, which produces the Gallup Poll, we read On Darwin’s Birthday, Only 4 in 10 Believe in Evolution. This refers to a poll of American public opinion. Here are some excerpts:

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don’t have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity.

This is the question that was asked:

Do you, personally, believe in the theory of evolution, do you not believe in evolution, or don’t you have an opinion either way?

We quibble with the form of the question. Here’s an excellent article on why it’s poorly phrased: Do you believe in evolution? We’d prefer a question something like: Do you accept the theory of evolution as a successful, well-tested scientific theory? But let’s not dwell on that.

Getting back to the poll, they break down the responses by education, church attendance, and age. Acceptance of evolution increases with education, and decreases with church attendance and age.

Simplified, it seems to us that the most likely to accept evolution is a young person with a postgraduate degree who rarely or never attends church. The least likely to accept evolution is an older person who regularly attends church on a weekly basis, and who has no more than a high school education.

By education, the percentage accepting evolution is:
High school or less, 21%. Some college, 41%. College graduate, 53%. Postgraduate, 74%.

By church attendance, the percentage accepting evolution is:
Attend weekly, 24%. Nearly weekly/monthly, 30%. Seldom/never, 55%.

By age, the percentage accepting evolution is:
18 to 34, 49%. 35 to 54, 39%. 55 and older, 31%.

At the end of the article it says:

As Darwin is being lauded as one of the most important scientists in history on the 200th anniversary of his birth (on Feb. 12, 1809), it is perhaps dismaying to scientists who study and respect his work to see that well less than half of Americans today say they believe in the theory of evolution, and that just 55% can associate the man with his theory.

Yes, it’s dismaying. But perhaps relativity would do even worse. We take no comfort in that. It’s vital that our education methods be improved. And of course, the creationists certainly aren’t being helpful.

The article gives a few details about methodology:

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 6-7, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

There’s more information in the Gallup article, and for each breakdown of the numbers they have useful bar graphs. It’s worth your time to click over there and take a look.

If you want more polling results, a few months ago we posted this: Opinion Polls on Evolution and Creationism.

And lest we forget — Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin!

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “12 February: Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday

  1. Fewer young people than old deny biology. Looks like our plan of world domination is starting to work.

  2. Tundra Boy says: “Looks like our plan of world domination is starting to work.”

    Mmmrrrruuuhahahahahaha!

  3. Alas, there’s still the deplorable public-relations battle, being relentlessly waged by the misguided enemies of Western Civilization.

    Well said!

  4. James, keep this in mind: It’s really not about fossils.