Results of Texas Ignorance Poll

AT the Texas Tribune website we read Meet the Flintstones. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Then the article discusses the results of four questions “about biological history and God” that were asked:

38 percent said human beings developed over millions of years with God guiding the process and another 12 percent said that development happened without God having any part of the process.

Lumping natural and theistic evolution together, that’s 50% of Texans who gave a reasonable response. Let’s read on:

Another 38 percent agreed with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago.”

That’s a lot of young-earthers! We continue:

Asked about the origin and development of life on earth without injecting humans into the discussion, and 53 percent said it evolved over time, “with a guiding hand from God.” They were joined by 15 percent who agreed on the evolution part, but “with no guidance from God.”

That’s 68% who gave a reasonable response to the question. On the other hand:

About a fifth — 22 percent — said life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time.

Here’s more:

Most of the Texans in the survey — 51 percent — disagree with the statement, “human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” Thirty-five percent agreed with that statement, and 15 percent said they don’t know.

And this is the most amusing part:

Did humans live at the same time as the dinosaurs? Three in ten Texas voters agree with that statement; 41 percent disagree, and 30 percent don’t know.

There’s more information in the article, especially about the religious and political breakdown of the responses. Here’s a sample:

Republicans are less likely to believe that humans developed from earlier species of animals; 26 percent agree, while 60 percent disagree. Among Democrats in the survey, 46 percent agree that humans evolved from earlier species; 42 percent disagree. [Governor] Perry’s voters were most hostile to this premise — 67 percent disagree.

And this is interesting: Regarding the question of whether dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time, as expected — Perry supporters were a good share of such respondents, but Kay Bailey Hutchison had the largest share of voters who believe in that coexistence.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Results of Texas Ignorance Poll

  1. “There are people who believe that dinosaurs and men lived together. That they roamed the Earth at the same time. There are museums that children go to, in which they build dioramas to show them this. And what this is, purely and simply, is a clinical psychotic reaction. They are crazy. They are stone…cold…f***…nuts. I can’t be kind about this, because these people are watching The Flintstones as if it were a documentary.”

    -Lewis Black

  2. The mixed up poll results just reconfirms my belief that polls in general are untrustworthy on this subject.

    I read an article a while back about problem-solving experiments with chimps. Turns out, while they can figure out some pretty complex stuff, if you put a bunch of bananas in front of them and then try and get them to do the same complex problem they’ve done before, they can’t. Faced with direct, emotionally powerful stimuli, they just can’t think straight.

    IMO parsing science questions to include (fairly obivous) religious implications is like shoving bananas in our faces. Its not that the folks polled don’t trust or believe in science – they probably do. Its just that the rational part of their brain stops being in control when they perceive that one of their deeply held beliefs may be threatened. The poll is reflecting their emotional loyalties, not what they think.

  3. The problem with that, eric, is that the emotional thought processes ARE how they are going to react to many things where emotions are involved. So for all intents and purposes, these people are going to act as if they believe this when pressed about it. So these emotional beliefs will come into play in highly charged environments where other firm believers or the less than scrupulous can manipulate them for their advantage. That is why these polls are so worrisome.

  4. Curmudgeon: “That’s a lot of young-earthers!”

    This is little or no consolation, but they’re not all young earthers. Most people who answer such polls, even those who claim to accept evolution, have given almost no thought to the evidence. Few can name one geologic period, let alone know when “scientists say” it occurred. So various OECs, and even some “theistic evolutionists” who think “souls,” not “cells,” prefer the wording of that selection to that of the “God-guided evolution.”

  5. The problem with that, eric, is that the emotional thought processes ARE how they are going to react to many things where emotions are involved.

    I partially agree. Yep, there’s some bits of science that are just going to directly conflict with fundamentalist religious beliefs. There’s no way around it. The fundies are going to go bananas over those parts.

    But like Frank I think there’s also a lot of people who poll negatively towards science out of misperception, ignorance, etc… They hear some buzzword and it sets them off. The polls incorrectly represent the sort of person who, if dragged to a evolutionary biology lecture, would probably come out going “I didn’t know that’s what scientists meant by evolution; I’m okay with that.”

  6. Anent Eric’s comments, I wonder how this would stack up with the same questions asked the same way in any other state with a similar urban/rural ratio? In my experience, scientific ignorance is universal, not peculiar to Texas. I’ve lived in quite a few places (now in Austin) and I haven’t found Texans to be any more or less ignorant about science than the Californians I dealt with in my many years living there- or the Montanans, the Wisconsinites, the Pennsylvanians, the Marylanders…