Poll: Humans & Dinosaurs Living Concurrently

Alley Oop

We learned about this from an article at the website of the National Center for Science Education. Their headline is A new poll on dinosaur/human coexistence, and they say:

Prompted by the release of the movie Jurassic World, a new poll from YouGov indicates that Americans are about evenly split on the question of whether dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time.

Is this a great country or what? Here’s the story at the YouGov site: Over 40% of Americans believe humans and dinosaurs shared the planet. We’ll give you some excerpts from what they say, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

YouGov’s latest research shows that 41% of Americans think that dinosaurs and humans either ‘definitely’ (14%) or ‘probably’ (27%) once lived on the planet at the same time. 43% think that this is either ‘definitely’ (25%) or ‘probably’ (18%) not true while 16% aren’t sure.

In case you’re among those who aren’t sure, they add:

In reality the earliest ancestors of humans have only been on the planet for 6 million years, while the last dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.

And of course there’s a religious angle to this:

While most Americans who describe themselves as ‘born again’ (56%) believe that humans and dinosaurs once shared the planet, most Americans who do not describe themselves as born again (51%) think that they did not. Only 22% of born again Americans think that dinosaurs and humans did not coexist.

There’s also an angle on the effect of movies:

When asked about the science that provides the fictional basis for the Jurassic Park movies, most Americans (54%) say that it is not currently possible to create dinosaur clones from DNA found in fossils while 28% believe that it is currently possible.

YouGov has this link to five pages of tables about the poll results. It’s mostly about the movie, but on the last page they give a breakdown regarding the question of whether humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. Of the 14% who answered “Definitely,” 12% of those were Democrats and 17% were Republicans. For the 25% who said “Definitely not,” 28 were Democrats and 20% were Republican. For the 16% who answered “Not sure,” they were evenly split between the two parties. They also break the results down by gender, race, age, and region of the country.

It’s things like this that give your Curmudgeon faith in the future.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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29 responses to “Poll: Humans & Dinosaurs Living Concurrently

  1. I note that they did not specify non-avian dinosaurs.

  2. The descendants of the dinosaurs constantly poop on my car.

  3. Pete Moulton

    I spend substantial amounts of my free time chasing, watching and photographing dinosaurs.

  4. I wonder if the sounds of the dinosaurs in the morning was as nice 65 million years ago?

  5. I note that they did not specify non-avian dinosaurs.

    Thanks, TomS. I appreciate not being left out entirely.

  6. Another interesting poll question would be to test for the realization that birds aren’t just descendants of dinosaurs but are truly theropod dinosaurs.

    That fact eluded me for longer than I might wish, until I heard a scientist say in a documentary: “Modern birds are much more closely related to some of the extinct dinosaurs than many of those ancient dinosaurs were to each other.”

    And “Birds are dinosaurs” is yet another fact which YECs find preposterous because the majority of them think that “HUGE lizard”** is the ultimate definition of dinosaur. (Indeed, for Ken Ham, the fact that the BEHEMOTH in Job 40 is large and fierce is all it takes to “prove” that it must have been a dinosaur. What a putz.)

    ** FOOTNOTE: As a linguist, I can’t help but notice that this is yet another illustration of the maxim “Etymology is not lexicography.” A word means whatever a culture decides it means, and we continue to use the word dinosaur despite the fact that we’ve known for a long time that dinosaurs were not “terrible lizards.” (Indeed, they weren’t even fair to middling* lizards.)

    * FOOTNOTE TO THE FOOTNOTE: fair to middling is derived from Old Scots terminology for grading livestock. Americans usually pronounce the phrase as fair to midland with a similar meaning of “slightly above average.”

  7. Considering that a 2012 survey found that one in four Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that so many believe dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

  8. Eddie Janssen

    The main problem would be the rejection of dating methods I presume.
    Maybe science/education should concentrate on making these methods common household knowledge?

  9. Clearly, American comic strips need a little updating. This could most readily be achieved by a simple amalgamation of a few existing formats.

    I think America is ready for Gasoline Alley Oop

  10. waldteufel

    One cannot help but think that as a culture, America is in steep intellectual decline. If their goal is to destroy literacy in order to promote the breeding of a docile and ignorant people, the creationists at AiG and the DI are winning.

    Someone please tell me that I’m wrong and unduly pessimistic!

  11. Even the report can’t get it straight!:

    In reality the earliest ancestors of humans have only been on the planet for 6 million years.

    No! The earliest ancestors of humans lived ~3.8 billion years ago, and were ancestors to dinosaurs too. 6 million years ago (just after the split with the chimp/bonobo ancestors) were the ancestors of humans “and no other extant species.”

  12. waldteufel: “Someone please tell me that I’m wrong and unduly pessimistic!

    If anything, you’re not pessimistic enough. To see how bad it is, look beyond the similarities of AiG and DI (both radical paranoid authoritarians who relentlessly peddle pseudoscience), and note the differences. AiG plays to a small minority, those already committed to one of several mutually-contradictory literal interpretation of Genesis. While the DI, “under the radar,” has successfully kept attention diverted away from the “when” questions. Not just among the general public, but even among their critics, who keep squandering opportunities, thus letting the DI control the terms of the “debate.”

    Comparing the results of this and other polls reveals that more people must think that modern humans existed 65+ million years ago than think that the earth is less than 10,000 years old! Of course most rarely think of “when” anything happened, dismissing it all as “a long time ago.” And that, sadly includes most who accept evolution!

    If fundamentalism were the only problem, all evolution-deniers would be Omphalists. Illiteracy, indifference, and growing distrust of science are the much bigger problems, and have allowed anti-evolution pseudoscience, especially the new “big tent” variety, to thrive.

  13. @Frank J
    Illiteracy, indifference, and a growing distrust of science are the much bigger problems.
    I suggest that most people think “prehistoric” encompasses a uniform era, so that things beyond classical Greek and Rome and Old Testament times are all vaguely the same. And even pre-Columbian America. The Druids made Stonehenge, the builders of the pyramids of Egypt could have made the pyramids of Mesoamerica, the Lost Tribes of Israel were the ancestors of the Indians …
    Not much worse is confusing a few thousand years with hundreds of millions.

  14. TomS: “Not much worse is confusing a few thousand years with hundreds of millions.”

    For that I think our side is more to blame than the anti-evolution activists. The latter have an incentive to be vague, namely to keep people clueless of the hopeless differences among several mutually-contradictory literal Genesis accounts (most people erroneously think there’s only one – even I did way back when). But our side has nothing to lose and everything to gain by never missing an opportunity to give detailed timelines of the geologic ages, and flora and fauna present during each. One of the best-kept secrets is that a slight majority of committed evolution-deniers has no problem at all with the mainstream science timeline – even if they reject the common descent part as well as “what ‘RM + NS’ can do.” In the rare cases that someone objects to the timeline I just say “go debate an OEC.” If they deny common descent I say “go debate Behe.” Invariably they decline, which exposes their blatant double-standard, which turns off any “fence-sitters” who otherwise would fall for their “weaknesses” of “Darwinism” nonsense.

    To be clear, it’s not just when challenging anti-evolution activists (or rank-and-file deniers who parrot them) that the “when” questions need to be brought up, but even when evolution is not being “challenged.” There needs to be more details taught in science class, and not just during the evolution lesson. And it needs to be more common in public discussion outside the class. Imagine a question about how many years (or % of its existence) our own ancestors were aquatic. I bet that would produce a greater % of wrong answers (in a multiple choice with one correct and ~4 wrong ones) than the “dinosaur” one.

  15. One cannot help but think that as a culture, America is in steep intellectual decline. If their goal is to destroy literacy…

    I had assumed the opposite–but I’ve never tried to research the issue. Perhaps someone who knows the relevant measures well can address this question. Are we as a citizenry going downhill intellectually speaking or does the stupid side of America just get more media coverage than in the past?

    Literacy in the USA has steadily increased over the past century–and the Flynn Effect is very well documented. (Intelligence test scores in both crystallized and fluid types have been increasing in most of the world and I had understood that was also the case in the USA.) Evolution and human-caused climate change are the areas of denial which get most of the media publicity but there are many other topics and measures which indicate a rising awareness of science and technology, including the mass accommodation of electronics products. (Computer-based games alone are credited with having greatly improved various “quick thinking”, problem-solving skills of a motor-based nature because young people today start flexing them at an early age.)

    The testing of Americans entering the armed forces provided important data for measuring literacy and intelligence with each generation, so scholars have been able to compare military inductees for WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Iraq wars with enviably large population samples. Each generation saw significant increases in many types of mental capabilities.

    So I honestly don’t know if our perception of “intellectual trends” in the USA are hopelessly skewed by media spin and over-reporting of major exceptions to the general upward climb of cognitive capabilities or if we are truly heading into dufus-hell [my extemporaneous term] in a handbasket. It certainly appears that the types of capabilities we value as a culture have changed. So while the older generations lament the news headlines announcing the end of cursive writing lessons in the public schools, young people set new speed records for general keyboarding and cell-phone texting.

  16. One cannot help but think that as a culture, America is in steep intellectual decline.

    I no doubt share the pessimism of my generation about what young people know and don’t know when they enter college–yet, the Internet age has given the younger generations lots of motivation to learn and practice rapid reading of screens of text for hours of each day. As a result, some literacy measures have greatly improved in the past 20 years. (Of course, the couch potato culture has plenty of downsides as well.)

    So I freely confess that I just don’t know how Americans today intellectually measure up against prior generations. We could point to various kinds of college admission scores but one constantly encounters apples and oranges comparisons. (Obviously, today’s SAT and ACT test-takers are far more diverse than those of the 1960’s, for example.) And does it seem likely that the average American in 1915 or 1965 could better explain the theory of evolution that the average American today? I doubt it.

    It would be interesting to test for and compare past and present “relative polarization” of Americans on controversial science topics like climate change and evolution. Before the Internet went mainstream, there was little to no origins industry led by well-funded entrepreneurs obfuscating and propagandizing through pseudo-science. Yes, a few were getting started but they had very limited influence.

    I can’t think of a time when older Americans weren’t lamenting the intellectual decline of “today’s young people” and the “deteriorating civility and substance” of political discourse. Back in the 1960’s it seemed like everybody over 30 was shouting “the sky is falling!” Yet, empirical studies have usually revealed realities quite different than the mass media’s perception. Of course, if the younger generations of the past were truly headed downhill, they would constitute a dumbed-down America today. But is that really the case?

    I don’t know. I’d love to read the observations of those who are better informed on this topic.

  17. “(Of course, the couch potato culture has plenty of downsides as well.)”

    For instance, show a ten teenage girls photos of FDR, Ike, and say, Jimmy Carter, and they probably couldn’t name one. But show a photo of Kim Kardashian — from the rear, no less — and all ten would instantly answer correctly.

  18. It seems to me the more things change the more they stay the same. Would ten teenage girls 50 years ago have recognized a photo of William McKinley or Teddy Roosevelt?

  19. A question for those that complain about the younger generations:

    What do you think your elders said about your cohort when you were teenagers? Only good stuff, right?


  20. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
    Ecclesiastes 7:10

  21. @Tom Snow: Good point. Instead of FDR et al., make that the current VP, Joe Biden. I’d bet you’d get nearly the same results.

  22. What do you think your elders said about your cohort when you were teenagers? Only good stuff, right?

    My grandfather would have been baffled by the question and would have said, “Yes. They were proud of us and praised us.” Why? Our modern concept of “the teenager stereotype” is a relatively recent invention. Today’s adolescent is a stage of life which is a function of a consumer society where teenagers don’t have to earn a living until 18 at the soonest and, for some, not until age 22 if they go to college. Without sufficient wealth, teenagers became adults with adult responsibility at early ages. (Contrary to popular myth, they didn’t necessarily marry at age 16, but they did work long days and had no time for mischief and idleness.)

    Of course, these factors differed depending upon geography and demographic. But my grandfather was born on the frontier in a drafty log cabin. And his early years were little different than those of his father and grandfather.

  23. @Prof. Tertius
    I must beg to differ. I think that it is a recurring theme back to antiquity of the older generation complaining how the younger generation is going
    astray, no respect for their elders, etc. etc. etc.
    I think of the 1950s’ musical “The Flower Drum Song” and its song, “The Other Generation”.
    How about the rebellion of Romeo and Juliet?
    I cited the observation of Ecclesiasticus how people are foolishly complaining how things used to be better than the good old days.

  24. My 2c on the “generations” thing:

    There’s also a famous Socrates quote that sounds like the “these kids of today” complaint that I have been hearing for 2-3 generations (and catching myself saying too on occasion in recent years).

    As Prof. Teritus says, “..or does the stupid side of America just get more media coverage than in the past?” To that I say “absolutely.” The sensationalist media is more relentless than ever in “pushing buttons.” But it becomes a vicious cycle, where the most extreme politicians on both sides drown out those who prefer reasonable ideas to catchy sound bites.

    As for “millennials” with computer games and (especially) smartphones, my evidence is admittedly only anecdotal, but I see them thinking better “as engineers” and worse as “scientists.” That is, quicker, but less critically. Salem Hypothesis, anyone?

    Our brains haven changed much in 1000 generations, let alone 2 or 3. But the situation is changing exponentially. More leisure time means more opportunity for “temptation.” Not just for reckless entertainment, but less pressure to produce (goods and services) means more freedom to sell and spin.

  25. I tried finding the famous quote from ancient Rome or Greece, but I haven’t been able to pin it down. That is, I found some without citable attributions, at least one of which has been found to be spurious.

  26. @Professor Tertius:

    I didn’t ask what your parents or grandparents thought about you, I asked what their generation(s) thought of your generation. I know I’m doing a great job raising well-adjusted, thoughtful, intelligent and kind children. Everybody else is raising obese ingrates.

    An analogy: I spent just enough time in the Army to see career non-commissioned officers complain about the poor quality of recruits and the pool they’re drawn from, only to see those recruits become career soldiers who spend a lot of time worrying about the poor quality of the recruits. I know what today’s young soldiers will complain about in 20 years.

    Nothing new under the sun.

  27. I found this through Ask Jeeves:

    Quote Investigator
    Misbehaving Children in Ancient Times? Plato or Socrates?

    The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt
    for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise. …

    Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannised over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters.

    Kenneth John Freeman, 1907

  28. TomS says: “I found this through Ask Jeeves”

    I found a few references to that, and a few that say it’s not really attributable to Socrates (who never wrote anything, by the way) or to any of Plato’s dialogues about him. I don’t know what to think.

  29. Quote Investigator seems to be a credible source. At least, as far as the quote not being attributable to Socrates. The only ancient sources for Socrates are few: Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes. Does anyone, to the contrary to QI, cite the exact source: author, title, line number?