Most Want Alternatives to Evolution in the Classroom

According to an international poll released by the British Council, the majority of Americans — 60% — support teaching alternatives to evolution in the science classroom. The percentage is the same for Britons, despite the fact that both countries have been inundated with pro-Darwin media coverage in this super-mega Darwin Year.

Across the board, most respondents from the ten countries polled thought that “other perspectives on the origins of species” “such as intelligent design and creationism” should be taught in science class*. When the poll is weighted to include only those respondents who have heard of Charles Darwin and know something about his theory of evolution, the percentage supporting alternate theories increases, from 60% to 66% in Britain and 60% to 64% in the U.S.

The correlation appears again when we consider which countries have more knowledge of Darwin’s theory. The highest numbers of those in support of alternative theories in the classroom correspond to the highest numbers of those familiar with Charles Darwin — 60% in Britain, 65% in Mexico, 61% in China, 66% in Russia, and 60% in the U.S. It appears that the more people know about Darwin’s theory, the more they want to see alternatives in science class.

*This takes both those who select “other perspectives” only and those who select “other perspectives” together with “evolutionary theories.” It should be noted that Discovery Institute opposes efforts to mandate teaching alternative theories in the science classroom — we’d rather have the whole picture of evolution, the scientific arguments both for and against the theory, presented instead.

(Excerpted from Evolution News & Views)

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6 thoughts on “Most Want Alternatives to Evolution in the Classroom

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your remarks. This is a debate that, ultimately, will lead to the question “Why everything exists?” and, naturally, from a neutral point of view. As a Christian, I feel that there is no room for a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible just as scientism should be ruled out.

    Physicists appear to be more humble in comparison with the biologists and only new discoveries will be able to tell us how much is fact and how much is theory. So, meanwhile, both sides of the story will have to be told.

    All the best,

    Louis

  2. The best solution is to teach both Darwin and the alternatives. We cannot run away from the truth and only time will tell which theory is absolutely right. best, Louis

    • Hi Louis,
      I agree. I think both should be presented and students should be encouraged to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each position and make up their own minds.
      All the best,
      Chris

  3. Pingback: Top Posts of 2009 « Cloud of Witnesses

  4. I’m a devout Christian, but I just wanted to say that this entry is unfortunately extremely weak. It seems to be the case that what people “want”, or better, what they prefer to know, has no correlation with what should, in fact, be taught. For instance, if more students preferred to spend more time studying astronomy entirely for their entire high school career, it does not necessarily mean that that would be what is best. Furthermore, what people “want to believe” has no correlation whatsoever with what is, in fact, true. This is especially true as students normally do not know what is best to study and require a curriculum set in place by those who are, in fact, capable: teachers, school boards, etc. So in your case, just because many “support” a particular alternative theory (which in itself is questionable data), it does not mean that that theory should be necessarily taught. This is similar to, for instance, a majority of people wanting to have homosexuality taught to kindergarten students. It would seem that just because a majority support such an idea, it would not entail that it should necessarily be taught.

    • Hi Roy,

      Thanks for those thoughtful comments. You make a good point — just because a majority of people think something should be taught in schools doesn’t mean it necessarily should be. (Nor would that mean, of course, that it shouldn’t be.) I think we’d be in agreement that we wouldn’t want to institute a school curriculum based solely on a majority vote.

      There are different ways to interpret the results of this survey (which results I don’t doubt since the British Council is a recognized international organization), but what’s interesting to me is that many, many people have an intuitive aversion to the Darwinian story, while others, I think, just have a sense of fairness in education. Since I’m sympathetic to Reformed epistemology, I think this aversion may well stem from our inherent sensus divinitatis. Or maybe from a strong intuition that the living things we see all around us look like they’ve been deliberately designed. Or, if plain fairness is more the issue, they think that if there are viable alternatives to Darwinian evolution, students should know about them. So, these people may have good reasons for thinking alternatives should be taught. (At the least, in my opinion, the weaknesses and unanswered questions of Darwinian evolution ought to be presented to students.)

      So, you’re right that we shouldn’t change curricula based only on opinion polls. There are also lots of factual questions to look into. But it could be that the majority has a good point. The most interesting thing for me is the enduring resistance to Darwin’s theory of unguided evolution, which at least half of Americans don’t believe in (http://bit.ly/D5NGN). I think this doubt is a good intuition that’s supported by significant evidence, although most people probably haven’t looked into it.

      All the best,
      Chris

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