By Marsha Sutton
When I received this email message from my cousin – “We’re doomed; we’re just so utterly doomed.” – I figured it was his usual cynical hyperbole.
But after clicking the link and reading the article, I confess I share some of his gloom.
The Pew Research Center’s recent survey on evolution found that 60 percent of Americans accept the principle of evolution of the human species while 33 percent don’t. [The remaining respondents were undecided.]
The question was phrased to ask whether respondents believed humans have evolved over time or existed in their present form since the beginning. [http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/30/publics-views-on-human-evolution/]
The difference in opinion on this issue between Republicans and Democrats is striking.
In 2009, 54 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats embraced the principle of evolution. Today. it’s 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats.
That means the majority of Republicans and one-third of Democrats don’t believe humans have evolved over time. Of those who identify as Independents, 28 percent reject evolution.
Women are 10 percentage points more likely than men to disagree with evolution, with 55 percent accepting and 38 percent rejecting (65 percent of men accept evolution and 28 percent reject it).
Pew also found that the older one is, the less likely they are to support evolutionary science. Saying humans have evolved over time are 68 percent of those 18-29 years old, 60 percent of those 30-49, 59 percent of those 50-64, and 49 percent of those 65 and older.
Education is also a factor. Saying they agree with evolution are 72 percent of college graduates, 62 percent of those with some college education, and 51 percent with a high school diploma or less.
The survey was based on telephone interviews of 1,983 adults 18 years or older, from all 50 states, between March 21 and April 8, 2013.
I want to attribute the unsettling findings to the notion that scientifically-oriented people don’t respond to anonymous telephone surveys. But I’m grasping at straws. Another straw, that the margin of error might be unusually high, is also just as flimsy, because it’s only the standard 3 percentage points.
So what are we to make of this survey?
Just a theory?
As we move to implement the new national Common Core standards in our schools, which seek to address the deficiencies in America’s education system, one wonders how educators plan to improve the academic achievement of our children when so many among us believe it’s acceptable to reject overwhelming scientific evidence about human origins in favor of an allegorical creation story.
We’ve heard the argument that evolution is just a theory; therefore, it is not proven. But disputing the theory of evolution is like disagreeing with the theory of gravity. Asking people if they “believe” in evolution betrays a bias in the question itself. Would you ask someone if they “believe” in gravity?
This is the definition of the word “theory,” according to LiveScience.com:
“When used in non-scientific context, the word ‘theory’ implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena.