A whole thousand!

The Discovery Institute is SO proud that they’ve managed to accumulate over 1000 signatures in nearly 20 years from people who doubt “Darwinism”, I thought I’d see what other petitions have over 1000 signatures:

Death Star

Screenshot from wired.com

Weird Al

Screenshot from change.org.


Screenshot from cnn.com.

At the Evolution News & Science Today blog, an unattributed article presents the petition as a response to “false statements about Darwinian evolution”:

Discovery Institute first published its Scientific Dissent from Darwinism list in in The New York Review of Books in 2001 to challenge false statements about Darwinian evolution made in PBS’s series Evolution. Promoters of the series, among others, claimed that “virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true.”

David Klinghoffer echoes the sentiment:

Discovery Institute began taking names of signatories in 2001 in response to frequently heard assertions that there is no dissent, or “virtually” none.

There are roughly 4 million Ph.D.s in the United States. As a back-of-the-envelope calculation, let’s assume half of those are in the sciences, and that there are about five times that many in the world (I think both of those are assumptions are conservative). That would work out to ~10 million Ph.D. scientists, not counting (as the Discovery Institute’s petition does) dead ones. So their thousand signatures would represent something on the order of one one-hundredth of one percent (0.0001).

David Klinghoffer asserts (without evidence) that

…the 1,000+ names represent only the tip of a vast iceberg. For every name, you can assigner a multiplier. Would it be ten? A hundred? More? I don’t know.

Let’s give it to him. Let’s say it’s a hundred.

Obama thumbs up

Image from nypost.com

That would mean that roughly 1% of Ph.D. scientists agree with a weakly-worded statement that fails to define its central term:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

So under fantastically generous assumptions, we can estimate that the “dissenters from Darwinism,” those who have signed the petition and those who haven’t, living and dead, represent less than 1% of Ph.D. scientists (that is the fair comparison, since most of the signers are not biologists). In other words, 99% agree that evolutionary theory is well supported. Meaning that the “false claim” that “virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true” is actually just about right.

Let me know when you pass Project Steve.


  1. another Stewart says

    I think of that petition as the Discovery Institute’s list of ultra-Darwinists. They are merely skeptical of a position that the rest of us know to be false (drift, vicariance, hybridisation, etc. all exist and contribute). A “Dissent from Darwin” that Darwin could have signed (if you replaced random mutation with random variation) is worth much.

    There are a couple of points of interpretation. If you miraculously removed the other processes could mutation and selection alone have generated equivalent complexity. (I’m a little less certain on that point, but I’d still be more than just skeptical.) And do the mean the complexity of the biosphere or the complexity of organisms.

    The statement would be potentially more interesting if they had written adaptation rather than complexity.

  2. another Stewart says

    Stray thought – an “Agreement with Darwin” petition.

    “We agree that random variation and natural selection alone are insufficient to account for the complexity of life”.

    But I suppose it would just be quote mined.

    • Matthew Herron says

      That’s pretty much Project Steve, except you can only sign it if your name is some variant of Steve. It still has more signatures than the Discovery Institute’s petition.

      Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.

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