The latest USA Today/Gallup poll probably is valid, unfortunately — it’s not far off from my impressions. 44% of Americans think evolution is probably or definitely false, and two thirds think a god created human beings in the last ten thousand years. Those two numbers don’t quite fit together well — those who think a god created humans recently should also consider evolution false — but we can safely say that about half the country is ignorant or deluded about science, anyway.
We will now, of course, all close our eyes and pretend that religion has nothing at all to do with this catastrophic epidemic of stupidity.
Depressing as it is, for a long long long time now, I’ve felt that 95% or more of people are too stupid to even be worth really talking to. I try to convince myself otherwise, but then, 95% of people effortlessly prevent me from convincing myself with the stupidity flowing from their stupid holes.
Mitigating the above post, I do live in Texas.
Cat's Staff says
Here’s a poll you can vote in….
Iowa State University football coach Gene Chizik wants to have a team chaplain that would be paid with private funds. Even if the position is privately funded, do you think the ISU football team should have a team chaplain?
I don’t know/undecided 3%
I don’t care 11%
Cat's Staff says
Oops… I suppose a link would help…
“Those two numbers don’t quite fit together well — those who think a god created humans recently should also consider evolution false”
You know the drill. “We accept microevolution….”
It’s worse than you think. Almost half of Americans don’t even know that the earth orbits around the sun once in a year.
The most technologically advanced country in the world is populated by Joe Six Packs who lack the knowledge to find their asses with both hands and a flashlight.
The end is nigh . . . . . . . . . .
Oh, so you’ve gone all framer on us now. Thanks a lot.
Found the following on James Wolcott’s blog today – http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/blogs/wolcott/2007/06/imagine_the_sop.html – IMO his final couple of sentences sums up religion so well that I may just have to steal it and put it on a poster or something.
Today there was a to and fro about evolution and faith that was so jejune and uninformed–the guest panelist said she hadn’t read Darwin, but the Bible seemed good enough to her in explaining How We Got Here–that it made you feel that our education system has failed so badly we should just give up and let the Chinese take over the world until the next generation of robots is ready to assume rule. So much of belief in God the Creator is simply narcissism–a way of saying, Life must have transcendent meaning, otherwise why would I be here? How can the rich wonder of existence that is ME be the product of blind forces and cosmic chance? Don’t try telling me I evolved from a primate and robbing me of the false dignity I’ve spent my entire life propping up, dammit!
Well, if it’s any consolation, Atheism is “Today’s featured article” at Wikipedia. Looks like a dandy to me. The corresponding article at Conservapædia…not so much.
Christian Burnham says
Here’s one suggestion to improve things.
Teach first graders the elementary fact that humans are animals. In fact, teach them that we’re apes.
“In fact, teach them that we’re apes.”
Yes. After all, bananas fit in our hands quite well…
BT Murtagh says
I already knew I had trouble with evolution, but if I have to explain that the Earth goes around the Sun I’m just going to give up. What’s with the schools in this country?
During the Dover case I had to explain to my cow orkers what the three branches of American government were, and I’m the only one who wasn’t born and raised in America! Now that I’ve raised awareness of the political scene I keep getting questions like “Is Bush a Democrat or a Republican?”
And today in my paper I find that the South Carolina State government has approved public schools’ teaching of Bible courses (an amendment to include other religious texts like the Torah or Koran was voted down). Sigh…
That reminds me… after four months, they’ve finally caught all of my little jokes (except one — “the decider” redirects to GW). I should give them a fresh batch of truthiness this weekend.
Regarding the Earth going ’round the Sun, and the perils of thinking things through:
In grade six, I was given detention for stating that the moon must rotate on it’s axis once each orbit, contradicting my teacher’s assertion that, “the same side of the Moon always faced the Earth because it (the Moon) didn’t rotate.”
When the stewards of education use evidence of critical thinking as an oportunity to demonstrate that confrontation of authority will be punished, is it any wonder critical thinking is conditioned out of the population by the time they graduate?
Well, they might not be the best, but in Kentucky, a somewhat conservative state, I’ve actually been taught all the things these people reject. They can’t make you accept it, I guess.
well, there’s something to … uh … be consoled about. to the extent that ideology and stupid religiosity is believed to be The Way To Be, folks like Vladmir Putin and Company can run circles around policies and associations and, daresay, governments by simply using Sheer Unbiased Logic.
but it’s an old story, PZ. Frederick the Great accused Euler of being at fault when his attempts to build fountains which shot 30m in the air failed. Frederick built his pipes out of wood which Euler expressly warned him not to do. yet Frederick repeatedly cited and accused Euler of this for years. some think it was one reason why Euler opted to return to Saint Petersburg.
as affectionate and protective of the United States i know you are, PZ, as I am, we can only do so much. do we provide “physics and biology for poets” in order to water down these subjects so most Americans can understand? i think that’s a mistake. i have been tempted towards that course, but i (now) know it’s Just Wrong.
people who Don’t Get It just Don’t Get It. it probably comes from the religion mindset.
look, this is personal, but i never understood my dad, who is a retired professor of chemistry, yet fiercely embraces some of the most conservative Catholic bullshit i’ve ever seen, and nearly always has. it’s made me, personally, reconsider the value of a doctorate. given this kind of evidence, and the nonsense that is Lindzen and others, it suggests to me that it’s a pro forma kind of envelope, nothing more.
Those with overlapping opinions are prolly using that relative scale of time trick in order to believe both are true. You know, how a few days to god is a few million years on earth or something, therefore they can believe that god created us all in some ridiculously short period of time, for biblical conversational purposes, and allow for evolution to be possibly be true as well as the mechanism. I think thats how its been explained to me.
We tend to forget that the concept of “deep time” was foreign to Europeans and Euro-Americans until the past couple hundred years. The idea that the age of the solar system was measured in billions of years didn’t occur to us until the 20th century, after all. Even absent religion, such a radical idea would take a while to soak into our culture — unless we had effective universal science education.
And we don’t.
Religion is part of the problem, yes, but it is hardly the only thing keeping us scientifically ignorant.
“We will now, of course, all close our eyes and pretend that religion has nothing at all to do with this catastrophic epidemic of stupidity.”
Iceland 98 *
United Kingdom 100
Luxembourg 101 *
Czech Republic 97
Estonia 97 *
Malta 95 *
Slovak Republic (Slovakia) 96
Latvia 97 *
United States 98
Turkey 90 (The lowest IQ)
Acceptance of Evolution in rank order vs. IQ (from Lynn 2002)
Rey Fox says
Can we hope that the sample was drawn entirely or mostly from USA Today readers? That would surely skew the results downwards on the IQ scale.
Ex Patriot says
To bad there is not a shot against stupidity, the drug company could make a fortune in the U.S Pretty well explains why I moved to Europe with no intention of going back.
The numbers aren’t conflicting if you assume that people
1. Don’t know how long ago humans really evolved.
2. Think we evolved 10 kya
3. Think that evolution was the mechanism god used to create humans in our present form.
Then it might make sense.
Or maybe people think the animals in nature evolved and humans didn’t.
The more I think about this the less sense it makes.
Off-topic, but I think it may be of interest: the article on Atheism is today’s (June 8) Featured Article on Wikipedia.
Disinterested Observer says
Comment No 12 – “cow orkers” What a difference a misplaced space makes! I’m still trying to delete the resultant image from my short term memory.
Anyway, I’m sure you will all be pleased to know that highly paid “intellectuals” have been debating whether Darwinism can be reconciled with political conservatism over at the American Enterprise Institute-
Kathryn in Sunnyvale says
I think that the second question was weak, in that it can capture identical answers from two (or more) types of people
1. people who think that everything was created 10,000 years ago OR
2. people who believe that modern people were brought about 10,000 years ago.
The latter group could include everyone from old-earth creationists to theistic evolutionists.
Not that it isn’t still a scary poll. Would I feel any better if question 2 was unambiguous? I’m not sure.
Greta Christina says
“In grade six, I was given detention for stating that the moon must rotate on it’s axis once each orbit, contradicting my teacher’s assertion that, ‘the same side of the Moon always faced the Earth because it (the Moon) didn’t rotate.'”
Oh, for the love of…
Okay, it’s tinfoil hat conspiracy rant time. I sometimes think that the gross underfunding of our schools is not an accident, or mere lack of political will. It often occurs to me that They, the corporate- military- industrial- Republican complex or whatever, have a powerful stake in keeping Americans stupid — and no stake at all in making us smarter. Stupid Americans who haven’t been trained in critical thinking are easier to manipulate politically, more likely to buy their stupid products that they don’t need, and just generally more likely to buy into their bullshit.
Okay. Tinfoil off. Thank you for your patience.
(P.S. If this poll is right, it’s even more depressing than you think — because those numbers are UP from the last Gallup poll I saw on this subject. The last poll I saw showed the numbers of young-earth Creationists in America was just under 50%.)
Martin R says
Note that they have carefully selected an issue to believe weird things about that won’t hurt them in any practical everyday applications. They don’t think pi=3 and most don’t handle snakes.
Re: #19. The list of IQ scores you mention are taken from IQ and the Wealth of Nations probably one of the most flawed studies down on intelligence. Ever.
Firstly they used different tests (with different norms and standard deviations) and compared them. Which you cant do.
Seondly for studies where there was no pre-existing IQ data…they made it up. Very scientific wouldn’t you say?
Thirdly they made their own adjustments for the flynn effect. Which they made up. Again. Thats a lot of making stuff up for a supposedly scientific study.
While there may be a correlation between acceptance of evolution and of IQ, I don’t know of any study which have been conducted on this. However if there were such a correlation it would be more likely that education would be the more important factor determining acceptance of evolution.
Plus those figures are obviously wrong-claiming the British and the Americans have a higher average IQ then the Irish?Obvious nonsense. Everyone knows the only reason we Irish aren’t ruling the world is the invention of alcohol.
Insofar as evolution is “survival of the fittest”, I think the stupidity of people goes a long way towards proving that theory false.
Then again, we do continually create laws to protect the stupid from themselves, so…
Our k-12 schools are producing ignoramuses, yet the media all lament that teachers are so poorly paid and so under-appreciated.
No, teachers are overpaid, ill-educated, and frankly useless.
I didn’t see a competent teacher until I got into college.
Insofar as evolution is “survival of the fittest”, I think the stupidity of people goes a long way towards proving that theory false.
Only if you assume intelligence correlates with fitness. Given the history of life on Earth, that’s a questionable assumption – all the most successful organisisms are / were stupid.
While we’re on funny school stories, I got into trouble in highschool for challenging my geography teachers assertion that gravity is caused by air presssure…
I sometimes think that the gross underfunding of our schools is not an accident, or mere lack of political will.
Tom Nielsen says
The second question is badly worded, because while many moderate religious people might not believe in the young earth, they still believe that God created humans(or else they would, to some degree, have to reject their own religion), and thus making them overall more inclined to answer yes to the question.
So they might actually more be answering yes to “the idea that God created human beings”, rather than yes to creationism and the notion that they were created “within the last 10,000 years”.
I think this is the answer to the odd differences in percentages, and the apparently huge creationism following.
If the poll shows to be a true picture of reality, it emphasizes how the fight against religion might be the most important ideological struggle of the new century.
Tom Nielsen says
I guess you also have to see the poll in alignment with other similar polls(different wordings, but on the same subject).
Doing a quick shallow search I came up with this article; http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/22/opinion/polls/main965223.shtml
If it shows that creationism following have increased by around 15 percent in just a couple of years, it might either indicate faulty polls statistics, or a successful ID/creationist campaign(…or a third, of course)
Hmm. I wonder if the poor pay coupled to high stress load, and the fact that ill-educated, incompetent, unqualified, and frankly useless people are apparently overrepresented in K-12 teaching positions might be connected somehow?
Chris Ho-Stuart says
Is there anyone at all who doesn’t recognize that this problem is due to religion? Of course it is all about religion. I think you may be alluding here to some different ways in which we deal with that recognition.
I think the poll tells us NOTHING substantial about the state of this faith vs. reason thing in the USA. It just says “here’s another poll constructed to fire up the readership and sell papers.”
It is kind of simple to figure out — regardless of these types of “polls” — from more scientific studies (sorry cannot reference them — only so much time and energy for this type of fun):
1. Religion in 1st world is on decline .. faithless-ness is a growth industry. Organized religion fading in importance. This applies in USA but at slower rate than elsewhere.
2. Religion and faith does track to lesser affluence and education — but mostly to security (or lack there of of these). The more insecure a population the more they will turn to sky daddy and to support systems (or the illustion of support) provided by religion. The USA while affluent is very insecure nation .. one of the least socially protected of the affluent countries. Insecurity and lack of services breeds “faith based” societies.
3. Indoctrination of children keeps religion alive. So birth-rates of poorer less educated families must be kept high for it to survive. New converts (had no religion to found religion)are almost non-existent relatively speaking — andedotes of conversions don’t mirror underlying facts. Note: even here youth are becoming less-religious more and more.
4. With birth-control religion would fade faster and faster. It is in the interest of religions to keep the war up on birth control and the like and also to set themself up as the only real support system for people.
5. Religion has been exploited in USA by Republican Party to amplify the power of the 30% that are true believers. In reality they can make or break an election in USA .. that is true .. but only because there are many apathetic “non-believers” (at heart) that continue to avoid becoming involved (or even vote) and fired up re: elections.
If only a fraction of those became involved the whole balance of power would change in the USA.
6. Most people only remember from school those things that they use in everyday life. So it doesn’t surprise me when they answer what they heard as fact on the TV.
7. Applies to (6) The media promotes woo-woo and faith — they think it sells soap. When that dynamic changes (people with buying power turn off the TV) reality will gain ground. Many people only know what they last heard on TV. Even if they once knew better from eduction (that they forgot).
8. Note the gains in secular and liberal thought and action. That is the BIGGEST predictor of where we are and where we are headed. We may think the progress is small but the trend is toward reason and not faith or dogma. Just think about it.. how do people really live their lives?
I am frustrated with the way things seem to be .. but don’t think this poll tells us what is really going on in the long term.
Well at least Ken Ham can be congratulated for doing his market research.
PZ said: “We will now, of course, all close our eyes and pretend that religion has nothing at all to do with this catastrophic epidemic of stupidity.”
Well of course it (religion) does (have something to do with it), and if it weren’t religion, it’d be some other damn thing.
BTMurtaugh said: “[T]he South Carolina State government has approved public schools’ teaching of Bible courses (an amendment to include other religious texts like the Torah or Koran was voted down).”
That’s fairly amusing, since the first five books of the Bible *are* the Torah. So they won’t be able to teach creation from Genesis?
Nancy Gee says
jeezuz pete… I’m but a lowly middle school English teacher, not on the front lines of pushing the evilutionist atheitic agenda, but I’ve had parents defend – celebrate, even! – their child’s failing grade on the mythology unit, since “Of course she didn’t learn that stuff. We’re Christians.” Same excuse given to the history teacher about her tests on the foundations of mid-Eastern religions (including, yes, Christianity).
I do my best, honest! The nonfiction I use includes information on archaeology, plate tectonics, geology, carbon dating, and propaganda. But when parents actually tell their kids not to learn, it’s an uphill battle. And damn, I’m getting tired.
Fernando Magyar says
I recently met a pleasant young woman and she told me in casual conversation that she was a high school biology teacher. She mentioned that she was introducing her students to concepts of cytology. I, not being a biologist, mentioned that I had always been fascinated by the existence of the mitochondrion and the Krebs cycle, her response was a blank stare. Krebs what? Ok, I’m in Florida and I found out later she was a Mormon, but I’m sure that couldn’t have had anything to do with her lack of knowledge.
Jurjen S. says
I hope this is some form of consolation, but I worked as a market researcher for a couple of years in the early 90s, as in, I phoned random people and asked them questions compiled by the boffins upstairs. The main thing I learned in that job is that polls are next to meaningless. See, to avoid skewing results, the boffins insist that questions be asked as written; if the respondent doesn’t understand the question (or the possible answers), the caller is not allowed to give any explanation. The answer must be the respondent’s alone, even if the respondent doesn’t understand the question in the first place. Also, the boffins are notoriously unaccepting of feedback; the callers can tell them “you need to change the wording on question #5 because nobody I talked to tonight understood what you were asking” and they won’t listen. Understand that the boffins are college graduates who took courses in statistics; the callers aren’t. Of course, I was an undergraduate taking those same courses at the time, and I knew that the courses didn’t teach you how to formulate questions so that Joe (and Joanne) Six-Pack would understand them. Or how to formulate questions so that smart people might stumble on the ambiguities, for example:
Those of us who are well educated (and in whom it took root) understand that evolution itself is a fact, and that the theory only describes the how, not the whether. Strictly speaking, I would like my ideal candidate to say
Thus, if were to answer question #25 truthfully, I would be more likely to vote for a candidate who stated he “DID not believe in the theory of evolution” since the theory of evoluton is not a matter of faith. But I know Gallup would not interpret my answer correctly.
Frankly, whatever Gallup gets paid to conduct these surveys, it’s too much. By contrast, Zogby deserves every cent, because Zogby provides a different service: namely, you tell them what results you’d like to get, and they’ll formulate the questions and manipulate the data to produce the desired result.
Fernando said: “Krebs what? Ok, I’m in Florida and I found out later she was a Mormon, but I’m sure that couldn’t have had anything to do with her lack of knowledge.”
You obviously should have referred to the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, which she would have recognized immediately.
But seriously, folks…
You’re sitting there in college honors biology, the Krebs/TCA cycle is a piece of cake for you, and you’re daydreaming about future careers: Doctor, biotech researcher, underpaid high school science teacher with an overcrowded class of kids who don’t want to be there…. Of course just the thought of that last one rudely jolts you fully alert out of your daydream.
Thanks a bunch for the teacher-bashing. Have you tried teaching these days? It doesn’t matter how well-educated and competent the teacher is (and I have to say most of my colleagues are both), then the students don’t care about anything but texting their friends to arrange their next hook-up, it’s a bit difficult to convince them that they need to learn anything – much less something that happened millions/billions of years ago and has no relevance to their lives today.
If I taught driver’s ed, they’d probably listen. If I taught how to make a pussy-magnet for their car, they’d listen (at least half of them) – that’s something USEFUL you could teach in science class. But teaching them stuff about the moon, apes and bacteria just isn’t exciting enough for them to care.
Out of the 150 or so students I get each year, I’d say 30 will grow up to be competent adults. Maybe 2-3 of those will become truly impressive in their understanding of the world. The others will muddle along through life as best they can, making it day to day without much thought of the future – or the past.
Ed Darrell says
The poll shows that about 59% of Americans confess to being ignorant of evolution theory, thereby indicating that they need to study the theory before studying “alternatives.”
This is a good chunk of evidence against creationist claims that evolution is ‘rammed down the throats’ of most people. Clearly, that’s false.
I have been watching my copy of the “Growing up in the Universe” DVD by Richard Dawkins. Pity we cannot make this part of every kids curriculum, he explaines evolution so well with such great props, none of the kids are falling asleep or whispering to their neighbors.
Heya Greta, I agree completely. I believe that THEY (no I’m not a conspiracy buff) really do want to keep most Americans ignorant. Think what would happen if that were to change. It’s a new dark age ideology. Just like last time, the power holders don’t want the masses to know how expoited they are. It has taken a long time to get to this point though. Those pesky documents like the Declaration of Independence and BIll of Rights really got in the way.
It’s not going to change with the next President:
“My faith and the support of my extended faith family, people whom I knew who were literally praying for me in prayer chains, who were prayer warriors for me, and people whom I didn’t know, who I would meet or get a letter from sustained me through a very difficult time.
If I had not been a praying person, shortly after getting to the White House, I would have become one in a big hurry.”
“The hand of God today is in every step of what happens with me, and every human being that exists on this planet.”
“I am my brother’s, my sister’s keeper.”
Pious democrats,meet your maker.
How Paul Simon was different:
I was the opposite most of the time in high school. I assumed my teachers were usually being honest and forthright in their teaching methods. Of course, looking back on it, most of them were. That’s probably because I went to public school in a well-off suburban area where the teachers were held to a high standard most of the time. The only teacher I ever had a problem with was my AP Gov teacher – she was such a ranting conservative loon that I dropped the class, took remedial gov, and still got a 3 on my AP exam.
I will always be indebted to my fourth grade teacher. She taught me an extremely valuable lesson: teachers can be wrong. (The specific item was when she told the class that “USSR” stood for “United States of Soviet Russia”. She was called on it by a friend of mine and me, and when we said it stood for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, she replied, “Well, it stands for that, too” in a condescending manner.)
Why worry about a new Dark Ages, they are almost here, LOL.
Not questioning the poll but in my area, WC, well off, professional results might be very different. Most of the bulletin boards and flyers around the area feature mostly neo-pagan and new age events and groups. An everchanging and seemingly expanding array of them. The fundies aren’t too visible although I haven’t checked the underworld recently.
Frank Anderson says
IIRC, that number hasn’t moved much in several years. It’s always about 45% who reject evolution, with little dependence on how exactly the question is worded.
My concern about the people answering the poll is the very low levels of “no opinion” (1-3%). This has always bugged me about people giving poll responses, you hardly ever see polls where “no opinion” gets above 10%, even though I suspect most people answering polls really *don’t* have opinions on most of the questions until they are asked, when they suddenly think “Oh no, which is it, yes or no, ah, ah, ah, I’ll pick ‘No'”. I’ve even been tempted to do this. There is something about our brains that doesn’t want to admit to not having an opinion, as if it is a sign of weakness or something.
And that’s why I don’t really trust polls to show us what people *really* think. All they do is show us which way people will jump when startled.
One Eyed Jack says
There is a bright side to the overly religious leanings of the US public. One can have endless fun discussing religious doctrine with the drones.
For example: I work with a fairly promiscuous lady who divorced about a year. Following her divorce, she became much more involved in her church (not an uncommon result). When she talks about this guy or that guy and her recent “therapy” (her word for sex), I remind her that fornication is a sin. She laughs and says she knows, but she asks Jesus to forgive her. So I ask her if she intends to do it again and she says yes. I then argue that there can be no true forgiveness without repentance and there can be no repentance without an honest intent to change.
Well, the conversations go on like that with the drones finding themselves trapped tighter and tighter by their own religion. It usually ends with them snorting loudly and promising to pray for my heathen soul. I know it’s a bit cruel, but everyone needs a hobby.
The thing that gets to me most is the number of people who think they’ve made an INFORMED decision on the topic. 82% say they are familiar with the theory of evolution (41% say VERY familiar) and 86% say they are familiar with creationism.
One Eyed Jack:
“…everyone needs a hobby.”
Terrific. I will use that one as I am often told that I am being prayed for and I have no quick response.
Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be outraged by silence.
— Henri Frédéric Amiel
Did anyone notice the even scarier number.
The majority are saying they are familiar with evolution and a big chunk are saying they are very familiar with Evolution and Creationism. Oh what a pathetic job we do on science education if this is the case…. .
Or… what a fantastic job people do sabatoging science ed….. I think it’s a little bit of both.
Greg Laden says
Actually, this poll may be a bit of an improvement…
Nancy (#39) and Heather (#43):
For you both, and all the other teachers out there, Scott Hatfield, et al, a big shout out and thank you very much for your service to the country and the universe for taking on such a difficult and demanding job.
(oh, and you too, PZ)
I’m surprised its only 44%.
Following up on #41, I work in market research, and one of the questions is horribly presented:
“If a presidential candidate stated that he or she DID not believe in the theory of evolution, would that make you — ”
Why is “did” capitalized instead of “not”? This basically invalidates the question. You can say that it means the same thing, but many respondents skim questions. If I wrote a quesiton like that, we wouldn’t present the results on it.
That being said, the rest of the survey is pretty well written.
There are a few things which should always be remembered about telephone polls.
These are a self-selected sample of 1007 adults. Many people hang up on pollsters. These are the people who hung on to questions 23-26. At a minute a question, that’s about a half-hour on the phone. Even at a half-minute a question this is close to fifteen minutes into a poll.
Second, we have no information on the previous questions. Could the previous questions have been of a nature to encourage some people to stop taking the poll? Either multi-part questions or inadvertantly insulting?
I say this because when the report came out a few years ago that the majority of Americans don’t know that the earth goes around the sun, my interest was piqued enough to track down the details of the poll.
In that case, the questions used to generate the result that Americans don’t know that the earth revolves about the sun were tacked onto another poll, for cost reasons, and were somewhere in the vicinity of questions 120-130 (I’ve forgotten the exact question numbers). Which means that the respondants would have had to have been on the phone for at least an hour before even getting to the question.
Further, unlike the current example, the question was not asking about the relationship of the earth to the sun directly, but about the length of the year. After looking over the question and possible answers, none of the possible answers was entirely accurate. But the results were reported as indicating that Americans don’t know that the earth revolves about the sun.
At least in this example the wording of the question is a bit clearer. But I can’t get too worked up over telephone polls results.
“…I am often told that I am being prayed for and I have no quick response.”
“I’ll pray for you.”
“Then I will think for both of us.”
Although I would like to claim this as my own, I think I saw it in comments here a few weeks ago.
Steve C: Apparently many of us Texans feel that way about 95% of us. You must know a different 5% than I know. Or maybe those of us making up the 5% are just spread too thin. Texas is big.
Dan S. says
“. If I taught how to make a pussy-magnet for their car”
I now have stuck in my head the image of a car whose hood ornament is an artificial vagina encrusted with iron filings and paper clips. But hey, it’s more welcome than this poll, so . . .
VancouverBrit, blog pimp says
My own example was a beloved teacher running her fun weekly quiz from a book she had (girls vs. boys, candy for the winners). One of the answers she read out when everyone was stumped included the words “because you can’t see steam”. The whole class of 8-year olds erupted in cries of “yes you can!”. She replied that no, you couldn’t see steam, because it said so in a book.
Incidentally, this was the same teacher who asked the class who went to church, and said that she was shocked and worried when only a handful of kids put their hands up. I actually asked my parents if we could go to church that Sunday so I could suck up to her the next day! They’ve never let me forget that one and bring it up every time I assert my atheism. “But you were the one who wanted to go to church when you were 8!!”.
BTW, I would love some feedback from the science educators out there on this post: http://vwxynot.blogspot.com/2007/06/on-origin-of-tumours-by-means-of.html
I could be way off base due to sleep deprivation (thank you United Airlines for rerouting me yesterday to save me time and then getting me in 4 hours late), but I think it’s an interesting idea!
Actually — that and the existance of we Scots!
(or should that be ‘wee’ Scots)
Christian Burnham says
You complain about ‘teacher bashing’, but then go on to insult the kids you teach.
Do they know that you think they’re idiots?
Matt Penfold says
It is sad for me to note that there some, too many in my view, of those fighting against creationism who have no wish to educate the public. As far as they are concerned the public can believe whatever stupid ideas they want just so long as they do not try to have creationism taught in schools. When I tried pointing that this was a short-sighted strategy and that just winning law suits was not going get you very far I just got insulted for my pains (Although being called a “fucking moron” by a certain person is probably something to be worn as a badge of honour). How long has the pro-evolution side being fighting the court battles ? And what progress has been made ? Sod all it would seem.
The way to stop people believing in stupid things is to educate them. Education, at least good education, does not come cheap. Teaching should not be a seen as a job done by people who cannot get a “real” job, but as one of those most important jobs anyone can do. Well educate people are less likely to believe in creationism, or in god(s) at all, and by having a educated population there is less likely that the rest will try to push creationism and the like on the rest of us. I would like to see a society where scientific illiteracy carries a social stigma, where someone who claims the earth is only a few thousand years old is not taken serious, and would never be able to run for political office but instead is laughed at.
I was lucky in that I had an excellent physics teacher at school. For one period each week rather than try to teach us science he got us to discuss something that had been in the news that week, normally but not always science related. He made us evaluate how reported surveys could have been skewed, or the people behind the survey might have their own agenda. In otherwords he taught us critical thinking skills, for which I have been forever grateful. He also encouraged us to pursue our own interests in science. For example when we were learning about the structure of the atom I pointed out that the atom would seem to consist of nearly absolutely nothing. He got me to calculate how much of the volume of a hydrogen atom was taken up with matter using rough and ready data I already had (With the rounding I had done I actually worked out that as a first appoximation a hydrogen atom does not contain any matter at all!). The same teacher also taught astronomy, and had me work out the relative dimensions of the solar system if the sun was the size of a beachball. Pluto ended up being a couple of miles away if I recall, and the nearest star was in the middle of Africa somewhere (I live in the IK). We actually went out an measured the distances of the planets around school grounds. It was a brilliant way of showing how big space is!
I would like all kids to have a teacher like I did.
This is but one angle of one angle of a fundy doctrine. Jesus is pretty clear he forgives all sins even unrepentant ones. But he calls one to repent.
But there are many religions and sects.
Which means that the respondants would have had to have been on the phone for at least an hour before even getting to the question.
That’s insane. Nowadays, any type of phone interview is suspect, with all the unlisted numbers and cell phones. Go longer than 25 minutes or so and the data is pretty much crud. You can even test this by repeating a question you asked up front, and seeing if the response changes.
Mark Borok says
My 5th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Macdonald, once spent an entire class trying to convince us that giant clams were threatening Cape Cod, attacking people and what not. He was extremely adamant about it, until the very end of class when he told us he had been lying. The lesson was not to believe everything you’re told, even by a teacher.
We need more teachers like that.
Matt Penfold says
With regards steam being invisible, my understanding is that it is, and what we see when we think we see steam is in fact steam condensing to water vapour. Of course this does not excuse the teacher who should have known this. I know that in the days when ships when powered with steam turbines it was usual to keep lengths of timber at various points in the engine room. This was because if a leak occurred in a high pressure steam pipe you could not see the leak, and walking past the leak was likely to be painful: So when a lead was suspected the crew would use a length of timber held out in front of them to search for the leak. When the timber started charring you knew where the leak was.
Morons – no. But people who really aren’t interested in the bigger world around them – yes.
Have you looked at what passes for “news” these days? The American public is more interested in whether or not Paris Hilton is going back to jail than what the results of the G8 summit might be. The cold war could be coming back, we are in a quagmire in the middle east, yet it is more of a concern what kind of new electronic bling is coming out on the market.
If a person is more interested in what is happening in the entertainment world and hanging out with friends getting drunk, they are most likely going to muddle along in life. It doesn’t really matter what education you give them, they just don’t care and aren’t about to start.
Mark, (#71) your story sounds like one I tell my students. I do my best to convince them that the government of Monaco is trying to make their country bigger by insisting that every citizen bring back one bucket of French soil every time they re-enter the country. They pour it into the Mediterranean and are slowly making their country bigger. Some of them believe me, some don’t. I’m impressed by the small number who spend a couple of minutes on Google to find out if I’m lying to them. The vast majority just accept it as fact.
Matt Penfold says
From the sound of it some of your students would have trouble knowing where Monaco and France are! Which reminds me of an idea I once had to stop Bush invading anymore countries. There should be a law that prevents a country invading another unless at least 50% of the population can find the country to be invaded on a map. It would have stopped the invasion of Iraq I suspect but might make Mexicans and Canadians worried.
Well, I am a French teacher so I hope by the end of the year they can find it on a map – but when they come into my class on the first day? Not a chance! One of my goals is to expand their mindset a bit beyond their neighborhood, but I am annually amazed/saddened at just how small the world is for many of them.
People will learn what is important to know, or what is interesting to know. For the majority of Americans, evolution doesn’t really fit the bill. There will always be a certain percentage of the population who will expand their knowledge because they want to, but that percentage isn’t very large. Sadly, what you see on TV these days is what the average person cares to know about.
I was never good at science. Reading the Ancestor’s Tale was a challenge for me – not because I don’t read well, but because the concepts in it were not my area of expertise. It was time well spent. I can say that when I was in high school, I was in all honors classes, including biology. I’m sure we talked about evolution. But I never really “got it” until I was old enough to really think about it. How many people out there will take the time to go back and repeat what they did in sophomore year biology class just because they are now able to understand it? Very few. Paris Hilton’s antics at the jail are just more interesting and less work for them to understand.
So it really doesn’t surprise me at all that so many people doubt evolution. Even if it’s taught at the HS level, it may not sink in. Wheareas you are exposed to the creationist story from the beginning, and it’s much simpler to understand.
Really, is anyone surprised that somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of Americans are total morons. I knew that from observing my neighbors when I was growing up.
I am not sure if I like these teacher-is-lying exercises. It’s not hard to see how that’s going to play into the hands of the anti-science crowd, particularly the creationists.
guh, depressing… can’t help wondering why, since theory of evolution is valid, haven’t dumbasses died out?
Just to put your mind at ease McG, I always tell them the next day that I was kidding about the Monaco thing. Then I give them the real scoop – Monaco is indeed growing its territory, but not by having its citizens bring buckets of dirt from France. They are undergoing a project of reclaiming land from the sea, which is actually more intersting than the BS I gave them the previous day.
I’m just curious to see how many of them will take the initiative to look it up on their own and call me on it. They think it’s kind of cool when they can come tell me I was wrong, and then explain how it’s really being done.
There will always be a certain percentage of people–very likely a majority–who are too stupid or too ignorant to understand the world around them. These people are the world’s ditch diggers, creationists, cannon fodder and Republicans. There’s no point in wasting money attempting to educate them as they are impervious to reality. The best we can do is work to corral the stupid in defined geographic areas and keep them as far away from the levers of power as possible. Anything else is just a waste of money and human effort that could be put towards solving real problems.
For some reason, I’m thinking about baseball (and fast-pitch softball.)
They say baseball is 75% pitching. Is it? No. How can it be? It’s 50% defense and 50% offense. Pitching is part of defense. Therefore, pitching must be less than 50% of what baseball is all about. (There are additional ways in which one may support this conclusion, but I see no need to go there.)
Still, a dominant pitcher is going to have a significant impact on a game. This much is obvious. However, the single largest determining factor in the outcome of an at-bat is not the pitcher – it’s the batter. The pitcher serves up pretty much the same stuff to each batter, and the effectiveness of his stuff is going to be highly dependent on how well the batter is going to be able to handle it. (Or not handle it.)
I suppose it’s obvious where I’m going with this…
The teacher is the pitcher. The students are the opposing lineup. The analogy is imperfect, because the relationships and goals are different, but I stand by it.
The range of success we see in students is largely a result of the willingness and ability of each student to make the most of what the teacher gives them. A teacher does not – cannot – teach every student in such a different way that some succeed impressively, some fail miserable, and the rest fall at various places along the middle of the continuum of achievement. A good (or bad) teacher will have significant impact on the class learning experience, yes – but the single largest determining factor in the experience of each individual student is the student’s ability and motivation to learn.
This is why teacher-bashing (except in specific, justifiable cases) is just wrong. Fruitless. Misdirected. There are MANY factors at work in any educational situation, but experience shows us, time and again. that the kids who really want to learn will do so. To criticise a teacher for noticing that many of them do not particularly care is to point the finger in entirely the wrong direction.
I think it’s pretty obvious that part of the problem we have here in America – which we may view as a problem in the infrastructure of both public and private education – is that teaching is a grossly undervalued profession. This is where capitalism fails. The Market fails to define the correct value for the services provided by competent and accomplished and inspiring educators. Why? Because the bottom line is disconnected from the service. The bottom line manifests as a benefit to society years down the line. Third-graders, even twelfth-graders, don’t provide much (or any) ROI to the schools, so the product of the system doesn’t fund the system – which is why the system (public education) is essentially required to rely on hand-outs (ie public funding of an amount to which the taxpayers are willing to commit.)
PZ Myers wrote:
“44% of Americans think evolution is probably or definitely false, and two thirds think a god created human beings in the last ten thousand years. Those two numbers don’t quite fit together well — those who think a god created humans recently should also consider evolution false.”
It is possible that the numbers are skewed by Catholic respondents. Catholics believe in a God, but do not seriously doubt Darwinian evolution. Perhaps they also think that ten thousand years means “once upon a time, a very long time ago”:
Recall that our only Catholic president spoke eloquently in favor of Darwin’s theory:
“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”
John F. Kennedy, Speech given at Newport at the dinner before the America’s Cup Races, September 1962
Does anyone know of a source on statements about evolution by other American presidents?
About science or about unguided evolutionism?
That’s not even the argument. We have the same concentration of salt in our veins that the ancient oceans had. They’re much saltier, now.
Arnosium Upinarum says
Mats says in response: “About science or about unguided evolutionism?” to the statement “but we can safely say that about half the country is ignorant or deluded about science, anyway.”
What the hell is that thing you refer to as “unguided evolutionISM”???
The statement explicitly mentions that the ignorance or delusion is about SCIENCE. Your characterization of the “other thing” immediately demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt that you have little more than a big boner for reactionary behavior whenever you come across certain key words.
Therefore, its quite clear you must be among the ignorant and deluded.
Scott in Chicago says
I just shook my head in disbelief. This coupled with the news of Andrew Speaker and Paris Hilton is about to do me in!
Christine Janis says
Here’s something that I’ve not seen anyone consider. As an anatomy teacher, I’m continually amazed by how rarely university students in biology have had any type of course in high school about how their own body works, let alone about the conservation of anatomical design throughout vertebrates. I think that the majority of people would be astounded to realise that if you cut open a mouse it would look almost identical inside to a human, let alone that those similarities would extent back even to a fish. If you don’t know the basic framework that all vertebrates share, how can you believe that we might all be related? The basic biological knowledge of similarity of form just isn’t there. Of course, one might hope that the notion that DNA is shared by all living things, but maybe that’s just too abstract to penetrate.
BTW, as an 11 year old, *I* was sent to dentention for contradicting my teacher when she asserted that the sun was the biggest star in the universe, and that the planets and the other stars revolved around it. Sigh. Later she “confessed” that she had been mistaken, but claimed that the Sun was still “one of the biggest stars in the universe”. I was unable to refrain from bursting out — “No it’s not, it’s a fairly small medium-sized star”. Off to detention again.
Mats is rapidly earning himself a place in the Honor Troll Society.
Pierce R. Butler says
Just a few years after the public observances of the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species, and possibly because JFK or his speechwriter had participated somehow in same. Arguably the last decade in which such an overlap might have occurred in the USA.
Otoh, speaking of polls, I bring glad tidings!
Quoth the Barna poll (a well-reputed christian operation), according to Digby:
That works out as over 11 million reversals of born-againism in one year. The second-navel-removal body shops must be thriving.
Curious. The teachers I had who considered maintaining a semblance of discipline in the classroom worth their while were so rare that specific examples really stand out, and I habitually had to correct my teachers on basic facts, especially in science. For instance, my 7th grade science teacher was under the impression that humans were the only organims with fully four-chambered hearts. My 8th grade science teacher, by contrast, was merely under the impression that the egg carried the variable chromosome, and that Punnett Squares would took two weeks to explain.
Keep in mind, also, that I specifically said “overrepresented,” not “uniform.”
No tinfoil required, I agree, I’ve been thinking this for some time. In really affluent neighborhoods, families compete for kindergarten spots. These people know all about standards (although I suspect there’s a good deal of social powermongering involved) and they begin the process of exclusion early. Those who can afford to send their children to the best schools with carefully screened teachers (paid market value for their services, of course) are disdainful and apathetic about the fate of everone else’s kids, and at the most cynical level consider them fodder for exploitation. In the few conversations I’ve had with privileged people, the general attitude I perceive is “if they were really like me, they would have what I have. Therefore poverty = deficiency, and I don’t have to care.”
Fitness is complicated. Oblivious humans have much less stress, and greater social success, than smart ones. Have you noticed that being oblivious makes it easier for people to deal with life in certain ways? To overlook glaring problems and toe the line? This works well in cooperative societies, but it hinders intellectual curiosity — and in extreme cases, when the power structure in entrenched, leads to persecution of those who are different. Being oblivious makes you less of a social target and more likely to pump out children without thinking too much about what will happen to them. I couldn’t find the link, or I would have posted the article I read about how that “unthinkingness” got humans through some tough times when rational people would have limited their birth rate to prevent excessive suffering.
Technology has changed things somewhat, but for a long time there’s been a sort of “stabilizing selection” acting to keep humans in a certain intelligence range, where they were smart enough to be handy, but not smart enough to see through each other or think too far ahead.
Thanks for the example, Mats! You have demonstrated precisely the sort of “thinking” that the scientifically ignorant or deluded portion of the population would come up with.
Ha! That’s great!
You can’t blame free market laissez faire capitalism for teacher pay. It’s a government monopoly. The free market has nothing to do. You pay for it whether you want or not, you can’t decide whether or not to go to school, you can’t decide which school you want, you can’t choose your course of study, and you can’t choose your teacher even if you did choose the subject to learn. If you decide not to pay (through taxation), you go to jail, and if you decide to withhold your business or go to a school that the government hasn’t assigned you, a man with a gun comes to your house. Someone please tell me where they see anything free in that, let alone a market. End compulsory education, privatize the schools, and make some more free schools a la Sudbury Valley or Summerhill. That’s my solution.
PS Privatize doesn’t necessarily mean make it for-profit. Charities are considered private corporations, for example. (And the word corporation just means a body of people.) Or when I say privatize marriage, I don’t mean put Halliburton in charge of it. It just means don’t let the government run it. We all see what happens when the government runs education: it becomes all about making good little citizens that won’t question their bosses and can cheer the latest war against some little country that never threatened us.
(Posted by a libertarian and a former Spanish teacher.)
from Nancy Gee,
a developing problem i have heard from high school (physical) science teachers is that with the number of good science teachers constrained, budgets constrained, and with the population of students who arrive unprepared in junior high math, teachers spend a bunch of time on remediation. that leaves the bright kids who already know the stuff aground and bored. some are self-disciplined enough to push themselves along and farther irrespective of their peers, teaching themselves material. but, like, it’s getting harder and harder to serve them as well the ill-prepared large mode. and good teachers don’t want to compromise in the direction of “physics for poets”, yet that may well be what’s needed to bring the bulk of kids back to science.
what’s to be done?
damned if i know. maybe there is no happy ending. maybe there is. one of many problems is that all China needs is an education system which works half as good as ours, and they’ll still graduate lots of top-notch scientitists, engineers, and math folks.
good for you! not the detention, the daring to stand up to adults irrespective of consequences, and caring enough to do so rather than just callin’ ’em nitwits and walking away.
But teaching them stuff about the moon, apes and bacteria just isn’t exciting enough for them to care.
Heather, I think you might be projecting.
From your post, it sounds more like these subjects aren’t interesting enough to YOU to teach.
I would suggest a sabbatical, followed by spending some time looking at the practical applications of what you are “trying” to teach, so you can relay that to your students.
if you yourself have no interest or knowledge of practical application of the materials you are teaching, how on earth do you expect to hold a student’s interest?
“In grade six, I was given detention for stating that the moon must rotate on it’s axis once each orbit, contradicting my teacher’s assertion that, ‘the same side of the Moon always faced the Earth because it (the Moon) didn’t rotate.”
Congratulations on standing up for the truth. I was much too cowed to do so in the case of a similar idiocy on the part of my 5th grade teacher, who for some unknown reason decided to pretend to have a science lesson (we did not have science (or much else) in the grade schools (K-8) that I went to).