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Intelligent Design (ID)

Results of Zogby poll of 2006-MAR on ID

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About Intelligent Design (ID):

The Xogby International poll asked questions concerning the teaching of origins of the species in schools, including the belief in Intelligent Design. ID is the belief that some structures in animals and plants are so complex and have components that are so inter-related that they could only have come about as the result of a conscious design by an intelligent agent.  In contrast, the Theory of Evolution suggests that development of the species was driven by purely natural forces without interventions by a creator with super-human knowledge.

In excess of 99% of geological and biological scientists favor of the Theory of Evolution. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that evolution happened, but that Adam and Eve's souls did not develop naturally; they required the intervention of God's creative power. Many conservative Protestants are promoting ID because, in one version, it has a God creating the animal and plant species.

Promoters of ID suggest that it is an alternative scientific theory that says nothing about the identity of the creator. Extraterrestrial visitors from outer space with scientific knowledge well beyond ours could have landed on Earth and created species. ID does not necessarily involve an omnipotent creator God. it merely requires an intelligent species of life with very advanced skills.

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The poll:

On 2006-MAR-06, Zogby International released the results of its poll on the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in public schools. It involved a a random telephone survey of 1,004 subjects between FEB-27 and MAR-02.. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points.

The level of agreement was calculated for the entire sample as well as a function of location, age group, education level, "race," political party support, marital status, presence of children in the family, gender, wages, religion, "born-again" status, etc.

The content of questions 1 to 4, and their results, not reported in Zogby's statement. 1

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Question 5:

Results: 69% say that biology teachers should teach "Darwin's theory of evolution" along with "scientific evidence" against it. 21% say that they should teach "only evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it." 10% were unsure. These sound like answers to a simple question. Unfortunately, subjects probably interpreted the options in a variety of ways:

bulletWhat is the question about? There is ambiguity over the phrase "Darwin's theory of evolution:"
bulletMost probably assumed that the phrase refers to the present Theory of Evolution which the vast majority of scientists accept as fact.
bulletThose subjects who are familiar with the development of scientific thought over the past two centuries might interpret the phrase as referring to Darwin's personal belief that evolution occurs gradually at a more or less constant rate due. Most scientists fully agree with Darwin that evolution was and is driven by natural selection. However, they have rejected Darwin's beliefs of gradualism in favor of punctuated equilibrium. The latter is the belief, supported by scientific evidence, that the development of a new species occurs relatively suddenly, followed by a long interval during which there is little further development before another rapid change happens.
bulletTeaching only Darwin's original theory and ignoring punctuated equilibrium would obviously be an unbalanced treatment of the topic, an indicate a poor treatment of the subject matter.
bulletWhat classes would be involved? There is ambiguity over which classes would be involved:
bulletMost subjects probably interpreted the question as referring to science classes only. Past court rulings have stated that ID and creation science are religious beliefs and are not to be taught in science classes. (Of course, with the recent addition of strict constructionist justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, that court might well reverse its previous rulings.)
bulletSome subjects might interpret the question as referring both to science classes and comparative religion classes. A comparative religion class might have a biology teacher explain evolution, a representatives of the Discovery Institute explaining ID, and an Evangelical pastor explaining creation science. A comparative religion course that taught only evolution would obviously be imbalanced, as would a course that taught only Judeo-Christian-Muslim beliefs in origins.
bulletDoes the question involve ID and creation science? Subjects would probably interpret the question as indicting what beliefs about origins should be taught in science class:
bulletMost subjects would probably interpret the first option as involving the teaching of  "Darwin's theory of evolution," ID, Creation Science, and other religious beliefs about origins in a science class. The second option would allow only the teaching of evolution.
bulletOthers might interpret both options as involving only details of the way in which evolution is taught by itself.
bulletIs it a loaded question?
bulletMany subjects would agree with the vast majority of scientists that there is no evidence that disproves the Theory of Evolution. Although scientists generally agree that there the Theory of Evolution is incomplete because of missing gaps in the data that have not yet been filled in -- and my never be filled in -- most scientists accept evolution as a fact for which there is no evidence proving that it did not happened. Yet the first option might be interpreted as implying that evolution can be disproved.
bulletWhich schools are being referred to?
bulletSome subjects might interpret the question as referring to both public and private schools.
bulletSome might interpret it to refer only to public schools.

What the poll might have asked: More meaningful results might have been obtained if this single  question had been replaced by five specific questions. For example:

bulletWhich of these statements is closer to your opinion? Teachers in science classes should teach:
bulletOnly Darwin's initial beliefs about Theory of Evolution.
bulletThe Theory of Evolution as scientists currently believe it to be.
bulletBoth of the above.
bulletShould alternative theories of the origin of the species (for example Intelligent Design and various religions' beliefs about creation) be:
bulletNot taught in schools.
bulletTaught in comparative religion classes only.
bulletTaught in science classes only.
bulletTaught in both comparative religion and science classes.
bulletWhich of these statements is closer to your opinion: Should the teaching of origins in science class involve
bulletOnly the Theory of Evolution?
bulletThe Theory of Evolution and other beliefs that have been proposed, like Intelligent Design and Creation Science and other stories of origins from a variety of religions
bulletWhich of these statements is closer to your opinion:
bulletTeachers in science classes should teach the Theory of Evolution along with support and criticisms of that theory.
bulletTeachers in science classes should teach the Theory of Evolution with only the scientific evidence that supports it.
bulletWhich of these statements is closer to your opinion: Parochial and other private schools
bulletShould be free to teach any and all theories of the origins of the species in science classes.
bulletShould only teach the Theory of Evolution on science classes.

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Question 6:

Results: 77% agree that when Darwin's Theory of Evolution is taught in schools, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to "an intelligent design of life." 19% disagree. The wording of this question is also problematical:

bulletThe debate and court cases concerning ID are not related simply to whether ID should be taught in public schools. A course in a comparative religion class which teaches Evolution, ID, creation science, and beliefs of non-Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions can probably be designed to be constitutional. It can be argued that with such a large percentage of American adults believing in either theistic Evolution or creation science, that it is important that students be taught the great diversity of beliefs about origins. Otherwise they will not be familiar both with the scientific explanation and the various religious explanations of origins of the species. Students would end up being only partly educated on the topic.

The
conflict involves the teaching of ID in science classes of public schools. Teaching of Evolution -- a scientific belief -- along with ID and creation scientists -- religious beliefs -- is not permitted according to past decision by various courts. Of course, as suggested above, if the cases on which these rulings were re-evaluated by the present makeup of the Supreme Court, they might well reach a different conclusion.
bulletWhenever scientists are faced with a new observation that does not fit into existing theories, there are two logical routes that they might follow:
bulletThat God or some other supernatural entity created a miracle.
bulletThat a new explanation based on predictable laws is yet to be discovered.

All of science is based on the assumption that miracles do not happen. The universe operates according to predictable laws, of which many have yet to be discovered. If miracles involving the suspension of the laws of the universe, then searching for those laws would be a fruitless endeavor. Thus, the assumption that some supernatural entity created new species or new organs in existing species cannot be considered a scientific belief. There can be no scientific evidence proving ID unless one is first able to prove that the foundational assumption on which science is based is false. That is, one would have to prove the existence of a supernatural entity. This has never been accomplished.

Faced with gaps i knowledge and data that cannot be explained, scientists are forced by their initial assumptions about the universe to assume that there is a natural explanation for the phenomenon that has yet to be discovered. They do not create supernatural explanations, but merely say: "We don't know."

More meaningful data might have be obtained from the poll if the suggested questions above were substituted for Zogby's Question 5 and 6.

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Reference used:

  1. "Results from nationwide poll," 2006-MAR-06, at: http://www.discovery.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

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How you got here:

Home page > Intolerance/conflict news >  here

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Copyright 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-MAR-09
Latest update: 2006-MAR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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