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Answers in Genesis Cheats on Poll Findings

John Stear

A recent poll commissioned by "The People for the American Way" has been seized on by creationists who have completely skewed the results to make it appear that they favour creationism.  This is yet another example of the way creationists misrepresent the facts to suit their cause.

Answers in Genesis, on their web site, boldly claim that:

A new nationwide poll has revealed that most Americans believe that creation should be taught in public schools ... 79% of Americans expressed support in some way for the teaching of creation in public schools.

What AiG does not say is that the majority of those 79% want creation discussed in schools as a belief rather than a competing scientific theory.

AiG goes to great pains to selectively quote from a New York Times article on the poll but fails to acknowledge that the New York Times writer clearly endorses the poll results which show that only 30% of Americans want creationism taught as a scientific theory.  This is a devastating result for creationists whose very raison d'etre is to have creationism recognised as a scientific alternative to evolution and taught in public school science classes.  The New York Times article states:

Most respondents, though, took the middle road, saying that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory, while creationism should also be discussed -- as a religious belief rather than a scientific theory. [emphasis]

The article quotes Dr James B. Miller, a senior associate at the program of dialogue on science, ethics and religion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

Part of what it [the poll] shows is that there is broad public support for the teaching of evolution in the public school science classes, and that for many people, this does not represent any conflict with their religious views.

Creationist Dr. Duane Gish made another of his famous gaffes when, as the New York Times reported:

Dr. Duane T. Gish, a vice president of the Institute for Creation Research, a California group that supports the teaching of creationism, also said he was generally pleased with the results. Dr. Gish maintained, though, that creationism should be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution theory, a position that most poll respondents did not take. [emphasis]

Another interesting result to emerge from the polls is that only about a third of respondents agree with the strict biblical view of creation, and I quote the New York Times again:

Despite scientific evidence of an Earth that is billions of years old and fossils that indicate one species evolving into another, the strictest creationists believe in a literal reading of Genesis: that the universe, Earth and all the planet's species were created a few thousand years ago in essentially their present form.

Only about a third of the respondents in the poll, though, defined creationism this way. Others said they understood it more loosely as referring to God's having created humans, but not necessarily as described in the Bible. People unclear on the exact meaning were read a definition based on the looser version and were told that creationism was sharply in conflict with standard evolutionary theory.

The press release on the poll by the "The People for the American Way" (PFAW) begins:

Nearly three-quarters of a century after science teacher John Scopes was found guilty of breaking Tennessee law for teaching evolution, most Americans have a strong opinion about what should be taught in America’s science classes. In a new nationwide poll on the subject, conducted by DYG, Inc., the polling firm headed by Daniel Yankelovich, and commissioned by People For the American Way Foundation, 83% of Americans say Darwin’s theory of evolution belongs in the nation’s science classes.

This poll focused exclusively on the evolution vs. creationism debate and for the first time produced an in-depth, nationwide look at the way Americans see the both subjects and how they want schools to handle them. The report on the poll says, "Many Americans say schools should teach about creationism, but only a small fraction (less than 3 in 10) want it to be taught about in science class as science, either alongside evolution (13%) or exclusively, in its place (16%)."

Following is a breakup of the poll results among the 83% of those Americans who favour the teaching of Evolution:

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     20% - favour the teaching of evolution alone.

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     17% - favour the teaching of evolution in science classes and religious explanations for the origins of humankind in non-science classes.

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     29% - favour the teaching of evolution in science classes but favour discussing creationism in science classes as a "belief", not science.

Other results were:

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     13% - favour the teaching of evolution and creationism as science.

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     16% - favour teaching only creationism.

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     4% -   favour the teaching of both with no opinion as to how this should be approached.

expbul2a.gif (128 bytes)     1% -   no opinion.

The following point raised in the PFAW press release sums up the polls' devastating result for creationism:

The public is clearly not supportive of attempts by a small, extreme minority to force their religious beliefs into science classrooms either as "Creation Science", (which almost half of Americans have never heard of) or by stripping the teaching of evolution from the curriculum. The poll shows that the majority of Americans (60%) reject the Kansas Board of Education’s 1999 decision to delete Evolution from its state science standards.

The full report on the poll results can be read at Public Wants Evolution, Not Creationism, in Science Classes, New National Poll Shows.

And be sure to read the Special Report, Sabotaging Science: Creationist Strategy in the 1990s mentioned at the bottom of the page. They have hit the nail right on the head.

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