Britons want equal time for creationism

October 27, 2009 • 6:17 am

We often regard the U.S. as a bad outlier among non-Muslim countries in our high acceptance of creationism.  But creationism appears to be on the upswing in the UK, too. (This is the message I got from many UKers when I lectured on The Queen Mary last spring.)  Now an Ipsos Mori poll, reported in Sunday’s Guardian, says that 54% of those surveyed in the UK agree with this statement: “Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.”

This is three points higher than the same response in the U.S.   And although we think of Egypt as a country verging on Islamic fundamentalism, the most striking result was this:

It was found that Britons were almost three times more likely than Egyptians to want creationism and intelligent design to be included in the teaching of evolution.

Now I haven’t seen the poll itself, and we all know that you can bias results by how you ask the questions.  Nevertheless, this is a distressing — though not surprising — outcome.  It’s painful to see a country like the UK regress in this way.  And if it’s real regression, and not just the biased results of one poll, then what social forces are behind it? Dawkins, I think, has attributed it to the rise of Islamic schools, but I doubt that more than a fraction of the 973 Britons polled were Muslims.

27 thoughts on “Britons want equal time for creationism

    1. Well, ok, it isn’t … :-/

      I think the questions are the same, the wording of the teaching question certainly matches so it may give some idea of what was on the Mori poll.

    2. Given it was performed by Ipsos Mori, I strongly doubt that the results are based on an online poll. IIRC the reports said it was done on the street. I suspect Darwin Now has just put the same questions online after the fact

  1. I’d say there’s an explicit problem in the way the question is worded in that it talks of alternatives. Frankly and sadly, a common lack of understanding of the evidence means that people resort to trite principles like “let’s be fair to alternatives” rather than the actual principle of “no equal time without equal evidence.”

  2. The problem could just be due to the world shrinking.

    Global communications are speeding up the flow of information and homogenizing it.

    I get a lot of my news from MyYahoo and iGoogle. Both rely on Reuters and AP as do most other news organizations. When I sit down to read the morning newspaper (yes, I am one of the few who still does that) I have already read more than half of the stories verbatum.

  3. Well, I haven’t gone off like that for a while.

    Anyway, seeing as it is a pucka Isos Mori poll on thousands of people the question is why?

    I suspect the belief in creationism in the UK is wide but shallow in that, like religion, the vast majority of people won’t have thought about the issue at all until the pollster approached them in the street and then, not having thought about it they ticked the middle position for each question, I would be interested to see what the other questions came up with and what the demographic breakdown was.

  4. Becker got it right. Biology and physics are no match for emotional subjectivity. Until individuals recognize the gravity of psychological issues, educational efforts will be tantamount to striking a wet match. Or, perhaps, Ken Ham has pimpin’ overseas distribution cartels.

  5. I don’t think this, in the UK setting, is really a vote in favor of teaching creationism. Creationists are a tiny minority in the UK and the rest consider their beliefs to be goofy. What I think it reflects is a simple lack of interest in biology as a subject. What you are seeing is a false dichotomy being presented – teach science in biology class or teach science and one non scientific alternative.
    In that situation the people who don’t really care about biology will vote for the most ‘fair’ option, i.e. teaching both.
    I suspect you would get a similar result if you substituted ‘new age’ thinking in place of creationism in the poll.
    I cannot recall a science/creationism poll that has not relied on using a dichotomy of science versus Christian creationism rather than a more realistic choice of science versus Christian creationism versus Muslim creationism versus Hindu creationism versus Greek creationism versus Mayan creationism versus Scandinavian creationism versus Chinese creationism etc
    When put like that I suspect the result would be strikingly different.

  6. i’m pretty sure that the UK population is not actively creationist. they just simply have no idea why something is or is not taught in school, or what science and a scientific theory is. so, of course, they will fall back to the default “balanced” approach: the wider range of ideas children hear in school, the better.

    i suspect that the same population would answer “yes” to the following option: “Theory of general relativity should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as Aether theory.”

    btw, i would really like to see a poll, where (beside the question, whether the surveyed prefers the teaching of evolution or creationism) a couple of questions test their knowledge of the theory of evolution and science in general.

  7. I blame the scientists. That Dawkins sure ain’t no Sagan. Oh, and Pluto.

    It’s all the fault of those shrill, militant New Atheists.

    It’s due to the discomforting effects of literalism. People crave mystery, meaning, and warm farts.

    1. No, no, no.
      Chris Mooney told us recently that Dawkins is now an accomodationist.
      Now what happens?
      The level of acceptance of creationism rises!
      Richard, go back to your non-accomodationist religion bashing ways before its too late!

  8. It is not unconstitutional to teach creationism or intelligent design in the U.K. America has had to think about creationism in the classroom. The closest Britain has come to facing the issue, and waking more people up to it, is the Emmanuel College in Gateshead debacle.

    1. True, but unlike the US there are nationally set curricula in the UK so the is little opportunity to try and sneak creationism into the classroom by having people elected to local authorities.

      1. There is opportunity in faith schools and in private schools, even if children might have to learn some token facts for GCSE science.

      2. New academies have more freedom about what the teach. It is a ridiculous situation, you pay a minimal amount, the government pays the rest and you can teach crap like creationism.

  9. The wording of the question really is just about guaranteed to get a lot of yes responses – in fact I’m surprised it’s so low. You have to know at least a little about the subject even to know what it’s getting at, and most people don’t; plus the question is framed to elicit a ‘yes sure that sounds right.’

  10. “Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.”

    I didn’t know that magic is another “possible perspective.” Well, ok, it is (clearly one can have that perspective), but the implication is that magic is another “possible scientific perspective.”

    Of course other “scientifically possible perspectives” should at least be open to teaching, which is what the poll is implicitly asking. Meaning that is was heavily weighted toward the junk science.

    Glen D

  11. Hi Jerry,

    The poll is actually the one done for the British Council and released in July this year.

    Old news recycled.

    You are right in guessing that the questions leave a lot to be desired.

    The battle here in the UK is very different in flavour to that in the states as we have only gov guidelines to teachers and no legal bar on religion in the government education sector.

    The main creationist groups in the UK (and those on tour from the US and Australia) seem to be concentrating on getting into schools and preaching to kids with as little publicity as possible.

    In the past year we have seen examples of schools buying Yaha books for their library, parent governors alarmed at creationist influence from staff spouses and even a teacher being put under pressure to cover creationism or risk their job.

    With no legal protection we (BCSE) usually offer verbal support/advice and press contacts for publicity but so far each person has decided to keep things confidential and we certainly won’t go against their wishes.

    If anyone from the Uk wants to help out we are here;

    Cheers Jerry,

    Psi (BCSE Committee)

  12. From what I understand about 970 people, not thousands, were asked this question in the GB. As the polling method and analysis is not mentioned I do not think that a lot should be read into this poll. Also the question asked seems to have a built in bias for getting a “yes” answer,but then again I’m not a statistician.

  13. The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won’t feel
    stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.
    Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities.
    There is a belief among ethnic minority parens that the British schooling does not adequatly address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response.

    State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

    Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual
    Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Muslims have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their
    culture. This notion of “integration”, actually means “assimilation”, by which people generally really mean “be more like me”. That is not multiculturalism. In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school,
    because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and
    racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build their own religious schools.

    British schooling and the British society is the home of institutional racism. The result is that Muslim children are unable to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, therefore, majority of them leave schools with low grades. Racism is deeply rooted in British society. Every native child is born with a gene or virus of racism, therefore, no law could change the attitudes of racism towards those who are different. It is not only the common man, even member of the royal family is involved in racism. The father of a Pakistani office cadet who was called a “Paki” by Prince Harry
    has profoundly condemned his actions. He had felt proud when he met the Queen and the Prince of Wales at his son’s passing out parade at Sandhurst
    in 2006 but now felt upset after learning about the Prince’s comments. Queen Victoria invited an Imam from India to teach her Urdu language. He was highly respected by the Queen but other members of the royal family had no respect for him. He was forced to go back to India. His protrait is still in one of the royal places.

    There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
    Iftikhar Ahmad

  14. “Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.”

    This is an inherently deceptive statement, because it implies intelligent design and creationism are on equal footing with evolution. Push-polling.

  15. I don’t think creationism or ‘Intelligent Design’ have received anything like the coverage in the UK media that they have in the US.

    I would suspect that a lot of people polled didn’t really quite know what either of these terms meant. The question might well have sounded like ‘should we teach a few theories in science lessons, or just one?’

    Even well-informed friends of mine have never heard of Intelligent Design, which isn’t surprising as it was invented for very specific, US-constitution related reasons.

    Were the respondents given a decent explanation of what each idea meant before they answered the poll?

    1. From my perspective it would seem there is room for a compromise between evolution and creationism with the hypothesis contained in Intelligent Design Message from the Designers. Here we have an explanation which allows both sides to be partly correct.Problem here is one has to consider many issues at once,including history, all forty of the worlds religions modern science now and in the near future and not least the idea of advanced scientists elsewhere in our galaxy.We as a humanity are on our own but not alone. Once one understands the hypothesis, then the original intent behind all the world religions becomes clear. The difficulty for many scientists is to be able to look at historical and religious texts for the traces of evidence, for fear of being labelled a ‘creationist’. However with the work of Craig Ventner our scientists will soon become creators of life and then we can understand how our ancestors mistook those from the sky,as being gods. Science fiction? Well if it is would make a superb theme for a film. One thing that is not science fiction in this hypothesis are the dangers of nuclear war. Also explains why ET who are clearly very scientifically advanced in that they logically must have come form other solar system.Why do they not come down officially? They are simply waiting for our humanity to either’cook’ ourselves or prove we are worthy of meeting them. It is up to all of us. I mean if you were an advanced scientist, would you want to land on a planet openly where people are still killing their own, let alone complete strangers. Dawkins I believe uses a picture of an atomic explosion, in order to illustrate what could happen as a result of religious irrationality.By the same token I would suggest that in ignoring this hypothesis, and worshipping at the ‘alter’ of Darwin, their ‘religious zeal’ has created a certain degree of self-satisfied complacency ,which could end up in the same result as Dawkins suggests for his intellectual opponents.

      1. Let us know what drugs you are taking Ben when you come down off of that massive dose. That comment has not one meaningful sentence in it.

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