Friday, June 02, 2006

The great Kansas evolution confusion

On the newly infamous survey showing that 72 percent of Kansas voters support teaching alternatives to evolution, two interesting posts have popped up in the Kansas blogosphere.

The illustrious Red State Rabble and Thoughts From Kansas have entered the discussion with some interesting perspectives on the way the survey question was written. As I note in my previous post, the wording of the question is suspect.

Rabble says:

We would have preferred a series of questions that probe the issue more deeply. We think voters have a more nuanced view than this particular question is capable of getting at.

I agree. Josh over at Thoughts From Kansas takes off on Rabble’s point and lists a series of questions that might gauge Kansan’s ideas better. Out of his long list, my favorites are:

* Would you be more likely to support a candidate who supports only teaching accepted scientific theories in science class? Or a candidate who favors teaching unscientific ideas alongside scientific theories?

* Should discussion of the role of God or other deities in the universe be the responsibility of a student's parents and spiritual advisors or should the student's teachers also discuss that topic?

The first question gets at the real point of the argument, which for me is that SurveyUSA falsely equated a scientific theory with unproven ideas.

The second question is interesting because it raises an issue creationists like to ignore. If we bring religion into the classroom – even the thinly disguised religion of intelligent design – then we put the discussion of God and theology into the hands of K-12 teachers who could personally disagree with the narrow brand of Christianity favored by creationists. Somehow, I doubt that fundamentalists would be thrilled with the idea of a secular minded teacher discussion God with their kids.

Josh says and I agree:

The point I'm trying to get at is that poll questions about evolution ought to disentangle people's natural and praiseworthy desire for all sides of an issue to be presented from the issue that not all of the alternatives being offered are actually scientific, and presenting non-science as science is dishonest.

I also want to point folks toward my previous post on this and note that I still believe the public is confused because scientists are failing to explain evolution and the scientific method. The folks who are pushing intelligent design are campaigning all over this state, while scientists remain silent. That may be the real tragedy here.

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