Friday, June 02, 2006

New Kansas poll unsettles, thrills & confuses

A poll released today by The Wichita Eagle and KWCH12 News is simultaneously unsettling, baffling and encouraging.

First, the unsettling part...

The Survey USA poll of 501 registered voters conducted Tuesday and Wednesday found that 72 percent of those surveyed would be more likely to support pro-intelligent design Board of Education candidates. The full question poll participants answered is:

Would you be more likely to support a candidate who supports teaching only the theory of evolution? Or a candidate who supports teaching alternative theories to evolution?
This is unsettling, at least for me, because I have seen what I thought was a swing away from support for the ultra-conservative and anti-evolution state board of education. See yesterday's rant here.

On the other hand, The Eagle reports:

Also by a wide margin, a majority of respondents rejected a move by conservative board members -- still pending -- to adopt abstinence-only guidelines for sex education classes. Instead, by 2-to-1 ratio, respondents preferred a safe-sex curriculum that includes information on birth control.
This is thrilling because it highlights the opposition I've been seeing to the state board and leads me to believe that, no, I haven't been hallucinating.

My feeling -- as yet unproven -- is that support for intelligent design in Kansas is, in part, driven by the fact that no one has been arguing for evolution or explaining the scientific method. Scientists have largely been AWOL from the public debate. You simply cannot win in the court of public opinion if you refuse to show up.

Scientists, for example, failed to take part in a hearing held by the state Board of Education on the topic. The scientific viewpoint, thus, was absent while the public read and saw repeated news accounts promoting intelligent design. Although a lawyer was used to try to poke holes in the theory of intelligent design, evolution was never argued, discussed or explained.

Of course, the high support for so-called "alternative theories" shown by the poll may also be an artifact of the way the question was written. The question's wording automatically implies that evolution and other explanations are equal theories. I wonder what would have happened if the poll had asked specifically about intelligent design. The way this question was phrased gives equal validity to evolution, intelligent design, creationism, and of course, the ever-popular flying spaghetti monster.

Meanwhile, The Eagle also reports:

Voters ranked health care, illegal immigration and school funding as the most important issues that will determine how they vote in elections this year.
Stay tuned for further developments.

1 comment:

Gregory Frost said...

Kansas is going to add a new state motto to go along with the unintelligent design movement.

New Motto: "Kansas...We've Always Been Like This"