February 16, 2004

Return of scary poll numbers

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at February 16, 2004 5:01 PM

ABC News conducted a poll studying the prevalence of biblical literalism. The results are good news for tolerance and bad news for science: Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, but a majority believe that "the" creation story is literally true. (Why the scare quotes? Within the first two chapters of Genesis are two creation stories, which contradict each other. At the very least one of them cannot be literally true.)

I remember commenting on a Nick Kristof column in which he stated that 72% of Americans disbelieve evolution -- a statistic I doubted at the time. It suddenly seems a lot more plausible given this result; you only need 11% to deny evolution on grounds other than biblical literalism. In light of these appalling numbers, I should be happy that evolution is taught at all, and ecstatic that it's surviving challenges in places like Georgia.

I wonder about the origin of these beliefs: is it a failure of education, or anti-science/anti-intellectual attitudes, or just religious fervor? (I'm sure it's a mixture of the three, but is there a dominant factor?) And what, if anything, can be done to improve the situation?

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