Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Call For More Science Education

Yahoonews reports on a coalition of seventeen science organizations that are urging for more science education, especially on evolution. The article does not say what the science organizations are but the umbrella organization is the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). As Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief or the organization's journal notes:

"The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species, and Elvis is dead."

The corresponding article, which is behind a subscription wall, is called Evolution and its discontents: a role for scientists in science education. In it, the FASEB reports on a survey done on 1,000 likely U.S. voters. They found the following:

  1. 61% thought that living things have evolved - 36% without God, 25% with God.
  2. 53% thought that humans have evolved.
  3. 31% thought that things were created in their present form.

As far as teaching evolution, the breakdown is like this:

  1. 41% not sure about teaching creationism
  2. 22% not sure about teaching evolution
  3. 53% favored teaching evolution
  4. 36% favored teaching creationism
  5. 25% favored teaching ID

Here is where the wheels fell off. Only 23% of those questioned knew that continental drift theory explained the movement of the land masses, that antibiotics do not kill viruses and that humans and dinosaurs were not alive at the same time. Of those respondents

  1. 78% who got all three questions right accepted evolutionary scenarios of life history
  2. 78% favored teaching evolution in schools
  3. 24% thought ID should be taught in schools
  4. 27% though creationism should be taught.
Here is the smoking gun. The percentage of people who favored teaching evolution in schools has a positive correlation with the number of questions they got correct:

  1. 0 to 1 question right: 38%
  2. 2 questions right: 58%
  3. 3 questions right: 78%
Many other factors likely play into this and the r-square for this may not as robust as the researchers let on, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not far off--as mentioned earlier, some of my friends thought that the Creation Museum in Kentucky was really neat and, based on conversations that I have had with them, couldn't find evolution on a map. Sound the alarm!!

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