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December 05, 2003

Scientists and their beliefs

In my pervious post on the religious beliefs of scientists I neglected to mention that Larson & Witham's data set was a sample of questionnaires returned from individuals they found in American Men and Women of Science. This was likely a somewhat more selective sample than the one used in the Carnegie study which showed more religious belief. In fact, the Carnegie study itself is likely biased, since it surveyed scientists who worked in an academic setting.

To review, here were the numbers:

The Carnegie study in 1969 of 60,000 Academics showed about a 25-30% "No religion" response for scientists[1].

The 1996 study by Larson & Witham of scientists (600 responded out of 1000 mailed) in American Men and Women of Science showed about a 40% non-belief and 20% agnosticism rate.

A 1998 follow-up that surveyed National Academy of Sciences members (the elite of the elite, 250 responded out of 500 mailings) gave a 95% agnosticism & non-belief rate!

The big picture is this: the average working scientist that you might meet on the street, is likely to have conventional beliefs. The woman working at DuPont all week might be at mass on Sunday morning, while the chemical engineer in Texas is plausibly at a Bible Study meeting when he isn't with his family or at the refinery.

But, and this is the big caveat that the mainstream media ignored when they did not react nearly to the same extent to the N.A.S. survey as to the American Men and Women of Science survey-the scientists who have high academic profiles and publish mainstream books and show up on Charlie Rose to discuss the latest social issue are likely to have unconventional beliefs. Many people don't know working scientists on a personal level, and so the only time they get to hear scientists talk is when the big personalities are making the rounds promoting a book. Anyone that has seen James Watson speak can easily glean in his voice the contempt for all in the world that is not Him, including God. This is probably a tendency of Great scientists today, but it does give the public an unflattering image.

fn1. It seems that if the general population is any clue around half of the people with "No religion" should be theists. On the other hand, I suspect some of the scientists who give a religion are like Freeman Dyson, not really believers in a personal God as much participants in the social life of their community and family. So though 25-30% is probably a high estimate for non-believers among academic scientists, I suspect it is a closer aproximation than among the general population because of the pecularities of scientists. Also, note that since 1970 the percentage who give the "No religion" response has increased by two to three times.

Posted by razib at 08:33 PM | | TrackBack

The estate tax and the "Dark Ages"

Recently I heard some people talking about the estate tax (death tax). Someone commented how reducing it might perpetuate *medieval* patterns of familial wealth. All of a sudden a cascade of thoughts were triggered, and I recalled, as noted Adam Bellow's new book on nepotism, "medieval" inheritance laws were much more progressive than classical ones when viewed through the lens of the estate tax, and perhaps more progressive than most modern regimes. As noted by Bellow, the Church in the post-Roman world was active in campaigning against the system of extended families and fictive kinship which characterized European societies. Adoption, bequests to nieces and nephews and incestuous marriages were on the "hit list" of the church. As Bellow notes, with the destruction of the ideological monopoly of the Universal Catholic Church in the 16th century, all of these patterns of social life reappeared in European society. One of the consequences of allowing inheritance only to direct blood descendents in an age with high infant morality was that much of the land went to the Church.

When it is remembered that in the medieval period the Church was much like a state, in form and function, it might be interesting to think that it was a more progressive period as far as wealth distribution across generations than the period after the Reformation. A more general point: the idea of "Dark Age" after the fall of Rome in the 5th century and the rise of the Italian city-states in the 15th needs to be revised. Some history books state clearly that the Dark Age lasted only until 1000, after which the High Middle Ages expressed a far more sophisticated culture. But in the general public, the idea of an uncultured and intellectually narrow period persists. Why is this? I tend to agree with David Gress, who argues in From Plato to Nato that secular intellectuals of the 18th century Enlightenment, and culminating in the seminal 20th century work of historian Will Durant, attempted to minimize the Roman, and especially Christian, element of Western civilization in favor of the Greek Democratic non-Christian tradition. Many children today in the United States think of their nation as the heir of the Athenian democracy, not knowing that our classically educated founders rather self-consciously emulated the Roman republic. Those of us who are consider ourselves secular, but adhere to the faction of Truth, should work to reverse this historic injustice. The period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance was not a fallow period, but played a crucial role in the incubation of the modern, liberal, ideals of the West.

Posted by razib at 06:04 PM | | TrackBack

November PLOS

Hope readers have been checking in on PLOS, there was a primer on genomics and a cool article on the phylogenetic history of army ants (that's the 7 year old in me getting excited) in the November issue.

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December 04, 2003

Culture wars in Europe

The debate over whether God and Christianity should be mentioned in the preamble to the European Union's Constitution is causing controversy. What I find interesting is that those who support the inclusion seem to be mostly Catholic-while the French and the Protestant nations seem to be set against it. An Italian asserts: "If you go from one end of the continent to the other, what is it that says you are in Europe?...The presence of the church." Which church does he exactly mean? I think some of the tension has to do with Europeans who oppose the merest hint of a One True Church (the French + the Protestants) and others who can not imagine their identity without Catholicism (Poles, Irish, etc.).

Posted by razib at 10:35 PM | | TrackBack

String theory
Posted by razib at 11:31 AM | | TrackBack

Arab Americans

Report on Arab Americans from the CENSUS (PDF). Interesting that 30% of self-reported "Arabs" also reported non-Arab ancestry. I lived in an area of western Pennsylvania where there was a historic Syrian Arab population. It was mostly Christian and they were very intermarried after 2-3 generations. It was interesting to note that when we went to local Muslim meetings there were a few old women whose parents were from Syria. All their children had married Americans and were no longer Muslim. They were totally assimilated aside from religion.

Posted by razib at 01:39 AM | | TrackBack

Best wi-fi sites?

Does anyone know of a really good national Wi-Fi directory? Something better than Wi-Finder.

Posted by razib at 12:46 AM | | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Deduction vs. Induction

Question for readers. Please read the following definitions:

Induction: The process of deriving general principles from particular facts or instances.

Deduction: The process of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises; inference by reasoning from the general to the specific.

Now, please answer these poll questions:

Which definition did you know?
I knew the definition for both
I knew the definition for induction
I knew the definition for deduction
I didn't know the definition for either
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Results so far: 81, 1, 8, 3....

I want to blog on the topic of deduction & inductive reasoning in our culture today in the near future, but am curious to get some data samples from GNXP readers to test a few hypotheses that are floating in my head....

Posted by razib at 11:12 PM | | TrackBack

Evolution: the general and the specific
Posted by razib at 04:06 PM | | TrackBack

Quotas, Affirmative Action, 'Race Neutral' Means of Acheiving Diversity

All amount to quotas, and 'race neutral' means of acheiving diversity may be the worst. Unfortunately, even many 'conservative' political leaders, including President Bush and the Supreme Court, support some form of quotas/racial preferences.

One way to get X percent (X percent is the desired percentage in each case) of some minority is that an organization could simply mandate X percent (a direct quota). Or they could predict that X percent of a minority would be admitted if Y points are added to that minority group's applications, and thus mandate that Y points are added to each 'underrepresented' minority application. Or, an organization could predict that X percent of a minority would be admitted if the top Z percent of high school students at every high school were all required to be admitted to that organization, and then require admitting that top Z percent of high school students. Yet another alternative to admit X percent of an 'underrepresented' minority would be to enact a "comprehensive review" system and invent whatever criteria are necessary to acheive the goal of admitting X percent of a minority, which is essentially what the UC system in California has done.

In all four cases, approximately the same X percent of some minority gets admitted over more qualified applicants who are not 'underrepresented' minorities. All four systems add up to quotas, though only the first is called 'quotas' by most people, either due to ignorance or a political agenda. The last two methods are actually the worst, because they can allow grossly underqualified applicants of all races to be admitted into prestigious universities. The bottom line is, even if you believe some group has faced terrible injustices (which I am highly skeptical is a signficant factor today), admitting a person of that group to Berkeley when that person will have a severely reduced chance of receiving a solid degree (i.e., one that can allow significant economic advancement) is not a realistic way of correcting those injustices.

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December 02, 2003

If you are single....

Portly Popular in Portland, San Fran Likes Smarts, says a survey of Match.com. Some surprises (or not so surprising for some):

...Match.com surveys have consistently shown that gentlemen actually prefer women with light brown hair. Blond hair and dark brown hair tie dead even for second place.
And for what it is worth, the composite of the ideal woman, is a flirtatious, thrill-seeker with an average build, long, light brown hair and a college degree, who doesn't smoke, does drink socially and enjoys public displays of affection.

Women seem to want pretty much the same: a bold, assertive, flirtatious, non-smoking social drinker who has dark brown hair, an average body and a college degree -- who likes to dance.

Posted by razib at 06:43 PM | | TrackBack

They've got a queen

Says The New York Times: Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S..

Say I, dude, don't you feel silly comparing an explicitly bi-national multicultural nation of 29 million to an implicitly multicultural nation of 290 million?

The gist of the article is this: Canada is becoming more like Europe and less like the United States. A lot of this is based on politics and religion.

Canada is more secular than the United States. And its centrist Liberal party would be part of the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party."

But look closer my dear....

16.2% of Canadians have "No religion" according to the latest numbers. For the United States, the latest numbers give a figure of 14.1%.

How to explain the difference? Well, look at this:

Percent who declared "No religion" in 2001:

British Columbia: 36%
Washington: 25%
Imbler: 21%
California: 17%

Interesting cline on the "Western Wall."

Percent who are non-white:

British Columbia: 22%
Washington: 21.1% (includes all Hispanics)
Imbler: 16.5% (includes all Hispanics)
California: 53.2% (includes all Hispanics)


My main point? The numbers for these American states are "non-typical." But a nation of 290 million has a lot of internal diversity. You might as well compare the United States to the E.U. (though it's not a perfect comparison)-where you have secular Sweden and soon-to-be-member Papist Poland (and has religious Ireland).

John Derbyshire once said this:

18. The U.S.A. is a conservative-Republican nation tilted over to the left by black people, who are overwhelmingly socialist. Black Americans are the last big group of people in the world who havenít yet got the news that SOCIALISM DOESNíT WORK....

I could restate that assertion this way, with some inaccuracy, but with a reasonable dollop of truth too:

18. The U.S.A. is a mildly religious pluralist nation tilted over to the religious Protestant end of the spectrum by black people and Southern whites, who are overwhelmingly religious Protestants. Blacks and Southern Americans are the last big group of people in the world (who are of the fat consumer class) who havenít yet got the news that religion isn't cool....

I'm not being fair, but then, neither do I think Derb was being totally accurate. He doesn't know how white people would vote without blacks around (we know how the French would vote with Arabs around). All-white nations like Sweden pioneered democratic socialism. Iriving Kristol once noted that his love affair with socialism began to wane when he was in basic training and encountered rough talking white ethnics and conservative southerners, and realized that multi-ethnic socialism might just become another racket to screw over the capital classes (Jonah Goldberg continues the argument today).

Or would we know how whites would vote without blacks around? Well, they could vote like North Dakota, or like Vermont I suppose. On the latter, lifestyle liberalism tends to retreat from the real physical presence of socioeconomically deprived people of color. 96.2% of people in Vermont are non-Hispanic whites (higher even than neighboring New Hampshire!).

This image is a source of shame for many progressive Americans:

There is an easy way of getting the United States closer to the line: Remove blacks and the whites that tend to live around them.

Here are states with more than 20% "No religion" and their votes for Nader (Left-wing candidate for president for non-Americans) in 2000 and the non-Hispanic white population:

Colorado - 5% & 74.5%
Nevada - 2% & 65.2%
Imbler - 5% & 83.5%
Washington - 4% & 78.9%
Vermont - 7% & 92.6%

(vs. National - 3% & 69.1%)

The United States is a big country with a lot of internal diversity. I am a fan of federalism. There are dozens of social democracies and quasi-social democracies out there. In parts of the United States savage capitalism flourishes. Where else? I have many friends who are always asserting "But in Europe...." But of course, Europe (or Canada) is always going to be there (well, until it becomes Dar-al-Europa, though with mainstream parties like this, that might never happen). There are dozens of European nations with their own internal governments that set their own economic and social policies (until recently). There is only one United States (well, of northern North America at least). And we are more diverse than a total aggregate of the numbers might indicate.

Also, on a more peculiar note, the United States is the most colored of the Great White Powers. Yes, you heard me right, the conservative, racist and religious United States is less than 70% white! Hell, if you don't count Spain (remember, they're Hispanic!), the E.U. is over 95% white. Canada is 86.5% white. Australia is 92% white. New Zealand is 80-85% white. Judging by the rule of thumb that white = bad oppressor and colored = innocents who are little packages of virtue, the United States is the greatest developed nation in the world outside of East Asia (since the Japanese and Koreans are non-white, they are obviously better than the United States when it comes to the race issue).

Oh, and the title? A few years ago I was in Seattle (the abode of my genetic forebears) and a local company was asking Vancouverites how they differed from Seattleites. It eventually came down to the queen. They've got one. We didn't. So would you trade the republic for a queen if you got a secular social democracy where they "respect" freedom of speech but don't "worship" it? I suspect many out there would say "Yes!" Count me out....

Posted by razib at 12:10 PM | | TrackBack

Black like her

As some of you know, FOX TV has decided to showcase racial diversity in the leisured class in a new reality T.V. series.

See the pageantry of color for yourself.

Hint: The girl on the left is African-American....

Ivory & Ebony indeed.

(Check out this column making fun of the situation "control-F" for "black")

Posted by razib at 11:12 AM | | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

Up to medievalism

Yesterday I was listening to a BBC program on NGOs (audio file) while I was working. I suspected they would focus on the country of my birth, Bangladesh, and I was right (part of the series The Giving Game).

If you are a typical citizen-of-the-world, you know the Bangladesh is a mess! Well, then you are well-informed (down below, Cliff Notes on Bangladesh history). I could try to point out that Bangladesh has a sucessful family planning program, or that the Sears Tower was designed by a Bangladeshi expat (you would not believe how many times I was told this when I visited Bangladesh in 1990). But that just tries to put a tiny-ass covering on the big butt-sore that is Bangladesh. After all, there's a reason that well over half of my close family (out to first cousins) is scattered across the world[1].

So back to the BBC special. NGOs are big in Bangladesh. Most of my cousins with business degrees have worked for NGOs at some point. As pointed out in the BBC piece, in many places NGOs serve as quasi-governments. This bothered Claire Short, the Leftish minister of Tony Blair who had issues with his entry into the Iraq War. She wanted to put more money in the hands of the government. This made me a bit angry. She seemed to have the idea that government has a certain natural role in the life of its people, and the role of the other world governments (like the U.K.) was to enable the government of Bangladesh to take charge. But as we all know, Bangladesh is the most corrupt nation in the world. My father likes to joke: even the beggars in Bangladesh are corrupt! Every transaction with a public official requires money. When we got off the plane in 1990 we had to pay the police officers to not look the other way so that beggars wouldn't get the message and swarm us to the point where they would be able to run off with luggage. I won't go any futher-but even if NGOs aren't perfect, I really am skeptical that giving the government of Bangladesh more money has a greater utilitarian value.

You see, as I've noted before, one of the problems with the world today is that you have people at very different levels of civilization all across the world, who live under putatively the same governmental superstructure. The United States is a democratic republic. So is Bangladesh. At leat that is the official line. And of course, well meaning Westerners who are governmental officials and their counterparts in Bangladesh go along with this fiction-the former because their world-view is hemmed in by their own experience, the latter because it is very profitable for them[2].

I have spoken many times about the problems with the juxtposition of the modern world with ancient mindsets. In Bangladesh, much of the same occurs, though because of its linguistically and religiously (relatively) homogenous nature nationalism is more well developed, especially among the literate elites, preventing some of the more extreme manifestations of the clash of cultures. Nevertheless, when I visited Bangladesh in 1990, we went to my mother's home village. There was great excitement, because we were the second group of foreigners to arrive. Earlier in the morning, a woman from Bogra had come to visit a distant relative. Bogra was 100 miles from the location where we resided. To make the point understood: it was clear that among the common people the distinction between Bogra and the United States was somewhat fuzzy, and that it might be plausible to classify Bogra and the United States as equally alien (the fact that we were brown helped of course, but one of my points is that spatial conceptions of distance seemed somewhat vague to illiterate peasant farmers). To explicate further, to denote foreigners in the dialect of Bengali that my family speaks we say bideshi (desh ~ country, Bangladesh = country of Bengalis). This term was used both for the person from Bogra and for us. To expand on this, here is a sampling of questions I was asked by the local people (who were mostly former tenants of my family):

Do you have fish in America? (most common question)
Are people as light as Bibi in America? (Bibi was a field-worker of somewhat tan complexion, which meant that she would probably naturally have been olive)
Do you have railcars in America? (this very common from people that seemed to have travelled a bit)
Do they eat insert type of food in America? (many of these foods I did not recognize, so I can't remember too well what they said)
Do you have insert type of common technology in America?

On a humorous note, it was peculiar having people look at you from every single angle, as several people did, just to make sure that our physical topography conformed to what they knew about human beings.

In any case, the common person in Bangladesh did have a sketchy idea about nations, peoples, etc. that were different from them. But they really did not scale up mentally very well. To be more precise, they knew the definitions of nation, world, village, district, etc., but since they only lived at the village level, their connection to higher levels of organization were only abstract.

And so we come back to Claire Short and those who want to reform the government of Bangladesh. The problem with these people is that they want to make a connection between national government <=> village, as if that is how republican democracies have evolved. Today, in our IT-centered world that is far more atomized that it was 100 years ago, identifications with state/province, town, locality, church, etc. might be more mercurial than they once were, but it was those identifications that were the building blocks for higher levels of organization. The various estates came together to form the nation, and once the idea of nation-hood became strong enough, the estates became symbolic and voluntary.

Villagers in Bangladesh have no well-developed middle-tier organizations between them and the government. Districts governments are as much of a joke as the national government. And so you have NGOs filling the gap. They lend to women, breaking down some of the harsher elements of patriarchy, develop loyalties and confidences and become part of a devolved patronage system. Obviously it's not perfect, but like the guilds or estates of the Middle Ages in Europe they exist in multiplicity, so unlike the government, there is no monopoly of corruption by NGOs. NGOs in Bangladesh are more than your typical non-profit, rather, they serve as resistance points against Islamic fundamentalism and for secular civil society. They are connection points between Bengali Muslim village culture and Western culture.

As many have noted, much of the political backlash agains NGOs in Bangladesh has to do with their opposition to political Islam and social conservatism in general. They have certainly violated the letter and spirit of their mandates to give economic opportunity to the masses, rather, they are engaging in massive social engineering. Now, in the United States "social engineering" is seen as a bad thing (or at least, used as a slur). But in Bangladesh, it is inevitable. The question is what kind of machine Bangladeshi society, and by Bangladeshi society, I mean the 90%+ of peasant backgrounds who are being flash-fried into modernity, will be shaped into. There is an alternative to NGOs in Bangladesh, and it's not the government. Two of my uncles are Wahabbis. One is a mean one, another is a nice one (the mean one is a Biology professor, while the nice one teaches the Koran). The Islamic movement serves as a "way out" of the parochial village life of Bangladesh, into a wider world of the Islamic (Wahabbi) Ummah. They give people purpose, identity and organization beyond the village level. Up until the 20th century Bangladeshi Islam was at its most orthodox of the relatively tolerant Hanafi sect, and more generally was similar in tone to the folk Catholicism of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Bauls, Hindu-Muslim poets would travel the countryside, and Hindu and Muslim villagers would worship the same local saints. Those days are gone. Globalization is inevitable, and the indigenous practices of Bangladesh are dying off. This is good, most Bangladeshis have traditionally been mired in subsistence level poverty! But the two alternatives are not pleasant to the Western bureaucratic mind: a medieval system of assocation with semi-capitalist corporate entities that give employment to all sectors and serve as entry-points for Western culture and values, or an Islamic fundamentalist organizational structure funded by Saudi money that supersedes Bengali national awareness (in the middle to higher reaches of society) and village centered mentalities (among the masses) with a pure primitive Islam (I've been to an anti-America rally in Bangladesh, primitive is the right word)[3].

Before the West was the best, it was medieval, class ridden, corrupt and infested by corporate entities that interposed themselves between the individual and their government (to some extent things haven't changed!). Bangladesh needs to go though its own equivalent stage (as do many nations around the world). Frankly, 1,000 Banana Republics competing is better than 1 massive kleptocratic state. The West needs to pick a side, because in the trenches where the NGOs are battling the fundamentalists, you're either with them, or against them.

fn1. The United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Sweden, Venezuela, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Japan-off the top of my head. Additionally, it might be noted that those who remain in Bangladesh are associated with some level of wealth that insulates them from social distress, either as owners of property and businesses or as life-time employees via nepotism.

fn2. Like many Third World nations, the Bangladeshi government is basically an extortion racket for well connected families. It can barely collect taxes, but manages enough to support a parasitic class. A sign of a healthy nation is the ability to collect taxes, but before the world community helps Bangladeshes politicians do this, they need to allow the culture to change so that a big sucking sound can't be heard in the direction to Switzerland.

fn3. I will concede that it might be plausible that Islamic fundamentalists might create a more egalitarian order than that of the NGOs, after all, many of the people that staff the higher levels are college educated, while the proletariat comes from the peasantry.

OK, Bengal = Bangladesh + West Bengal (the state just to the west in India). There are ~ 200 million Bengali speakers in the world, almost all in India and Bangladesh. About 130 million are in Bangladesh, almost all the rest in India's West Bengal state. Of the Bengalis in Bangladesh, 85% are Muslim, 15% Hindu. Of the Bengalis in West Bengal, 75% are Hindu and 25% Muslim. Prior to 1900 they were part of one province, with the west more developed and Hinduized, the east less developed and more Muslim (originally more animist). In the 20th century Bengal was partitioned on a religious basis several times. The first time the partition was reversed because many westerners (mostly Hindus) owned land in the east. In 1947 it was partitioned again, this time because the Hindus did not want to become part of Pakistan (Bengal was a majority Muslim province). East Bengal became "East Pakistan," ruled from the other end of the subcontinent. Though a slight majority of the citizens of Pakistan were Bengali, the western wing dominated, culturally, economically and militarily. Before 1947 Muslim Bengalis resented the cultural domination of Hindu Bengalis, but after 1947 they resented the domination of Muslim Punjabis. Before 1947 the Bengali speaking Muslim middle classes were shifting from a Bengali to a Muslim identity, but after 1947 they swung back to a Bengali identity. In 1971 the conflict between West and East Pakistan led to Civil War, a million or two might have died, millions of Hindus fled into India because they were being ethnically cleansed by the Pakistani (West) army, so India invaded and East Pakistan that was East Bengal became Bangladesh-"nation of Bengalis." Bangladesh is 98% Bengali speaking, with small tribal minorities that speak Southeast Asian languages as well as a residual group of Urdu speaking North Indian Muslims called "Biharis" (many came form Bihar in India in 1947-I have two aunts that are of half-Bihari origin, though they are both Bengali identified). Bangladesh is 85-90% Muslim with a Hindu minority and a small Buddhist minority. I think that's about it. The national anthems of India and Bangladesh were composed by a Bengali Brahmin who was born in what is today Bangladesh, but whose family was from what is today West Bengal (the other national poet of Bangladesh, Nazrul Islam, who was a Muslim while Tagore was Hindu, was born in West Bengal). Oh, and it's dirt poor. But it does have a lot of dirt....

Posted by razib at 03:14 PM | | TrackBack

Creationism & many polls

A Young Earth Creationist has a page up that summarizes many polls & surveys of people on the Creation/Evolution "controversy." Obviously this person has a specific perspective, and a few of the more obscure references are hard to confirm, but I have seen most of the numbers in other publications. Obviously he is framing the numbers in a way to magnify the numbers of Creationists, but you can check up on some of the references.

Posted by razib at 01:40 PM | | TrackBack

Biology & the students

Below I have cut & pasted (excuse formatting issues) an article that surveys the opinions on evolution from biology & medical students at the University of Glasgow. Here is the abstract:

Over a 12 year period, 4 - 11 per cent of a large first year Scottish university biology class stated that they rejected the occurrence of biological evolution. There was a slight, but statistically significant, decline in evolution-rejection over the 12 years. In the one year surveyed, the figure for medical students was 10 per cent. Most evolution-rejectors accepted the occurrence of within-species evolutionary changes: their objection was to the origin of new species. Acceptance of a literal religious creation account was the principal reason for rejecting evolution, whereas those accepting did so more on grounds of the lack of good alternative explanations, than on the strength of the evidence. Rejection of evolution correlated strongly with religious belief -mainly various sorts of Christianity or Islam. However, over half of those accepting evolution also claimed to have a religious faith. When asked to evaluate the evidence for various scientific propositions, including evolution, evolution-rejectors were generally a little more sceptical than acceptors: the two groups differed most starkly on the evidence for evolution and continental drift. These results are discussed in the context of the very different public attitudes towards the teaching of evolution in the USA and elsewhere, and of strategies in science education that acknowledge the role of values and the nature of scientific evidence

From: Evolution and religion: attitudes of Scottish first year biology and medical students to the teaching of evolutionary biology. By: Downie, J.R.; Barron, N.J.. Journal of Biological Education, Summer2000, Vol. 34 Issue 3, p139, 8p; (AN 3300734)

In the USA, biologists are increasingly worried by the impact of religious fundamentalists on the teaching of evolution. As editor of the American Biology Teacher, Moore (1999,and references therein) has written an eight part series of articles on the battle between creationists and biologists in the USA public school system. The final part of the series, sub-titled 'the lingering threat' was immediately vindicated by the Kansas Board of Education's decision, in the summer of 1999, to discourage the teaching of evolutionary biology in state public schools (Holden, 1999). The distinguished evolutionary biologist, Douglas Futuyma has written a complete book on the conflict, now in its second edition (Futuyma, 1995). Letters and editorials in the American Scientist (Robbins, 1995), Scientific American (Beardsley, 1995), the American Biology Teacher (Moore, 1997), and Trends in Ecology and Evolution (Scott and Padian, 1997) attest to a well-organised and well-financed anti-evolution lobby that has made a considerable impact on the presentation of evolutionary biology in schools, museums, and colleges. In some states, surprisingly high proportions of biology teachers hold creationist views (Aguillard, 1999). Fundamentalists may have lost the battle for 'equal time' teaching of 'creation science', but their persistence, and their 'new' tactic of 'intelligent design' (Behe, 1996) is having a huge effect. In contrast, the scientific community has generally appeared scattered and poorly organised, though Wuethrich (1999) reports signs of a fight back in the state of New Mexico, where scientists have been elected to key school board positions.

Outside the USA, creationism seems much less important. Pigliucci (1997) was astonished at the situation in the USA, after meeting only one creationist in many years working in Italy. Devlin (1999) recounts his experiences with 'extremely well-educated and widely read' anti-evolution students in the USA, and claims that 'nothing you will have experienced in the UK will have prepared you for that'. Jones (1987; 1989) reported that Australia experienced an upsurge of evangelical Protestant teaching in the 1980's. She found, in a sample of 613 first year university students (of biology or education), that 19 per cent took some sort of creationist view of the origin of species, though only 5 per cent adhered to the strict Genesis account.

We have not been able to find any comparable study of student attitudes to evolution and creation from the UK or any other country: educators may have felt it better to let this particular 'sleeping dog' lie. However, we believe it is important to have some idea of the numbers of students who hold anti-evolutionary views, for several reasons:

Effective teaching of the theory of evolution is difficult enough without having to teach it against deep-seated opposition.
There is an ethical problem in teachers, as authority figures, telling students to learn something that the students strongly disbelieve.
Without having an estimate of the numbers of opponents of evolution now, we will have no idea of trends.
The survey results presented here have been collected from University of Glasgow biology students over more than a decade, plus I year's results from medical students: they therefore allow us to look for trends. Our objectives were:

To assess the relative extent of pro- and anti-evolution beliefs in university students of biology and medicine.
To investigate the relationship between religious beliefs, and attitudes to evolution and creation in these students.
To investigate students' reasons for either accepting or rejecting evolution.
To compare the levels of student acceptance of several scientific propositions, including the theory of evolution: our intention here was to assess whether students rejecting evolution had a general scepticism towards science, or whether their rejection was specific towards evolution.
We used the questionnaire in class as part of a teaching strategy aimed at clarifying the nature of scientific ideas and distinguishing them from religious beliefs. As well as discussing the results of our survey, we examine here a number of approaches to the teaching of evolution as a controversial aspect of science, and discuss the distinction between teaching, learning, and indoctrination.

Student population and courses
Our survey has been carried out on the Level I Biology class in the University of Glasgow during the eight sessions, 1987/88 - 1994/95, then again in session 1998/99. A large number of students take this course, rising fairly steadily from around 500 in the late 1980's to around 800 in 1998/99. Most of the students have studied some biology before coming to university, generally the Scottish higher which includes some coverage of the theory of evolution; some have studied more biology (i.e. A-level); a few have studied no biology before. The majority of the class want to proceed to a degree in biological sciences, but others are studying biology for a single year only, with an intention to proceed in chemistry, psychology, geography etc.

During our survey, the coverage of evolution changed somewhat but, essentially, there were a series of 4 - 6 lectures on the origins and evidence for the theory that today's living organisms are the result of a long period of biological evolution. This included some discussion of the mechanisms of gene frequency changes and speciation: the lectures were supported by some practical and tutorial work. Only during the final year covered were the lectures given by one of the authors.

The survey involved an anonymous questionnaire, completed by the students during a practical class or tutorial on evolution that followed the lecture course. After completing and handing in the questionnaire, students were encouraged to discuss it with tutors.

As a comparison, we surveyed our first year medical students at the start of their course in 1999. These students are not taught any evolutionary biology as part of their course, but do have school educational backgrounds very similar to those of biology students. The survey questions for medical students were identical to those for biologists, except that we asked them some questions about the relevance of evolutionary biology to medicine and medical education.

The questionnaire
The questionnaire begins with a preamble pointing out the different status of the theory of evolution among professional biologists (overwhelmingly accepted) and the general public (not so sure). It also reminds the students that the theory has two parts: (a) that evolution has happened; (b) that natural selection is the main mechanism; and that the 'how' of evolution remains an exciting and controversial area for biologists. Finally, the preamble emphasises that the questionnaire is about the occurrence of evolution, not about how it may have happened.

The first question asks students whether they accept that some kind of biological evolution, lasting many millions of years, has occurred on earth. On the basis of their answer, students then proceed to either section A or section B of the questionnaire, each of which contains six or seven questions, three of which are identical in the two sections. A copy of the complete questionnaire is available from the authors on request.

We first separated completed questionnaires into acceptors and rejectors of evolution. All rejectors (the minority) were analysed in detail. For the much larger number of acceptors, we analysed a random sample (approximately one third of the total).

Since effectively all students attending the class completed questionnaires, and handed them in anonymously, there should be little prospect of bias in the sample, or incentive to the students to make false responses.

Acceptors and rejectors
Table 1 shows the proportions of students in each year that claimed to accept, or reject 'biological evolution that has lasted millions of years'.

Since we tend to think of anti-evolutionary thinking as a mainly American trait, it is salutary to find as many as 11 per cent of a UK university class rejecting the occurrence of biological evolution. Significantly, these students have chosen to study biology, and have just been exposed to a course in evolution. The percentage of rejectors does, however, appear to be reducing, with all the highest figures being near the start of our survey and the lowest the most recent. A Spearman correlation showed that there has been a significant decline (r = 0.83; p < 0.005) in the proportion of rejectors over the period of the study.

The proportion of medical student rejectors is over twice as high as for the most comparable biology class (1998/9).

Reasons for rejecting evolution -- and how fixed that rejection is
Students were offered three possible reasons for rejecting evolution, plus 'other reasons -- please state' and asked to indicate all those that applied to them. The percentages of students choosing the different reasons are shown in Table 2.

The acceptance of a literal religious creation account is consistently the most common reason, with conflicts and contradictions in the evidence for evolution generally second. The written-in answers were very varied, with the most frequent ones stating that the theory of evolution seems too improbable.

We asked a further question to test how completely these students were rejecting evolutionary ideas. We pointed out that people could reject the idea that species can change from one kind to another, yet accept that natural selection can operate within a species to adapt it to fine-scale environmental change, and asked the rejectors to indicate whether or not they accepted within-species natural selection. Over the period 1987 - 95, 89 per cent agreed that they did accept 'evolution' at this level. The proportion in 1998/99 was 88 per cent, and for the 1999 medical students 83 per cent. Clearly, most rejectors object mainly to the idea that new species can originate from old ones.

We also wanted to know how fixed these students' rejection was. For example, was their rejection entirely dogmatic, or were they prepared to consider evidence? Our question was 'What evidence would need to be obtained to convince you that evolution has occurred?' Results are shown in Table 3(a).

About half (49-55per cent) of these students wrote in a comment, the rest did not reply or simply stated that no such evidence could be obtained. Of those making a reply, 44 per cent asked for evidence we could class as feasible (e.g. more fossils, missing links, demonstration of the origin of life from simple molecules, disproof of alternatives), 16 per cent wanted impracticable evidence (e.g. time travel), and 15 per cent simply stated that they would need 'lots and lots' of evidence. The remaining 25 per cent made comments related to God and faith, not really 'evidence'.

Reasons for accepting evolution
As above, students were offered three reasons for accepting evolution, plus 'other -- please state'. The percentages choosing the different reasons are shown in Table 4.

The results were remarkably consistent over the years, more consistent than for the rejectors (possibly related to the smaller sample sizes for rejectors). It is interesting that two or three times as many (mean percentage = 77) felt that the principal reason for acceptance is the lack of good alternatives, as felt that the quality of evidence for evolution is high (mean percentage = 35). It is also notable how few (mean percentage = 10.5) were prepared to take the 'teacher knows best' option. A much smaller proportion of acceptors than rejectors took the write-in option. Many of these took the opportunity to note that acceptance of evolution did not conflict with their religious beliefs, claiming that God may have started the process off, or have had some other creative input.

As a comparison with the rejectors, we asked the acceptors whether there was any evidence they would like to see obtained that would make it more certain that evolution has occurred. Results are shown in Table 3 (b).

An obvious contrast with the rejectors is the much smaller proportion that wrote in a reply. In addition, the extra evidence wanted by those writing a comment was generally of a feasible nature, mostly extra fossil evidence, and 'missing links'. Several wrote that sufficient evidence had already been obtained.

Religious beliefs
Both groups were asked to state their religion, if they had one, and to write in 'none' rather than leaving the response blank. The results are shown in Table 5.

The majority of rejectors (mean percentage = 86) were religious. However, the majority of acceptors were also religious, though by a small margin (mean percentage = 57). In the class as a whole, the mean percentage stating that they had a religious belief was 59 per cent. Using a paired t-test, evolution-acceptors were significantly less likely to have a religious belief than the class as a whole (t = 6.9; p < 0.01), though the percentage difference was small; evolution-rejectors were significantly more likely to have a religious belief (t = 9.7; p < 0.001) and with a very large percentage difference.

There is no very obvious trend over the years. As we expected, rejectors overwhelmingly professed to have a religious faith. The acceptors are more representative of the biology class as a whole and, over the 11 years span of the survey, show no very obvious trend of change in religious belief. The medical class is at the high end of the range for religious belief among the biologists, but still within that range.

From 1990/91 onwards, we asked students to define their religion. Table 6 shows the data from all those stating their religion. Two points stand out: first, the relatively high proportion of Muslims amongst the rejectors; second, the proportions of different sorts of Christians. We did not ask students to specify their branch of Christianity, but many did, and it is common usage for those who belong to the evangelical, Protestant churches to label themselves as 'Christian', rather than Protestant; similarly, Catholics tend to state their Catholicism, rather than writing Christian. 'Christians' tended to be a higher proportion of the rejectors compared to acceptors, and Catholics correspondingly lower.

A comparison with other scientific ideas
We wished to discover how well established as a theory the students felt evolution was compared to some other well-known scientific ideas. We started by pointing out that 'few ideas in science are based on certainty. Most major generalisations are theories -- based on well established, but not certain information'. We then asked the students to give a rating on a 5-point scale (1 = very poorly established to 5 = very well established) to five scientific propositions, two of them related to evolution, three on health and environment issues. The responses are shown in Table 7. For ease of comparison, we have combined responses 1 and 2 as 'poorly established'; 3 is given as neutral; 4 and 5 are combined as 'well established'. Also for ease of comparison, we have pooled the data from years 1987/88 to 1994/95 and given the means from these years in comparison with the most recent year 1998/99. Within the year sequence 1987/88 to 1994/95, there were no obvious trends.

The results from this question are particularly fascinating. Our intention was to test whether evolution-rejectors were sceptical of science in general, or only of evolution and its associated evidence. The results suggest that rejectors generally are somewhat more sceptical and uncertain: they show lower 'well established' ratings than acceptors for all propositions; they also show higher N values (i.e uncertain, ignorant?) on all propositions except for evolution. However, it is only on two propositions that their responses are radically different: those on tectonic plates and on evolution. On tectonic plate theory, they show a high degree of uncertainty, but still a majority regard it as well established, despite the fact that this theory has a close relationship with evolution and is related to an extremely old age for the Earth. It is only on evolution that this group lose their uncertainty: they are remarkably sure that the evidence for evolution is poor. The medical students showed a very similar pattern of responses to the biologists.

It is worth emphasising that the students were asked to give their opinions on how well established particular propositions are. It is unlikely that they are, in fact, well informed on the evidence for most of the propositions listed (perhaps more should have answered in the N category). Indeed, the biology students, having just completed a course on evolution, should have been better informed on the evidence for evolution than on any of the other propositions.

The place of evolution in the biology or medical curriculum
Our investigation was not only about attitudes to the theory of evolution, but also about the place of evolution in a university-level general biology or medical course. We asked the students whether they thought that evolution should be a compulsory part of a general biology course. On average, 89 per cent (range 86-92 per cent) of the acceptors thought that it should, with little variation from year to year. Responses from rejectors were more variable, with an average of 44 per cent (range 25-66 per cent) agreeing that evolution should be a compulsory part of a biology course.

To put this response into context, we asked both groups which parts of the biology course should be deleted and why. The majority gave no response. Of those replying, evolution was the commonest response for rejectors: one wrote 'it is hard to learn something you don't believe in and conflicts with your beliefs'. They also listed 'dissection' commonly as 'unnecessary'; plants and genetics were both described as 'boring'. Acceptors had a similar pattern of response, except for evolution --though this was mentioned by a few as 'ambiguous' or 'contentious'.

We asked the medical students to rate the relevance of evolutionary biology to an understanding of medicine. The responses of acceptors and rejectors (Table 8) were near mirror images of each other. We find it interesting that so many medical students, amongst the evolution-acceptors, saw a relevance for evolutionary biology in medicine, despite their course not covering it. When asked whether evolution should be included in the medical course, rejectors mainly (78 per cent) responded 'no', but nearly half (49 per cent) of acceptors responded 'yes'.

The extent and nature of evolution rejection
We found that 4-11 per cent of the first year biology class rejected evolution over the 12 years of our survey. There was a statistically significant decline in evolution-rejection over the period but, given the year-to-year variability, it is hard to be confident that the decline is stable. The trend is not in any obvious way related to any change in the proportion of students stating a religious belief. In the single year surveyed, the figure for medical students rejecting evolution was 10 per cent. We suspect that many UK biologists will be surprised to learn that such a high proportion of students who have chosen to study biology or medicine profess not to accept the occurrence of evolution.

Many of the students in our survey would not be proceeding to courses where evolutionary biology is a major component. At a large Scottish university like Glasgow, the first year biology course acts as an introduction to the biological disciplines -- anatomy, molecular biology, sports science, zoology, etc. -- and is the only biology course taken by students specialising in chemistry, psychology etc. Non-acceptance of evolution may not, therefore, have direct bearing on the later work of most students. However, we should ask what rejection of evolution implies about these young people as potential scientists in any sphere.

Attitudes to evolution may seem even less important for the medical students, given the lack of evolutionary biology in their course. However, there is a growing interest in the relevance of evolutionary thinking to medicine (Nesse and Williams, 1995), so student attitudes now may be important for the future.

Our results are somewhat different from the few similar surveys we have found in the literature. Jones's (1987; 1989) study of first year Australian biology and education students is similar to ours, but she surveyed only one year's intake and her sample was, in religious terms, more homogeneous than ours. Nineteen per cent of her students took a creationist view, but only 5 per cent were 'Genesis fundamentalists'. Short (1994) found 27 per cent of his Australian first year medical class rejected evolution, both before and after his evolution course. Sinclair and Pendarvis (1998) asked their first year Louisiana zoology students a series of questions before and after their course on evolution. Before, 45.6 per cent felt that there was a conflict between evolution and their religious beliefs, reducing to 29.6 per cent afterwards. However, 74.0 per cent felt it possible to accept evolution and believe in God, both before and after the course.

Though there is a general tendency to associate evolution-rejection with a literal interpretation of the Bible by Christians, Short (1994) noted that his staunchest anti-evolutionists were Muslims. Our results also show that a high proportion of Muslim students reject evolution, but by no means all. We are told (Siddiqui, personal communication) that there is no definitive Muslim position on the origin of species in general, but that Muslims reject 'the idea of human evolution from other lesser creations'. Ali (1997) emphasises the Qur'an's active encouragement of scientific enquiry, but he does not mention evolution. In Turkey, an organisation called the Science Research Foundation has promoted a series of popular anti-evolution conferences where the main speakers have been American 'creation scientists' (Yahya, 1999).

Alters (1999) notes that though USA opinion polls generally show about 50 per cent of the public rejecting evolution, this does not mean that these are all religious literalists. They have a diversity of beliefs, including many who simply want God to have some role in evolution, and others whose problem is essentially with the origin of human beings. Further to this point, in a comment on recent 'creationist' developments, Berry (1997) contends that evolutionary biologists who dismiss any role for a god, and who claim that science can answer all questions, are doing evolutionary biology no favours. It is certainly not the case that there is a necessary conflict between science and religion. Larson and Witham (1997) were surprised to find no significant change this century in the proportion of USA scientists professing a religious faith (41.8 per cent in 1916; 39.3 per cent in 1996). Our results consistently show that more than half of our first year biology students profess a religious belief

Beliefs -- and the teaching of science
Short (1994) was 'dismayed' that his teaching on evolution had made no difference to those with anti-evolution beliefs. Cooper (1996) has noted that fundamental beliefs have considerable impact on learning. We are not much used to this in the teaching of pure science, which is often assumed to be a value-free subject where what teachers need to do is fill students with knowledge. However, as Perry and others have shown (see Katung et al., 1999, for discussion) higher education in any subject area moves from a passive accumulation of information to a personal ability to learn and make judgments, a development towards autonomy. Such thinking has considerable implications for teaching and learning in all scientific disciplines, including evolutionary biology.

An aim of science teaching is the development of a new generation of scientists, and a key characteristic of scientists should be an open-mind to new ideas and a willingness to make judgements based on evidence, not on pre-conceptions. Hudson (1967) pointed to the anomaly that much of science teaching involves filling students with facts, rather than encouraging them to think imaginatively and for themselves.

Our data show that evolution-rejectors were a little more sceptical than acceptors on three scientific propositions that are unrelated to evolution (on CFCs, acid rain, and lung cancer), but more sceptical on tectonic plates and massively sceptical about evolution. There is no reason to suppose that the two groups differed significantly in their knowledge of the evidence for any of the propositions. Indeed, since our survey of biology students immediately followed our course on evolution, both groups had access to the same range of evidence on this particular proposition.

What made the difference? The principal reasons selected by the students for rejecting or accepting evolution give an indication. Rejectors overwhelmingly, especially the medical students, cited acceptance of the literal truth of a religious creation account as the principal reason, and many were prepared to say that no evidence could persuade them that evolution has occurred. The acceptors were quite different: they mainly chose the lack of good alternatives as the principal reason for accepting evolution: very few were prepared to state that they mainly followed their teachers' views.

This, to us, is the worrying feature of these results. We would not be concerned if students, having assessed the evidence, were sceptical of aspects of evolution. (Although our survey was not about evolutionary processes, some acceptors expressed doubts about how evolution works, a very reasonable position.) However, most evolution rejectors did so on the basis of religious belief: this is hardly compatible with the open-mindedness expected of a prospective scientist.

This has wider implications than biological evolution. As Scott and Padian (1997) point out, there is a close linkage between our knowledge of physics, biology, and geology concerning the origins of the universe and the historical development of Earth and its life forms. At least some of our evolution-rejectors were aware of this when they assessed continental drift to be as poorly established as evolution. In response to the Kansas decision (1999) against evolution in the school curriculum, the Society for the Study of Evolution stated 'if we abandon the usual procedures of acceptance and rejection of scientific hypotheses in one area of science, then the whole of science is in jeopardy' (Anon, 1999).

Strategies in the teaching of evolution
American biology teachers, confronted by a much starker evolution-rejection problem than elsewhere, have had a considerable debate, much of it in the American Biology Teacher, on how to teach evolution, and whether to include 'creation science' as an alternative. Although the US National Association of Biology Teachers felt that creationist ideas had no place in the science classroom and that 'contrasting science with religion, such as belief in creationism, is not a role of science', Cooper (1996) disagreed, noting that what students brought to the science classroom in terms of belief simply could not be ignored, and that the contrast was valuable in an examination of the nature of science. Esbenshade (1993) noted that a high proportion of his Missouri high school students saw conflicts between science and their religious beliefs: many of these students were very able and keen on a career in science. He pleaded for sensitivity on the part of science educators in dealing with the conflicts such students face.

The theme that the theory of evolution provides an excellent case history of what science is, and how scientists work, is the subject of several valuable articles. Nickels et al. (1996) outline an approach that embeds the teaching of evolution in an exploration of science as an activity 'inescapably rooted in inherent uncertainty and yet capable of producing highly reliable knowledge': their approach emphasises the development of critical thinking. Morishita (1991) describes a project where students prepare cases for and against evolution as in a court of law, and observes that there is more resemblance than generally recognised between legal and science education: in neither science nor law is there usually a single 'right answer'. Jensen and Finley (1997) found that after a 'traditional' evolution course, students had a very 'mixed bag' of notions on species origins. They devised a programme that required students to make explicit, and to work through, Darwinian explanations and to contrast them with pre-Darwinian ideas: teleology, Lamarckism, and natural theology. They found that this approach significantly improved students' understanding of Darwinian explanations. Lawson (1999) similarly outlines a 'learning-cycle' where students go through the same process as early investigators confronting the fossils in successive rock strata, and use the evidence they collect to discriminate between the hypotheses of special creation, spontaneous generation, and evolution. An explicit aim is to improve students' understanding of the nature of science and to develop critical thinking skills. Gauld (1992) also supports a thorough treatment of the historical origins of Darwinism, noting that 19th century religious leaders (as now) were by no means universally opposed to evolution and that arguments against evolution were not at all trivial given the knowledge available at the time. Poole (1995) gives a thorough account of the origin of Darwin and Wallace's theories and of their early reception. It was not the case that all scientists were for, and all churchmen against. Harper (1977; 1979) argues against the teaching of science by 'indoctrination' and suggests a number of alternatives to evolutionary explanations that could be used in discussion of species origins.

Allchin (1989) tackles the key point that for many people, the difficulty is the evolution of humans and the origin of ethics and morality. His evolution course concentrates on the distinctions between humans and other animals in terms of personal behaviour, and helps many students overcome mental barriers.

It is worth pointing out to students that science is an activity practised by people, not by saints. We do the cause of science education no favours by attempting to hide the existence of error and fraud: the history of evolutionary biology has its share in the Piltdown Man story and the recent exposure of Haeckel's too perfectly recapitulationist embryos (Wells, 1999). Anti-evolutionists have seized on such examples to discredit evolution. By drawing them explicitly to students' attention, we can demonstrate that science is a human activity and that it was scientists who exposed these errors, not creationists.

Educational implications
As far as we are aware, the attitudes of UK biology and medical students to evolution have not been assessed before. Our data show that a significant minority (around 10 per cent) do not accept that evolution has occurred. It would be surprising if these results were entirely specific to our students, though there may be regional variations.

As we have discussed, it is an unusual situation in science education for a part of the subject, viewed by professionals in the field as a fundamental cornerstone, to not be accepted as true by a group of students, and for reasons which are not accessible to normal scientific argument.

The educational implications of these findings relate to how we should handle this level of non-acceptance. We reviewed earlier the diversity of approaches devised by US teachers to cope with a much larger problem. In our view, it is good science education practice to show the historical development of a major theory such as evolution and to discuss how science advances by the testing of hypotheses. If this is done, creationist and other alternative views can be covered as part of the theory's development. This is the approach of our first year biology course on evolution: in addition to lectures, we give students the opportunity to debate the relationship between religious and scientific knowledge and to discuss this relationship, particularly in the context of evolution. The questionnaire described here is used as a follow-up to this session.

There remains the problem of examinations. It is perfectly reasonable to ask all students to be able to describe the theory of evolution, and the evidence that led Darwin and Wallace to propose it. Even amongst our evolution-rejectors, about half agreed that evolution should be taught. However, can we ask students, as part of their examinations, and knowing that some of them reject evolution, to evaluate all the evidence for and against the theory? This is tantamount to asking some students to lie, since they will be aware of what the examiners wish to read, but do not themselves believe it.

We would like to thank the thousands of students who completed our questionnaire; Dr Mona Siddiqui for her comments on Muslim attitudes to evolution; Dr Ian Brown for permitting us to survey his first year medical class; Henriikka Clarkeburn, Mike Hansell, and an anonymous reviewer for comments on the manuscript; Graeme Ruxton for assistance with statistics.

Table 1 Proportions of students in each year who rejected the proposition that a long period of biological evolution has occurred.
Legend for Chart:

A - Year
B - Total number sampled
C - Rejectors (%)


1987/88 221 11.3
1988/89 160 7.5
1989/90 230 10.0
1990/91 210 8.1
1991/92 269 5.6
1992/93 312 7.1
1993/94 417 5.3
1994/95 517 6.8
1998/99 518 3.9
Medics 1999 225 10.2

Table 2 Reasons for rejecting evolution: proportions of students in each year who chose particular reasons. Year by year percentages choosing the various reasons (total is in brackets); the 'Biols mean' column shows the mean values for biology students over the 9 years.

Legend for Chart:

A - Reasons for rejecting evolution
B - 87/88 (25)
C - 88/89 (12)
D - 89/90 (23)
E - 90/91 (17)
F - 91/92 (15)
G - 92/93 (22)
H - 93/94 (22)
I - 94/95 (35)
J - 98/99 (20)
K - Biols Mean
L - Medics 99 (23)



The evidence for evolution is full of conflicts and
and contradictions

28 17 43 35 53
18 36 29 35 33 30

I accept the literal truth of a religious creation
account that excludes evolution

84 67 70 71 80
50 68 71 80 71 96

I think that there are good alternatives to evolution
that explain the origin and distribution of species

8 17 17 24 13
32 27 9 25 19 17

Other reasons
12 25 30 18 20
14 9 17 25 19 9

Percentages do not total 100 because students were asked to
tick all the reasons that applied to them.

Table 3 Responses to (a) Rejectors: what evidence would need to be obtained to convince you that evolution has occurred? (b) Acceptors: is there any evidence you would like to see obtained that would make it certain for you that evolution occurs?
(a) Rejectors -- distribution of responses

Legend for Chart:

A - Years
B - Total sample
C - % Giving no response or 'none'
D - % Don't know or no evidence evidence could be obtained
E - % Writing comments


87 - 95 171 30 21 49
98 - 99 20 30 15 55
Medics 99 23 61 17 22

(b) Acceptors -- distribution of responses

Legend for Chart:

A - Years
B - Total sample
C - % giving no response or 'none'
D - % Yes but no comments
E - % Writing comments


87 - 95 931 71 3 26
98 - 99 100 80 7 13
Medics 99 100 90 2 8

Table 4 Reasons for accepting evolution: proportions of students in each year who chose particular reasons. Year by year percentages choosing the various reasons (total is in brackets); the 'Biols mean' column shows the mean values for biology students over the 9 years.

Legend for Chart:

A - Reasons for accepting evolution
B - 87/88 (196)
C - 88/89 (148)
D - 89/90 (104)
E - 90/91 (96)
F - 91/92 (85)
G - 92/93 (94)
H - 93/94 (99)
I - 94/95 (97)
J - 98/99 (100)
K - Bids Mean
L - Medics 99(100)


The evidence for evolution is clear 31 34 23 45
and unambiguous
29 39 41 38
41 36 26

I tend to accept what my teachers 10 6 12 12
say: they know the evidence
much better than I do
9 12 10 13
11 11 10

I do not think there are any good 80 72 80 77
alternatives to evolution that
explain well the origin and
distribution of species
72 82 78 77
81 78 71

Other reasons 7 11 10 11
7 7 6 7
6 8 5

Percentages do not total 100 because students were asked to
tick all the reasons that applied to them.

Table 5 Proportions (%) year by year of the whole class (evolution acceptors and rejectors) stating a religious belief (sample numbers as in Tables 2 and 3). The 'Biols mean' line shows the mean values for biology students over the 9 years.
Legend for Chart:

A - Year
B - Whole Class
C - Acceptors
D - Rejectors


87/88 64 61 84
88/89 64 62 83
89/90 57 56 70
90/91 55 52 88
91/92 59 57 93
92/93 68 67 91
93/94 54 52 86
94/95 55 52 91
98/99 56 55 90
Biols mean 59 57 86
Medics 99 63 60 96

Table 6 Proportions (%) of the different religions, stated by evolution acceptors and rejectors.
Legend for Chart:

A - Religion
B - Acceptors 91 - 95
C - Acceptors 98 - 99
D - Acceptors Medics 99
E - Rejectors 91 - 95
F - Rejectors 98 - 99
G - Rejectors Medics 99


Judaism 0.5 0 0 1 0 0
Islam 3 8 8 18 22 32
All Christianity 94 90 85 80 78 68
'Christian' 35 42 46 49 33 50
'Catholic' 34 16 22 18 22 5
Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu 2.5 0 7 1 0 0

Table 7 Students' ratings on how well a range of scientific theories are established (evolution acceptors and rejectors given separately). Data are shown as % of those giving a ranking on a 5 point scale from 1 = very poorly to 5 = very well established (poor = 1, 2; N = 3; well = 4, 5).

Legend for Chart:

A - Theory
B - Years
C - Acceptors Poor
D - Acceptors N
E - Acceptors Well
F - Rejectors Poor
G - Rejectors N
H - Rejectors Well


Tectonic plates 87-95 9 13.5 77.5
19 30 51

98-99 2 4 94
10 40 50

Medics 99 5 14 80
4 13 87

CFCs 87-95 7 18 75
9 21 70

98-99 0 18 82
10 20 70

Medics 99 5 10 85
0 9 92

Acid rain 87-95 5 13 82
10 17 73

98-99 1 9 90
10 15 75

Medics 99 0 8 92
0 9 92

Cigarettes 87-95 6 13 81
9 15 76

98-99 1 5 94
0 15 85

Medics 99 0 5 94
0 22 78

Evolution 87-95 6 22 72
76 15 9

98-99 1 27 72
60 35 5

Medics 99 5 33 62
82 13 4

The full statement of each theory, as given to the students,

Tectonic plates: the continents are not fixed in position,
but move relative to one another as tectonic plates.

CFCs: chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs), mainly from aerosol
sprays, are seriously depleting the earth's atmos pheric
ozone layer.

Acid rain: sulphur dioxide from power stations causes damage
to tree growth and kills fish in lakes by falling as 'acid

Cigarettes: cigarette smoke causes lung cancer.

Evolution: biological evolution, lasting many
millions of years, has occurred on earth.

Table 8 Medical students' ratings of the relevance of evolutionary biology to an understanding of medicine.
Legend for Chart:

A - Relevance
B - Evolution acceptors (n = 98)
C - Evolution rejectors (n = 23)


Low 16 55
Neutral 43 32
High 41 14

Figures are percentage responses to a 5 point scale,
with 1, 2 = low; 3 = neutral; 4, 5 = high.

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Gauld, C. (1992) Wilberforce, Huxley, and the use of history in teaching about evolution. American Biology Teacher, 54, 406-410.

Harper, G. H. (1977) Darwinism and indoctrination. School Science Review, 59, 258-268.

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Holden, C. (1999) Kansas dumps Darwin, raises alarm across the United States. Science, 285, 1186-1187.

Hudson, L. (1967) Contrary imaginations. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin books.

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Posted by razib at 01:09 PM | | TrackBack

November 30, 2003

Minnesota & Evolution

Op-Ed arguing for equal time for criticisms of Darwinism in the Minnesota Star Tribune in the context of public secondary education. Here are the authors: "Chris L. Thomas is a research scientist in the Twin Cities; Seth L. Cooper is a lawyer with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture." The top "related site" on the links for the Center for Science and Culture is the Access Research Network (the two are part of the same general movement though the Discovery Institute tends to be more broadly focused). There is a noticeable overlap between those affiliated with both groups. The text of the Op-Ed sounds reasonable, and certainly hits a chord with fair-minded Middle-Americans, but a thorough exploration of the topics alluded to would almost certainly require some solid grounding in philosophy of science and history of science, context which seems unlikely to be given when framed in the list of educational priorities. I frankly suspect that the Op-Ed authors know this. The practical effect of the changes recommended would be to promote a God of the Gaps conclusion on the part of the students.

Posted by razib at 05:01 PM | | TrackBack

Intelligent Design and the scientists

Here are the educational qualifications of people associated with the Intelligent Design think-tank Access Research Network.

ARN board of directors:

Dennis Wagner - (?)
Mike Hartwing - Ph.D. Educational Psychology
Steve Meyer - Ph. D. History and Philosophy of Science
Paul Nelson - Ph.D in the Philosophy of Science

ARN Staff:

Dennis Wagner - (?)
Nancy Pearcey - graduate work in History of Philosophy
Mary York Wolter - B.S. Early Childhood Education
Elton G. Wolter - B.S. Earth Science
Eddie Olson (?)

Friends of ARN:

Michael Behe - Ph.D. Biochemistry
David Berlinski - Ph.D. Mathematics
John Angus Campbell - Ph.D. Rhetoric
William Lane Craig - Ph.D. Philosophy and Theology
William Dembski - Ph.D. Mathematics and Philosophy
James R. Hofmann - Ph.D. History and Philosophy of Science
Phil Johnson - J.D.
Eric Larson - B.S. Mathematics and Philosophy
Gregg Wilkerson - Ph.D. Geology
Alvin Plantinga - Ph.D. Philosophy
Richard Weikart - Ph.D. History
Jonathan Wells - Ph.D. Religious Studies and Molecular & Cell Biology
Hubert P. Yockey - Ph.D. Physics

Please note that those who espouse Intellligent Design tend to be very averse to making statements along the lines of "The Earth is 10,000 years old" or espousing Flood Geology. Rather, they make a general attack on "methodological naturalism." You know much more what they are against or what they doubt than what they are for. The most prominent biological scientist among them, Michael Behe, even asserted in Darwin's Black Box that he accepts descent with modification, and his Roman Catholic beliefs certainly don't force him to reject evolution in its totality.

Now, look at the Institute for Creation Research and you see people that are more your typical fundamentalist caricatures. The top of their website notes: A Christ-Focused Creation Ministry. Take a look at Dr. John's Questions and Answers and you can at least hand it to the ICR that they aren't trying to hide their true intent.

So who are the people associated with the ICR? Well, here is the Resident Faculty:

Austin, Steven A. - Professor of Geology
B.S., University of Washington, Seattle, WA,1970
M.S., San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, 1971
Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 1979

Cumming, Kenneth B. - Professor of Biology
B.S., Tufts University, Medford, MA, 1956
M.A., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1959
Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1965

DeYoung, Donald B. - Professor of Astrophysics
B.S., Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Ml, 1966
M.S., Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Ml, 1968
Ph.D., Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 1972

Franks, Robert H. - Associate Professor of Biology
B.A., San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 1956
M.D., University of California Los Angeles, CA, 1960

Gish, Duane T. - Professor of Biochemistry
B.S., University of California, Los Angeles, CA, 1949
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, CA, 1953

Morris, Henry M. - Professor of Hydrogeology
B.S., Rice University, Houston, TX, 1939
M.S., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1948
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1950

Morris, John D. - Professor of Geology
B.S., Virginia Tech., Blacksburg, VA, 1969
M.S., University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, 1977
Ph.D.. University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, 1980

Snelling, Andrew - Professor of Geology
B.Sc., University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 1975
Ph.D., University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 1982

Vardiman, Larry - Professor of Atmospheric Science
B.S., University of Missouri, Rolla, MO, 1965
B.S., St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, 1967
M.S., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1972
Ph.D., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1974

Here is the Adjunct Faculty:

Baumgardner, John R. - Associate Professor of Geophysics
B.S., Texas Tech University, Lubbock, 1968
M.S., Electrical Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 1970
M.S., Geophysics and Space Physics, University of California, Los Angeles,1981
Ph.D., Geophysics and Space Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983

Carothers, Linn E. - Associate Professor of Statistics
B.S., University of Southern California, University Park, 1973
M.S., California State University, Northridge, 1979
Ph.D., University of Southern California, University Park, 1987

Chaffin, Imbler F. - Professor of Physics
B.S., Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, 1970
M.S., Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, 1972
Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, 1974

Chittick, Donald E. - Professor of Physical Chemistry
B.S., Willamette University, Salem, OR, 1954
Ph.D., Imbler State University, Corvalis, OR, 1960

Deckard, Stephen W. - Assistant Professor of Education
B.A., McKendree College, Lebanon, IL, 1975
M.S., University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, 1979
Ed.D., University of Sarasota, Sarasota, FL, 1986

Englin, Dennis L. - Professor of Geophysics
B.A., Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, 1968
M.Sc., California State University, Northridge, CA, 1970
Ed.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 1975

Faulkner, Danny R. - Associate Professor of Astronomy
B.S., Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, 1976
M.S., Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 1979
M.A., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1983
Ph.D., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1989

Fliermans, Carl B. - Professor of Biology
B.S., Asbury College, Wilmore, KY, 1966
M.Sc., University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1969
Ph.D., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1972

Humphreys, D. Russell - Associate Professor of Physics
B.S., Duke University, Durham, NC, 1963
Ph.D., Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, 1972

Lindsey, George D. - Associate Professor of Science Education
B.S., East Texas State University, Commerce, TX,1967
M.S., East Texas State University, Commerce, TX, 1968
Ed.D., East Texas State University, Commerce, TX, 1981

Meyer, John R. - Professor of Biology
B.A., Kearney State College, Kearney, NE, 1962
Ph.D., University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, 1969

Phillips, Doug, Esq. - Professor of Apolgetics

Osborne, Chris D. - Assistant Professor of Biology
B.A., California State University, Fullerton, CA, 1976
M.S., Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA., 1985
Ph.D., Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA., 1989

Parker, Gary E. - Professor of Biology
B.A., Wabash College, Crawfordville, IN, 1962
M.S., Ball State University, Muncie, IN, 1965
Ed.D., Ball State University, Muncie, IN, 1973

Stark, James - Assistant Professor of Science Education
B.S., San Diego State University, 1959
M.S., University of Southern California, University Park, 1964
Ed.D., United States International University, San Diego, 1983

You can find more scientists here. Note that they pad the list of biological scientists by adding medical doctors. Additionally, in the "physical scientist" category they include mathematicians and computer scientists, which is OK in my opinion, but they also include linguists, psychologists and anthropologists. They obviously didn't want to create another list for social scientists. (Also, note that the ICR made it easier to cut & paste, so you see the full credentials. Additionally, a few of the degrees are obviously sketchy, one of the "biologists" has an M.S. from ICR itself for instance, so it's good to see where they got their degrees from. For ARN those issues tend not to come up).

Here is the break-down by discipline for the ARN (I double counted people with multiple Ph.Ds):

Humanities: 11 (Philosophy, history, etc.)
Physical Science: 3
Biological Science: 2
Social Science: 2
Professional: 1

Here is the break down for the ICR Resident Faculty:

Physical Science: 6
Biological Science: 3

For the Adjunct Faculty:

Physical Science: 6
Biological Science: 4
Social Science: 3
Math: 1
Humanities: 1

Comments? Well, for the Access Research Network the tendency toward philosophy is pretty surprising. I'm more well read on these sort of things than the typical person (understatement), but, I was expecting more physical scientists. This is because I have noted in online debates the tendency for engineers to argue the Creationist side. But ARN is a different beast. They are very squirrely in debates and tend to be cautious about the fights they pick in comparison to the old-line Creationists. The focus on philosophy for those who are associated with them tells me that they are concerned with more than evolution, something I've noted before. They want to push forward a respectable theistic paradigm in areas outside the modern day domains of religion. Many who argue against the Intelligent Design theorists ask: "Where's your research? How are you going to implement in the lab what you're talking about?" I think the answer is that they aren't going to. They are philosophers, and I don't know what their long term aim is, but history tells us that quite often philosophy becomes little more than high-minded faction and intercine quibbling. I've noted before that Michael Behe, the biochemist, does research that is quite conventional. Jonathan Wells, the other biologist is supposed to be a post-doc at Berkeley, but I don't see him in their directory anymore. I have linked to the page Why I am Not an Austrian Economist before, but I suspect only the libertarians in the crowd followed the link. So let me quote something the author of that piece asserted: Yet all too large a fraction of Austrian research has not been in economics at all, but rather in meta-economics: philosophy, methodology, and history of thought. I think we can say the same of the Intelligent Design circle. They will provide food for thought for intellectual Christians and some non-Christians, but mostly their "research program" will never make the jump from paper & web to laboratory. Just like some libertarians will trumpet Austrian Economics for normative reasons (as I once did without much knowledge of economics), some conservative publications of secular bent have offered a forum for critiques of evolutionary theory to further other ends.

Turning to the old-line Creationists at the ICR, it is interesting to note that very few people from the humanities or even the social sciences are found there. The prevalence of natural scientists might surprise some, especially natural scientists who hold to a fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist paradigm, but it shouldn't if you note that to become a member of the ICR you are usually selected on the basis of those two qualities. This group of Creationists (though not most on the list above) has a history of people claiming bogus degrees. Why do this and hold yourself out for ridicule? It is because these Creationists are out to preach to the choir, they are products of the fundamentalist subculture, and aim to strengthen the beliefs of their fellow believers by adding the weight of science, and their scientific credentials, to biblical literalism. The fact that so many of these people have scientific backgrounds, and often in physical scientific fields, explains some of their lack of ability to communicate with the general culture, they simply lack the verbal finesse of the Intelligent Design crowd, but this is secondary when preaching to the choir-and of course those who have engaged in degree padding will not be as likely to be found out by fellow believers inclined to trust them.

To sum, these two forms of Creationist, the fuzzy-sophisticated Intelligent Design species and the Young Earth Fundamentalist kind, exhibit radically different phenotypes and teleology. The former are by and large clever humanists and abstract thinkers who are deconstructing science, but do little science themselves. The latter are often working scientists (generally outside evolutionary biology obviously), but their primary functional aim to is solidify biblical fundamentalism in their fellow believers, their scientific credentials simply give them more authority to negate any erosion of literal belief that science might imply. To futher simplify and reduce: you have religionists trying to influence science, and scientists trying to influence religionists.

Posted by razib at 01:26 PM | | TrackBack

Don't diss the dingo?

Earlier this week I implied that the Dingo caused the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger on the Australian mainland. New research asserts that the issue is more complex than that, and the native Australian Aboriginals might have had a more involved role. Concomitantly with the arrival of the Dingo 4,500 years ago their culture adapted and spread more permanently into Tiger habitat. A classic case of the "Dog ate my homework?"

Posted by razib at 01:09 PM | | TrackBack

Evangelical colleges

The LA Times has an article up about Christian colleges. First, they state the following:

The median SATs of incoming freshmen have climbed from 1030 in 1995 to 1113 last year, mirroring a trend of rising qualifications at evangelical institutions

The SATs were recentered in 1995, so I'm not sure what this means. Look at a conversion table and you'll see that the difference is almost exactly what you see above between pre- and post-recentering.

Also, the "acceptance" of evangelical schools almost certainly is a harbinger of their decline as distinctive institutions. After all, Harvard was founded to train Puritan ministers, but within 150 years it became a fortress of liberal placid Unitarian thought, and today is one of the capitals of American secularism. In the 18th century Princeton was founded as a rebuke of Harvard by Presbyterians who hewed to a more orthodox theology, but today is it little different than the other Ivies. The Catholic colleges like Georgetown, Boston College and Notre Dame were founded as alternatives that inculcated Catholic values, but today they have shifted to meet the other elite institutions in their intellectual climates. A few years ago, William Dembski was fired from a position at an institute at Baylor University because of his aggressive espousal of Intelligent Design. Evangelical colleges need to be cautious in what sort of respectability they want....

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