Intelligent Design goes overseas...
January 26, 2006 10:00 AM   Subscribe

BBC News: British unconvinced on evolution "More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey. Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons." Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.
posted by badlydubbedboy (63 comments total)

 
Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.?

WTF dude?
posted by xmutex at 10:12 AM on January 26, 2006


*pukes and cries*
posted by rxrfrx at 10:13 AM on January 26, 2006


22% chose creationism
17% opted for intelligent design
48% selected evolution theory
and the rest did not know.

I'm betting a significant portion of 39% either did not know what was meant by "Creationism" or "intelligent design" or were misled by the terms of the survey.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2006


Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less?

What?

Well, whatever. People are idiots everywhere, film at 11.
posted by Floach at 10:17 AM on January 26, 2006


I'm betting a significant portion of 39% either did not know what was meant by "Creationism" or "intelligent design" or were misled by the terms of the survey.
Uh-huh.

Why not extend that assumption to folks in the United States?
posted by verb at 10:28 AM on January 26, 2006


In 1-to-1 chats with people, and in some of the recent MeFi discussions, I've learned somewhat to my surprise that many people who *say* they believe in "evolution" actually have a mushy, teleological perspective that invokes some kind of directional arrow and by implication purpose or goal to evolution. The fact that so many people are unwilling or unable to accept the fact of random, undirected, dumb mutation and speciation leading to evolution through natural selection is why "intelligent" design finds it so easy to get some degree of attention. Many others hold to some sort of "Prime Cause", or "Prime Mover" that acted much earlier than 6Kyear ago but that could be called "creationism" by people unconcerned with fine details.
posted by meehawl at 10:29 AM on January 26, 2006


Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.

Hein?

Why not extend that assumption to folks in the United States?

Because the two terms have gotten a lot more publicity in the US, and basically zero in the UK.
posted by cillit bang at 10:31 AM on January 26, 2006


meehawl,

According to a Gallup poll I see quoted all over the 'net but can't find the original of, 40% of professional biologists believe in theistic evolution, which is a subset of the beliefs you're describing. If you're a theist, you basically have to believe that evolution is and was guided or what's God there for?
posted by callmejay at 10:32 AM on January 26, 2006


Not to mention that if you pick the wrong answer you will burn in Hell for eternity.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:33 AM on January 26, 2006


callmejay: "what's God there for?"

Ballast.
posted by the shitty Baldwin at 10:35 AM on January 26, 2006


WGP

Mmmm....proof by hellfire.
posted by lalochezia at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2006


Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.

The assumption I always heard had it entirely the other way round, particularly when it comes to fashion, music and trends. It's just much easier to penetrate the small UK market, while memes have to slog across the US.

But I think people are right when they say people here don't fully understand what they mean when they vote for ID. They mean they think their was a design behind the universe because we haven't had saturation coverage of this like the US has.
posted by bonaldi at 10:37 AM on January 26, 2006


Why not extend that assumption to folks in the United States?

because theres strong evidence that Cretaionist viwews are held by a significant proportion of Americans that doesn't rely on some dumb TV poll?

I'd happily think it was misreprentation, but that whole thing in Kansas doesn't exactly help your case.
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on January 26, 2006


callmejay,

The 'it's random' versus 'God's guiding it' argument seems to me the really pointless aspect of the debate. Mostly because the two look exactly the same from an observational point of view.
posted by verb at 10:38 AM on January 26, 2006


Also as far as i can tell large portions of America are firmly entrenched in the 80s so no need for Brits to worry about a time-gap.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on January 26, 2006


Evolution's just not very controversial over here, even the devoutly religious often accept it's a sensible-sounding theory that probably has some truth in it. Otherwise we wouldn't get ads like this
posted by malevolent at 10:50 AM on January 26, 2006


verb, don't get me wrong, I'm an atheist.
posted by callmejay at 10:53 AM on January 26, 2006


The fact that so many people are unwilling or unable to accept the fact of random, undirected, dumb mutation and speciation leading to evolution through natural selection is why "intelligent" design finds it so easy to get some degree of attention.

well, to be fair, philosophers have a hard time making sense of "random, undirected" change. Teleology doesn't mean external purpose, but as Kant put it, "purposiveness without a purpose", which is to say, organization and unity.

That life is directed towards its own continuance is mystery enough, basically, and while evolution describes the process of adaptation perfectly well, it doesn't get down to the original theological/philosophical question, which was, how/why did the universe/life happen to start with? Of course, the only answer we can really give is "it just did", which isn't very satisfying... basically, simplistic answers like creationism are unfortunate, but probably, as Hegel would have it, stem from a valid instinct that our purely rational summations don't actually account for everything fully. That's not to say irrational responses should be given more weight, but just that it's important not to get caught up in positivism.
posted by mdn at 10:58 AM on January 26, 2006


Too many people do not understand simple mathematics.

Evolution is merely the summation of chances. Nothing more.

Being afraid of evolution is to be afraid of addition.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:58 AM on January 26, 2006


Oh great, now I can't rant about dumb Americans and tier stupid anti-evolution attitudes. Thank you very much BBC!
posted by ob at 10:59 AM on January 26, 2006


That commercial just totally blew my mind.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:01 AM on January 26, 2006


In the UK you have a poll with surprising results, zero public debate and court battles over evolution and creationism/ID in schools, and a Church that is not anti-science at all, and not even that followed at all for that matter; in the US...

So I don't know if the poll results have to do with a confusion of terms. But it's clear the situation is rather markedly different from the US context anyways.
posted by funambulist at 11:07 AM on January 26, 2006


Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.

I think Maxim in the UK shows boobies, which would make them way ahead of the US.
posted by Cyrano at 11:08 AM on January 26, 2006


Bollocks, I say. If the question was, 'Where did humans come from?', 90% of the answers would be 'monkies', 8% don't care, 2% God. More than likely most British people believe in some combination of evolution and God. Intelligent design to the average Brit probably means little more than evolution by the grace of God, which is probably not far off many scientists. Don't trust these leading, self-serving poll-loading shysters for a second.
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:09 AM on January 26, 2006


The BBC are treating the contents of one of its non-news programmes as news? How entirely out of character. :)
posted by vbfg at 11:12 AM on January 26, 2006


excellent.
posted by puke & cry at 11:15 AM on January 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


The average Briton has never heard the terms Creationism or Intelligent Design, because they aren't frequently used here.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 11:19 AM on January 26, 2006


I remember a British intellectual saying something like, "Yes, we have plenty of religious nuts in the UK, but they don't run anything." I'd be interesting to know if there are elected members of Parliament pushing legislation to teach "intelligent design" or anything like that. Same with Canada, plenty of religious folks, but I'm not aware of any significant movements that make elected officials jump through hoops like in the US.
posted by Blingo at 11:24 AM on January 26, 2006


The 'it's random' versus 'God's guiding it' argument seems to me the really pointless aspect of the debate. Mostly because the two look exactly the same from an observational point of view.

That's a pretty big "mostly".
At best, this is saying that "emergent" and "statistical" behavior looks the same as "directed" or "architected" behavior, which is quite a stretch.

And the underlying world view is profoundly different. I find that the vast majority of people, in either camp, are uncomfortable with the real implications of the truly unguided, purposeless universe - myself included.

So I think the point that the majority of people who believe in evolution really don't understand it is a good and an important one. It is in many ways for many people as much a belief based on cultural and philosophical context as the belief in a Watchmaker.
posted by freebird at 11:32 AM on January 26, 2006


Nice to know that the maxim for the UK being five years behind the US still holds true, more or less.

They're always five years ahead of us in terms of the technology they use to spy on their citizens, so this clearly isn't true.
posted by wakko at 11:40 AM on January 26, 2006


At this point only first contact will convince us.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:57 AM on January 26, 2006


TJH:

I'm tempted to agree with you, but I'm still a firm believer in Khan.
posted by papakwanz at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2006


how/why did the universe/life happen to start with

Why do you need a "why?"?

That life is directed towards its own continuance is mystery enough

If life did not tend to persist, then life would not exist to perceive its own continuance. There would then be no "mystery".

All really is for the mysterious best in this, the most mysterious of best possible worlds.
posted by meehawl at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2006


I'd be interesting to know if there are elected members of Parliament pushing legislation to teach "intelligent design" or anything like that.

Will Tony Blair do? Though no creationist himself, he has ties with people who are very much propnonents of ID and who run their own independent schools which teach it alongside evolution. A search on Peter Vardy and Blair ought to turn up plenty of results.
posted by vbfg at 12:31 PM on January 26, 2006


considering where american intelligence is headed, it seems more likely that the british are about five years ahead of us...
posted by troybob at 12:39 PM on January 26, 2006


Jesus Christ on a pogo stick... I swear, there really must be some sort of religious gene we evolved...

I'd love to see the breakdown of ages on this.
posted by Auz at 12:39 PM on January 26, 2006


I should add, btw, that Blair's goal seems to be diversity and choice for parents rather than pushing one or the other line.
posted by vbfg at 12:41 PM on January 26, 2006


Why do you need a "why?"?

just curious.
seriously, I already said there isn't really an answer... but I am still of the opinion it's worth talking about. Basically, discussing the fact that there can't really be an answer is a kind of an answer; "all human beings, by nature, desire to understand" is the opening line of one of the first attempts to map this purposeless purposiveness - we want to understand ourselves, and the world we belong to.

again, I'm not supporting simplistic religious answers, but I think the "stop asking that question" response is lacking as well. In a way I think it is a misunderstanding of the question to imagine it is seeking a determinate answer - I think religious literalists and anti-religious rationalists both miss the point, which is simply a little human self-reflection, a little search for meaning, in a world where meaning is ours to ---

If life did not tend to persist, then life would not exist to perceive its own continuance. There would then be no "mystery".

sure. but there is.
posted by mdn at 12:45 PM on January 26, 2006


I think the "stop asking that question" response is lacking as well

Perhaps I should have phrased my question more as "Why does there have to be "why?"? Far be it from me to tell someone to stop asking questions.

but there is

The existence of a "mystery" concerning a specific set of conditions that requires an a priori existence in order for that "mystery" to be enacted, and in the absence of which there would be no "mystery" and no reasonable way to frame the question of "why?" for the existence of that "mystery", seems to me to constitute a tautological argument.

That is what I meant when I invoked an allusion to an anthropic principle of non-meaningfulness concerning our current existence. We perceive one of many uncountable possibilities in which conscious awareness, or life itself, did not and could not have evolved into a situation where it finds itself surprised by its existence.

An analogy might be in order. The classic heads/tails tossers. Start with a large population of these. Only keep winners who call their toss correctly. After several hundreds of rounds, perhaps a single individual will be left. Does that individual now find themselves possessed of a "mystery" concerning their abilities?
posted by meehawl at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2006


Hey guys Intelligent Design includes evolution. you think that whoever created the earth is going to be bothered to create millions of species of insects, designing all the little legs and antennas? Nope, much easier to create DNA and watch everything proceed from there
posted by tranceformer at 1:33 PM on January 26, 2006


Most of us say yes, meehawl.
Now we burn you for heresy.
That's the end of your logic-loving family tree.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:34 PM on January 26, 2006


whoever created the earth

Kirbyesque alien space gods please!
posted by Artw at 2:12 PM on January 26, 2006


vbfg said 'Will Tony Blair do? Though no creationist himself, he has ties with people who are very much propnonents of ID and who run their own independent schools which teach it alongside evolution. A search on Peter Vardy and Blair ought to turn up plenty of results.'

Yeah, and when Vardy introduced creationism into the biology classroom, the noisiest protest came from senior C of E Bishops. Admittedly, you don't really have to believe in God to be a C of E bishop, let alone creationism.

Whatever this poll says, I seriously doubt that any parliamentary cadidate who led their campaign on the introduction of ID in schools would keep their deposit. They would, however, be ridiculed by press and public alike.
posted by jack_mo at 2:20 PM on January 26, 2006


tranceformer writes "Hey guys Intelligent Design includes evolution. you think that whoever created the earth is going to be bothered to create millions of species of insects, designing all the little legs and antennas? Nope, much easier to create DNA and watch everything proceed from there"

What you're describing is not Intelligent Design. ID is based on the "fact" that certain morphological features are "irreducibly complex," and were thus designed. We're talking eyeballs and and reproductive systems, laid out in blueprints by God the designer. Not just creating DNA, then stepping back and watching.
posted by brundlefly at 2:24 PM on January 26, 2006


Does that individual now find themselves possessed of a "mystery" concerning their abilities?

you are making the claim that it is equally likely for the world to exist or not to exist. The problem with the whole question is that we're trying to get to ultimate ground, which is impossible - basically, we run into infinite regress everywhere. The question isn't why did heads vs. tails come up; the question is, why was there a coin toss to start with? What is beingness?

...seems to me to constitute a tautological argument.

well, it's not meant to be any sort of argument, really, and in the end, everything true is tautological, so I'm not sure we disagree. all I'm getting at is that existence does seem sufficiently inscrutable to me that it should stop us in our tracks from time to time. but I suppose that's just a feeling I have etc, so perhaps it's not worth going on about.

I'm only bringing up this side of things because I think rationalists occasionally forget that the motivation of religion is perfectly legitimate - awe & wonder at the nature of nature. INstead of saying, oh shush it's all perfectly sensible, we might do better to say, yeah, it sure is incredible. (and of course I realize plenty of scientists do take this approach - I'm a materialist myself, and a big fan of a lot of pop science writers who share their amazement).
posted by mdn at 2:26 PM on January 26, 2006


In response to meehawl's comment, I would say that most people do not fall at the materialistic end of this spectrum.
posted by Hactar at 2:35 PM on January 26, 2006


It was actually a badly worded survey. I know plenty theists who accept evolution yet the wording was

'evolution theory' says that human kind has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process;

Also I doubt that one in a thousand people here in the UK have ever heard of 'intelligent design' as it's used by the likes of Behe/Dembski. I imagine most of the people pushed into that category are simply religious believers who couldn't sign onto the 'God had no part' wording for the evolution option in this survey.
posted by Flitcraft at 3:44 PM on January 26, 2006


Yeah, that pretty much screws it.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on January 26, 2006


I am waiting for TLC to start showing The Designer Gods. They will mince in and take an ordinary drab species that merely survives in its ecological niche and make it thrive with impossibly fabulously complexity.

Then they could follow it up with Trading Species, American DNA chopper, this old DNA, Extreme Evolutionering, Mythmakers, etc...

I'm all for including ID, Creationism, and other snake oils in science class. Teach how these things are not science in order to teach what science is. inoculating young people against B.S. will go a long way to stamping out this crap and perhaps get rid of the obnoxious pseudo science crap on shampoo bottles too.
posted by srboisvert at 4:00 PM on January 26, 2006


awe & wonder at the nature of nature

Being currently enmeshed in some distressingly deep study of biochemical pathways, believe me when I say that not a day goes by that I do not find myself amazed at their intricacy, structure, and function. Not to mention the startling efficiency of some enzymes and polymerases.

I do not, though, find there evidence for a conscious designer, but instead am amazed at the continuing ability of fitness algorithms to create emergent complex systems that are impressively non-fragile. And that's the way it has to be because we are all thr product of a staggering number of transactions stretching back billions of years that have been tested for their fitness in reproducing their behaviours. We are the winners of a massive number of coin tosses and it can seem someties like a mystery.

Of course, the existence of so many obvious molecular fossils and pathways taken "just because" also argues in favour of exaptation, descent through modification, and blind algorithmics and against the idea of an intelligent designer. There would be easier, simpler, more efficient and more effective ways to accomplish certain functions, but because of the nature of the algorithmic search through genotype and phenotype space organisms have not yet made such large "hill" jumps.

The deeper question of "why?" something exists at all is not really a question of science, but of metaphysics or theology. It cannot be answered in any meaningful or non-recursive fashion using the scientific method, which is after all a theology of recursion.

My perspective is that by virtue of our explicit existence, we tend to prioritise the question of "why does something exist?". It is my contention that the question of "why does nothing not exist?" is equally valid, insofar as either question has a meaning within a specific frame of reference.
posted by meehawl at 4:49 PM on January 26, 2006


What you're describing is not Intelligent Design. ID is based on the "fact" that certain morphological features are "irreducibly complex," and were thus designed. We're talking eyeballs and and reproductive systems, laid out in blueprints by God the designer. Not just creating DNA, then stepping back and watching.

NO intelligent design means that the idea that some entity was involved in the creation of the human is at least as plausible as the idea that it was random chance.

"irreducibly complex" is just the best argument the christians can come up with.

Tell me this -- where did DNA come from? one day the molecules just happened to fit together into a shape that started replicating itself? ps try to answer the question without using the words "primordial" "ooze" or "soup". Have you ever heard a description of the start of life that does not include these words? why?
posted by tranceformer at 4:53 PM on January 26, 2006


verb: The 'it's random' versus 'God's guiding it' argument seems to me the really pointless aspect of the debate. Mostly because the two look exactly the same from an observational point of view.

I once got into an argument with a history professor who insisted that 'evolution' meant a progression towards perfection, while 'natural selection' was the term for adaptation through selective breeding. He wouldn't budge. I suppose he got this idea from some neocon historiographer like Fukayama with his goal-based history.

I should have asked him whether he believed in evolution while I had the chance.
posted by obvious at 5:19 PM on January 26, 2006


NO intelligent design means that the idea that some entity was involved in the creation of the human is at least as plausible as the idea that it was random chance.

"At least as possible?" ID advocates use much stronger rhetoric than that. They advocate it as an alternative theory, trumping evolution... even though they don't seem to have a clear grasp of what "theory" means.

"irreducibly complex" is just the best argument the christians can come up with.

Pretty sad.

Tell me this -- where did DNA come from? one day the molecules just happened to fit together into a shape that started replicating itself? ps try to answer the question without using the words "primordial" "ooze" or "soup". Have you ever heard a description of the start of life that does not include these words? why?

Uh, because we're still trying to figure it out. Don't give me any God-of-the-gaps crap. It's intellectually lazy. If you want to throw up your hands and say, "God did it," fine, but keep it out of the classrooms. There's nothing to teach.
posted by brundlefly at 5:20 PM on January 26, 2006


NO intelligent design means that the idea that some entity was involved in the creation of the human is at least as plausible as the idea that it was random chance.

Well, it might like to mean this, but it only barely conjectures it, and it is evidently not the case to anyone who has studied evolution in detail; the suggestion of an additional ambiguous and extremely difficult to define entity involved is an unnecessarily complex solution.
posted by mek at 5:28 PM on January 26, 2006


Please take the time to read the first chapter of The Selfish Gene (and heck why not the rest of the book) before you attempt to criticize whatever conception of evolution you hold.
posted by mek at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2006


...God had no part in this process;

yeah, no way 48% of americans would make that claim. I think the UK version of "intelligent design" might be a little more sensible than ours.

meehawl, I don't particularly disagree, although at the same time I am not fully satisfied with the something - nothing equivalence. Still, I don't expect to ever discover something that will clarify the matter or anything, so for all purposes it's fair to say that's just the way it worked out. But if the 39% of this survey who voted that god had something to do with evolution meant that some kind of deistic 'uncaused cause' started the process, rather than it just randomly happening to happen instead of randomly not happening as per your view*, I don't think we're necessarily getting into anti-science territory (as you say it's metaphysics and hence outside the scope of science, but not against science). *and maybe we can't even really make a case for differentiating these two - perhaps it is all a question of how we describe what we find.
posted by mdn at 5:30 PM on January 26, 2006


Evolutionism is the tinfoil hat atheists wear to keep God out of their brainwaves.
posted by bevets at 7:22 PM on January 26, 2006


Bevets is the tinfoil hat a clinically insane asshat wears to keep progressive discussion out of the thread.

NO intelligent design means that the idea that some entity was involved in the creation of the human is at least as plausible as the idea that it was random chance.

Evolution is the simplest math: propagate or fail to propagate. The sum of chances gives you the answer; the designs and behaviours influence the outcomes of those chances.

You can not add an "Intelligence" to that which is so strictly mathematical. It is outside the model.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 PM on January 26, 2006


Evolution is the simplest math: propagate or fail to propagate. The sum of chances gives you the answer; the designs and behaviours influence the outcomes of those chances.

Very clearly put. Thank you, fff.

Oh! And thank you, bevets, for another contentless post containing a link to a list of contextless quotes. This thread would not be complete without it.
posted by brundlefly at 1:20 AM on January 27, 2006


Let me refine my statement:

Associating God with evolution is the same as associating God with 1+1=2.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 AM on January 27, 2006


Well put, fff, but the sad truth is that I can imagine scientists and creationists all nodding their heads at that - with opposite interpretations.
posted by freebird at 10:04 AM on January 27, 2006


Fersure. The point is, one doesn't say that God personally intervenes with 1+1=2. It just is.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:51 AM on January 27, 2006


Creationism is easy to understand and childish. Evolution is slightly complex and requires some thought. The education system has failed to inform people or teach people to think. Ergo the results.
posted by bobbyelliott at 1:17 PM on January 30, 2006


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