Monday, March 2, 2009

Creationism and Intelligent Design in Great Britain

In the comments thread to my last post Lautreamont pointed to a recent study about belief in creationism and intelligent design in Great Britain. The study showed that over 80% of the people in Great Britain reject intelligent and creationism. A larger percentage (89%) rejected intelligent design than those which rejected creationism(83%). Given the big-tent nature of ID this is surprising. This rejection may be explained by definitional issues since some theists will accept "creationism" as the general idea that God created the world but reject "intelligent design" in the sense that they consider this belief to be exclusively theological rather than scientific in nature. There are also some young earth creationists who reject intelligent design as not having enough explicit emphasis on the Bible. Without a more thorough examination of the study and the phrasing of the questions it is hard to say. Note also that the percentage who are rejecting creationism is much higher than in the United States where approximately half the population are young earth creationists.

Razib over at Gene Expression has also blogged on this story and has some analysis on the geographic breakdown of belief. He raises two points that are worth noting: He notes an unusally high percentage of creationists in London and suggests that this may be due to Muslims living in the city. The study's authors speculated in contrast that this may be due to the relatively high Pentecostalist presence in London. Razib also discusses the high percentage of creationists in Northern Ireland and speculates that this may be due to the internecine religious fighting creating a general push towards more extremist views.

There are two paragraphs specific paragraphs from the article that are also worth noting:

The poll also revealed some extraordinary views on more recent writings, with 5% of adults thinking Darwin wrote A Brief History of Time, a bestseller on the science of spacetime, which was written by the Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking and is widely regarded as the most popular science book never to be completed by its readers.

A further 3% of those surveyed thought Darwin wrote The God Delusion, by the arch-atheist and Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, while 1% thought Darwin was the author of The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.
It could be worse. We could have people who thought that Darwin, Dawkins and Hawking wrote the Bible.


Lautreamont said...

Oh Josh, even when we used to practice with Swan I loved you.

As to this post I would be VERY curious to look at the difference in educational scoring between the average Briton and the average American. Does an increase in the quality of teaching and general aptitude equal a greater appreciation for science and distrust of creationism?

I can tell you for certain that Europe, which of all the continents is statistically the most educated, also contains the most atheists by far. Hmmmm.

Joshua said...

In general, higher education levels do correlate with greater acceptance of evolution. But I don't think that's all that's going on here since certain other pseudoscience and fringe science ideas (such as astrology and anti-vaccination attitudes) are more common in Great Britain than in the US. So there's something more complicated going on than just different degrees of acceptance of science.

Epoche said...

Yea, I wouldn't attribute acceptance of ID entirely to higher education. To truly appreciate intelligence design, at least the theory offered by ID celebrities such as Michael Behe, requires a certain degree of philosophical and scientific education. Concepts such as irreducible complexity of biologic systems employ fairly advanced molecular biology (and pseudo-mathematics), and application of "inference to the best explanation" is also upper level philosophy. This is probably more an issue of socialization, as opposed to rationalization.

Lautreamont said...

Epoche I am afraid you missed the extremely glaring point that the stupidity it takes to believe the major tenants of ID in the first place, far exceeds the amount of intelligence one might need to comprehend the scientific minutiae and biological concepts which are anyways, ESPECIALLY when one does understand them, wrong!