Posted by: paulgarner | September 3, 2010

Faith and Darwin: a confused and confusing survey

Confused responses to opinion polls on evolution, creation and intelligent design are nothing new. Todd Wood discussed the phenomenon earlier this month. But the Theos/ComRes survey of UK opinion reported in the publication Faith and Darwin in March 2009 seemed especially muddled, with no fewer than 45% of the responses (932 out of 2060) considered too confused or contradictory to be classified.

In a forthcoming paper in the journal Public Understanding of Science Sylvia Baker argues that much of the confusion was engendered by the way in which the questions were drafted and that the survey itself, not just its respondents, was confused about the matter under investigation. She points to the inadequate definitions used in the survey of the four positions – young earth creationism, theistic evolution, atheistic evolution and intelligent design – and also highlights the failure to define the key terms “evolution” and “science” used in some of the survey questions. This lack of clarity made the responses difficult to interpret.

The author’s conclusion is that “sophisticated approaches to such surveys do exist which would stand a much better chance of success”, but in this instance “there was a fundamental problem which guaranteed a measure of failure from the start.”

Reference

Baker S. 2010. The Theos/ComRes survey into public perception of Darwinism in the UK: a recipe for confusion. Public Understanding of Science first published on August 26, 2010 as doi:10.1177/0963662510376707

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