Dinosaurs and Humans! Living Together! Mass Hysteria!02.18.10
According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll (you know how much I love these*):
Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals.
For those keeping score at home, that means that 50% of Texans don’t believe in the theory of evolution. (It also means that they consider the theory of evolution a belief system, which means that they don’t understand the definition of scientific theory.) And that about 30% think that Grok had a pet Triceratops and had to avoid being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex when out hunting.
If this were contained simply within the Bible Belt, it would still be intellectually depressing but somewhat understandable. But when the Texas Board of Education essentially determines what gets taught in history textbooks that become the standard for nearly every public school across the country, this ignorance cannot be ignored.
…the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years…
(My emphasis.) Note that these changes to the textbooks – including changing the previously established language describing the U.S. Constitution as “living” to “enduring”; requiring teachers to go over the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution; and pushing forth their main goal of establishing the U.S. as a “Christian nation” by revisionist accounts of the Founding Fathers and a unique interpretation of the First Amendment – will end up in nearly 48 million textbooks distributed to at least 46 of the 50 states to use in their public school systems.
And we wonder why so many people don’t believe in evolution. Or in climate change. Or who think that the earth is 6,000 years old. Or that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.
* With regard to polls, I feel that the associated NY Times article lends this data some weight. The questions asked are also much more straight forward than some polls that I’ve seen – like the ones Rasmussen conducts where they ask people “Do you like the health care bill?” or “Are you happy with the current government’s policies?” that provide no context for people’s discontent or allow them to provides reasons that might clarify just what they don’t like about policies, which is the important information to know. This poll asks value questions on purpose rather than skewing value questions as policy questions. Also – this isn’t the only poll that has found these kind of numbers. According to this article by the Pew Research Center from 2009:
Opinion polls over the past two decades have found the American public deeply divided in its beliefs about the origins and development of life on earth. Surveys are fairly consistent in their estimates of how many Americans believe in evolution or creationism. Approximately 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life, while comparable or slightly larger numbers accept the idea that humans evolved over time. The wording of survey questions generally makes little systematic difference in this division of opinion, and there has been little change in the percentage of the public who reject the idea of evolution.