Innumeracy

The Union-Tribune‘s Op-ed section today had a piece titled, “Why evolution matters,” written by three U.C.-San Diego biologists. The piece was about Americans and evolution, but that’s not what I’m on about. The top of the piece had a giant pull-quote that read:

In a recent Gallup poll, two-thirds of Americans said they believed creationism, the idea that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years, is definitely or probably true. Only half of those surveyed said they believed evolution is definitely or probably true.

What these three scientists, and the Op-ed editors appear to have missed, is that if 2/3 of the people believe one thing, and half believe in the opposite thing, 1/6 of those surveyed believe in both at once. Are they creationists who believe god evolved from monkeys? Or Darwinists who believe god created himself? The mind boggles.

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3 Responses to Innumeracy

  1. Martini-Corona says:

    Having just taken a 200-page (it seemed like) survey on gap.com so I could get 10% off a future purchase,* I have to say that people often contradict themselves even when 2 questions are separated by only a few other distracting items. I can totally see people saying creationism is “probably” true and then 5 minutes later saying that evolution is probably true as well. Or maybe they have some more complicated belief system and were pissed at the interviewer.

    [And now this comment will go into your spam folder and be lost… sigh…]

    * Totally not worth it.

  2. scott says:

    My guess is that the poll is probably correct, and people hold contradictory views. Like: there are creationists who believe in “microevolution” but not “macroevolution.” Small changes do happen, they trust the scientific data proving evolution in real-time. It’s the “historical” claims of evolution that they don’t believe in.

    Which isn’t exactly not dumb. People are hugely contradictory. I’m guessing it has to do with attachment to being the sort of person who believes x rather than knowledge produced out of reason, but that’s a different story for a different time…

  3. Eric Wolff says:

    Admittedly, I was trying to be funny with my last remarks, but I do think the writers of the op-ed owed us at least a passing remark about this, whether it’s what you’re talking about with different versions of your two beliefs, or flaws in the way the survey was conducted.

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