Creative Polling - Slanting Questions to Achieve the Desired Answers
Chris Mooney's expose` on Zogby's polling practices (see here) shows how special interest groups can achieve favorable polling results through creative questioning. Mr. Knapp's website contains a reference (as of 11/12/04) entitled, A Zogby report shows 71% of Americans say allow criticisms of Darwinism in schools, which links to the results of a Zogby poll done in 2001. In composing this reference, Mr. Knapp has engaged in a little creative writing of his own. The poll in question does not ask if people are open to a discussion of general criticisms of Darwinism in the classroom. It specifically asks if they think "scientific evidence" against Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in school. Since at least 95% of the scientists in this country concur that there is no reliable, testable, falsifiable, scientific evidence that seriously challenges the theory of evolution, the polling question is, as things now stand, meaningless. Until such time as the evolution deniers can come up with some (any) substantive scientific evidence to support their religious worldview, public schools will be obligated to teach the only theory dealing with biological diversity that currently meets the standard of scientific authenticity, the theory of evolution.
Scientific evidence in favor of creationism is not taught in public school science classes for the same reason that scientific evidence supporting the demonic causation of disease is not taught there. There probably are a few "scientists" who, based on strong religious beliefs, will argue that demons actually play some part in causing disease. Nonetheless, they do not reflect the consensus opinion of scientists who have expertise in the etiology of disease, the vast majority of whom subscribe to the germ theory. Schools cannot fritter away valuable instruction time catering to the demands of creation/intelligent design advocates anymore than they can waste it on those who advocate equal time for demons and germs.
As reported in the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" on June 9, 2002, a poll conducted by an organization known as Mason-Dixon showed that 59% of Ohioans favored teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public school classrooms. Another poll, conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati during the same year, revealed that the vast majority of Ohioans (84%) knew little or nothing about "intelligent design." So here is a case where people were advocating the teaching of a concept they essentially knew nothing about. This situation illustrates how utterly meaningless polling results that support the teaching of alternatives to evolution can be. Because evolution is often given short shrift in undergraduate science curricula, most people have only a meager understanding of the vast amount of scientific evidence that substantiates evolutionary theory. At the same time, having been subjected to a constant barrage of creationist propaganda, they have been conned into thinking there actually is some scientific validity to the religion-based "alternatives" peddled by the promoters of creationism/intelligent design . Therefore, the results of these types of polls involving the general public are virtually worthless for establishing proper science education policy. Public opinion polls regarding the teaching of evolution should be given no more weight than they should regarding the teaching of quantum mechanics.