Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Quote of the Whatever


The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species, and Elvis is dead.

- Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.

From the story in ScienceDaily about a coalition of scientific societies that authored an article in the Journal, urging the scientific community to become more involved in the promotion of science education, including evolution. The societies represent teachers, biologists, physicists, astronomers, chemists, and social scientists and include: American Association of Physics Teachers, American Astronomical Society, American Chemical Society, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Institute of Physics, American Physical Society, American Physiological Society, American Society for Investigative Pathology, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, American Society of Human Genetics, Biophysical Society, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Geological Society of America, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, National Academy of Sciences, National Science Teachers Association, and the Society for Developmental Biology.

Dr. Weissmann had another pretty good one:

In an age when people have benefited so greatly from science and reason, it is ironic that some still reject the tools that have afforded them the privilege to reject them.
Choices like that can leave you deader than Elvis.

Does anyone share my reservations about the soundness of the questions asked in the poll?
Frankly, I didn't understand what the poll results were supposed to be from that article. Did you find the actual questions? I made a less-than-half-hearted effort to find out more about the poll.

I just liked the line.
It is reported in an editorial in the January 2008 issue of the FASEB journal, online at
In addition to that pdf file, there is a text version of the editorial here and an explanation of the survey methods can be found in a text document here.

Nothing is leaping out at me as particularly misleading about the questions and the intent apparently was, at least partly, to test what effect the nature of the questions have on the answers, as compared to other surveys.

The sample size seems small (but I always think that) and the conclusions drawn from the answers may not all be convincing (but I always think that too). What bothered you?
I thought it was strange to ask a question about who you would trust for scientific information, and one of the choices was a scientist. Isn't it an automatic answer, that one feels that they "ought" to tell the poll-taker that?

Also, to determine who is scientifically literate, two of the questions automatically exclude YECs. Not, of course, that I have any sympathy for YECs being scientifically literate, but it does have direct influence on whether one accepts evolution.
Isn't it an automatic answer, that one feels that they "ought" to tell the poll-taker that?

Given the DI's campaign to paint the scientific community as biased "Darwinists," the point might have been to see if the answer was still automatic, I suppose. It might also have been a "set up" question to get the subjects to think about who else they would trust. The conclusion that the high agreement means that people will really listen to scientists is one of those doubtful conclusions drawn from the results that I mentioned.

... two of the questions automatically exclude YECs

You're right there, I think, at least if the poll was trying to measure a straight correlation between scientific knowledge and acceptance of evolution. Instead, those questions wind up measuring rejection of various other branches of science based on religious beliefs with rejection of evolution based on religious beliefs.
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