Over the weekend the Dominion ran an internet poll, accompanying this article. It posed the question: Should schools be allowed to teach ‘intelligent design? The two options given were a) yes, all theories should be taught, & b) no, it doesn’t belong in science class. (I might be a bit off in the wording, as the poll’s no longer on line, but that’s the general gist of it. By the time the poll closed the ‘yes’ vote was ahead by a margin of 2:1.
Speaking as a biologist & a teacher, that result both concerns and saddens me. For reasons that I’m happy to discuss – just post a comment to kick things off. But what I want to address here is the question – do such polls mean anything anyway?
Well, they certainly tell you something about the thoughts of that group of people who feel strongly enough about the topic to bother voting. Personally I find the comments pages even more revealing. But… they’re very susceptible to being warped by block voting (and if the Pharyngula community can do it, so can the ‘other’ side!) And, the website itself notes that
Stuff polls are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate
Besides which – science doesn’t work this way! It wouldn’t matter how many people voted ‘yes’; that wouldn’t change the fact that intelligent design is at best a pseudoscience that lacks the beauty and explanatory power of evolutionary theory. Science isn’t democratic about these things. I mean, in the US a recent poll suggested that >50% of Americans believed that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. But that doesn’t make it so; the majority only rules if it has the evidence – good, hard data – and an explanatory model to back up its claims.