Recently an opinion poll showed that a majority of Americans want evolution taught in U.S. public schools.
Americans should use extreme caution before considering this as an argument for the teaching of evolution over creationism (or vice-versa). Evolution should be taught because it’s the best scientific theory with the most favorable evidence on its side to explain our natural world and not because it’s the most popular. Defenders of evolution consider its veracity to be reason enough to teach it in schools rather than because a majority believe it should be taught.
By enamoring or endorsing a poll such as this we concede the fact that if evolution fell to less than 49% of public opinion, then we should follow the majority opinion and start teaching creationism. In other words, today’s majority is tomorrow’s minority.
Opinion polls are a nonsensical way to form an opinion, yet millions of people put credence in such things rather than making an informed opinion based upon facts and research. Especially unfortunate is in the case of newspapers that continually fall victim to polls for forming editorial opinions or content. Call it laziness or a predisposition for someone to tell us what we should believe but this becomes a perilous journey into bumper sticker and slogan-based legislation that truly infringes upon our rights.
‘Majority rules’, even in a democracy, should not apply to academic studies. I am sure that a vast majority of people believe in astrology. Yet, under no circumstances should this be taught along side astronomy just because a majority of people believe it. Most people detest algebra, yet there is no math teacher that would advocate dropping the subject. Nor would a teacher yield to public opinion or de-emphasize the teaching of algebra because it is the basis of all higher mathematics. (Sound familiar?)
Even more wrong-headed is the notion that a segment of the population should give up its minority rights just because the majority deem them unnecessary. Such an example is the case of prayer in schools or the protection from unreasonable searches. Indeed, are we going to concede our protective minority rights in these areas because a democratic majority likes the idea of prayer in schools or thinks that unrestricted searches may lower drug usage?
While opinion polls can be an instructive way to gauge the pulse of a culture as well as an interesting way to see what the general population is thinking, polls are misleading and often grossly misinterpreted to fit a particular mindset or paradigm.
Let’s not fall into the trap of opinion polls and instead focus on the fact that evolutionary theory provides the best explanation for the origin of life.
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