Thursday, May 18, 2006

We are devo

When I was at Penn, I remember sitting one day with a friend in the Allegro Pizza on 40th and Spruce (I actually used to call it Andante Pizza; you know, not quite allegro, if you know what I mean), and I related to him the following dire statistic (NB: I'm not sure where I heard this, so I might not have it right). They took a poll, and asked: "Should it be illegal to criticize the government?" Answer: 75% said yes. Now, my point is not that that number is remarkably high (although it certainly is that). For this poll was conducted in tandem with another poll (they can't possibly have asked the same people), in which they asked: "Should people be allowed to criticize the government?" Again (gulp), 75% said yes. So at least 50% of respondents had no idea what they were even saying. (Yes, I know it's not a strict contradiction, but even so!) So help me, that was the story as it was told to me. I certainly hope it's apocryphal. By the way, as we were marveling over this folly, there in Andante Pizza, a middle-aged lady came over to us and said she was happy there were some people our age who weren't just talking nonsense all the time. Faculty maybe? Who knows.

I thought of that today when I saw this. Over at EvolutionBlog (check out the new digs!), Jason tells us about a new Harris poll about evolution, creation, and all that. Check the Harris link for all the numbers, but here are three results that Jason cites.
We find that 65% of conservatives vs. 37% of liberals reject the idea that humans developed from earlier species. 56% of conservatives vs. 31% of liberals reject the idea that man and apes share common ancestry. And 58% of conservatives vs. 35% of liberals reject the idea that the fossil record confirms evolution.
Okay, we've seen these numbers before. But check this out (and it seems they did ask all these questions of the same people): at least 9% of conservatives and 6% of liberals (that's about 70 people, 7% of the sample) rejected the idea that humans developed from earlier species, but did not reject the idea that man and apes share common ancestry. So humans were created in their present form, but (maybe) they share an ancestor with apes. If so, that ancestor can only be human. So humans didn't descend from an ape-like ancestor (that'd be crazy!): apes descended from humans. (Maybe.) So do people really believe this, or was this poll conducted in the morning hours, before people have had their coffee?

UPDATE [mere hours later]: This morning's Times tells us that humans and chimps may have interbred, and that contemporary humans may be descended from that hybrid. Interesting – but that still doesn't mean apes descended from humans.


Anonymous said...

Must not have been me at Allegro. But my question needs answering: were you eating cheese fries at the time? And would you have preferred to eat them at the house if a servant had run out to Allegro to get them for you?

Ivy League POS

Duck said...

I was not. And as you well know, it depends on what I have to do in order to have a servant in the first place. That reminds me, I should blog about that (if not about the other thing, lest the Thurgood Marshall Foundation catch wind of it).