Richard Dawkins should be very pleased that his efforts at educating the British public have met with such overwhelming success. He has much to look forward to in his retirement:
Britons unconvinced on evolution
Over 55s were less likely to opt for evolution than other groups
More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.
Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.
The survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI for the BBC’s Horizon series.
Its latest programme, A War on Science, looks into the attempt to introduce intelligent design into science classes in the US.
Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:
22% chose creationism
17% opted for intelligent design
48% selected evolution theory
and the rest did not know.
Intelligent design is the concept that certain features of living things are so complex that their existence is better explained by an “intelligent process” than natural selection.
Andrew Cohen, editor of Horizon, commented: “I think that this poll represents our first introduction to the British public’s views on this issue.
“Most people would have expected the public to go for evolution theory, but it seems there are lots of people who appear to believe in an alternative theory for life’s origins.”
When given a choice of three theories, people were asked which ones they would like to see taught in science lessons in British schools:
44% said creationism should be included
41% intelligent design
69% wanted evolution as part of the science curriculum.
Participants over 55 were less likely to choose evolution over other groups.
“This really says something about the role of science education in this country and begs us to question how we are teaching evolutionary theory,” Andrew Cohen added.
The findings prompted surprise from the scientific community. Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said: “It is surprising that many should still be sceptical of Darwinian evolution. Darwin proposed his theory nearly 150 years ago, and it is now supported by an immense weight of evidence.
“We are, however, fortunate compared to the US in that no major segment of UK religious or cultural life opposes the inclusion of evolution in the school science curriculum.”
In the US, a recent high profile court case ruled that the intelligent design movement is motivated by a desire to introduce God into the classroom after parents in Pensylvania took a school board to court over its demand that biology classes should not teach evolution as fact.
Horizon: A War on Science is on BBC Two at 2100GMT on Thursday, 26 January 2006