Majority of Ohio Science Professors and Public Agree:
Date: Oct. 11, 2002
'Intelligent Design' Mostly About Religion
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Archive: General News
The controversial concept of "intelligent design" theory, now under consideration by the Ohio Board of Education, is seen by Ohio scientists and the general public as basically a religious view of human origins. That's according to a new study conducted jointly by George Bishop, a UC professor of political science and director of UC's Internet Public Opinion Laboratory, and faculty at Case Western Reserve University.
A summary analysis prepared by Bishop found that, despite significant coverage and editorials on the issue in Ohio's news media in recent months, most Ohioans still know little or nothing about "intelligent design." In the most recent Ohio Poll, respondents were first asked: " Do you happen to know anything about the concept of 'intelligent design'?" The vast majority (84%) said "no"; 14% said "yes"; and the rest (2%) were "not sure". Not surprisingly, college graduates were significantly more likely to say they knew something about it (28% of them) than were high school graduates (7%) or those with less than a high school education (6%).
Whether they knew anything about it or not, respondents were then given a brief description of the concept of intelligent design identical to the one used in a statewide Cleveland Plain Dealer Poll conducted this past spring: "The concept of 'intelligent design' is that life is too complex to have developed by chance and that a purposeful being or force is guiding the development of life."
They then were asked: "What is your opinion-do you think the concept of 'intelligent design' is a valid scientific account of how human life developed, or is it basically a religious explanation of the development of human life?"
Given this description, the majority of Ohioans (54%) viewed it as basically a religious explanation of human origins; less than 1 out of 4 (23%) thought it was a valid scientific account; 7% believed it was a mix of religious and scientific accounts; and 17% said they were "not sure."
Not unexpectedly, those who have the academic training and expertise (PhDs) to teach the basic natural and physical sciences in Ohio's public and private universities regarded the concept of "intelligent design" as an unscientific notion. More than 9 out of 10 (91%) thought it was primarily a religious view. The vast majority (93%) of science professors said they were not aware of "any scientifically valid evidence or an alternate scientific theory that challenges the fundamental principles of the theory of evolution." Only a tiny percentage of them (7%) thought that "intelligent design" was either "strongly" or "partly" supported by scientific evidence. Most (90%) believed there was no scientific evidence at all for the idea of "intelligent design". And 3% were "not sure". Furthermore, when asked if they ever used the ID concept in their research, virtually all of them (97%) said "no."
Ohio's science professors felt just as strongly about what should or should not be taught about the controversy in Ohio schools. Most all of them (92%) thought " Ohio high school students should be tested on their understanding of the basic principles of the theory of evolution in order to graduate." When asked, however, if such students should also be tested on their knowledge of the concept of "intelligent design" in order to graduate, most of them (90%) said "no."
Perhaps the most surprising finding in the survey is that the great majority of Ohio science professors (84%) thought that accepting the theory of evolution was "consistent with believing in God." Only 9% thought it was not; and the rest (7%) just weren't sure. Most critics of teaching evolution in Ohio's schools commonly assume it's basically inconsistent with believing in God. Evidently, most of Ohio's science professors -- those who understand the theory of evolution best -- do not share that widespread view.
Further statistical analysis of the data from the survey of Ohio science professors showed only minor differences in responses across scientific fields such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and other natural sciences.
The sampling error for the Ohio Poll of 900 adults is plus or minus 3.3%. A description of the methodology for the Ohio Poll conducted from September 4 through 15 can be found at the following website:
Methodology for the IPOL survey of science professors included an e-mail invitation to participate in this web-based survey being sent to all professors (approximately 1500) currently on the faculty in four-year, public and private colleges and universities in Ohio for the following fields: astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and other natural sciences. Their e-mail addresses were identified through a combination of listings on the various college and departmental websites, supplemented by further examination of other university information sources. Four hundred and sixty (460) professors responded to the e-mail invitation, a response rate of 31%.
The sampling error for a sample size of 460 cases is approximately plus or minus 4.5%. As in any other survey, in addition to sampling error, other sources of error such as non-response and the wording and context of the questions asked can affect the results and conclusions of the study.