Week 4: Johnson & The Discovery Institute

September 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Week 3 | 1 Comment

Both Johnson’s Chapter 1 and The Wedge by the Discovery Institute present inflammatory arguments towards evolution and appear to advocate on the part of Creationism/ID.  In Chapter 1, Johnson, a lawyer, prefaces his forthcoming debate about the legitimacy of evolution versus creation. Interestingly, Johnson focuses on many arguments that critique evolution. He describes how evolutionary arguments often leave little room for conflict of questioning. He also points out how similar to religious evangelists evolutionists, in that both appear to evangelize, yet evolutionists continue to use science to discus religious matters, not separating church and state as they advocate. He also draws evidence from other critics, who argue that evolution is also a matter of faith; thus presenting information that is vastly different from many thoughts about evolution and seems extremely critical in a non-scientific manner.

The Wedge Document by the Discovery Institute summarizes the plan of the Discovery Institute to make Intelligent Design the dominant belief. They want science to become a theistic pursuit and consider evolution a product of a materialist culture they wish to eradicate. They strategize to use scientific research and publication to primarily begin to change public perception of ID, then using publicity to change opinions, and finally confronting cultural standards and renewing beliefs. Their plan focuses on science as the foundation for changing beliefs and plans to become the dominant belief in 20 years.

As previously noted, both pieces focus on problems with evolution as the dominant thought process worldwide; including flaws within evolution and similarities between creationism’s belief structures. However, where Johnson takes a strongly non-scientific, legal, argument based claim-evaluation, the Discovery Institute believes science rather than rhetoric will help initially change minds and eventually be able to support strong, opinion-changing rhetoric. My question is, what sorts of scientific findings and types of publications would lay sufficient groundwork for intelligent design to attempt to become the dominant belief system?


Phillip Morris – Week 3: Nisbet/Miller et al.

September 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized, Week 3 | 3 Comments

It is fairly clear that the scientific community has dropped the ball when it comes to keeping the American public well informed on the nature of what constitutes the scientific origins of life.

As national and international surveys reveal during the past 20 years, Americans increasingly have become open to the notion of entertaining intelligent design as a viable scientific alternative to the theory of natural selection, especially the evolution of man.

Most worrisome to scientist as the trend continues is the reality that savvy religious and political propagandists have convinced increasing numbers of Americans that both the theory of evolution and the doctrine of intelligent design should be presented in the classroom as equally valid science.

The scientific community really has nothing to blame but itself for this remarkable intellectual regression. An insular academic arrogance and a fundamental misunderstanding or misreading of the public’s basic understanding of science, especially the science of evolution, has allowed opportunists with a creationist or political agenda to highjack validated science and to confuse or “politicize” the public mindset toward the origin of life.

So how have the creationists managed to retool their message as intelligent design and market it as valid science to the general public? Very simple. They’ve skillfully used the media as their messengers.

A 2005 Survey Research Institute Poll at the University of Cornell showed that most Americans received their information and developed their views on evolution based primarily on TV and newspaper coverage of the issue. Few indicated that they were directly contacted through the mail, phone, or electronically with those wishing to influence their opinion.

This strategy to use mainstream media outlets to market competing viewpoints to evolution has proved highly effective given that media are trained to always looks to present another side to a story or to be fair and balanced in  coverage. As a result, concludes Nisbet, “many journalists compound the problem by carefully, yet erroneously, balancing pro-evolution against ID arguments, inevitably leading to a confusing picture about the state of science.”

This has led to the intellectual creation of a growing class of Americans whom Nisbet refers to as “low-information pluralists” or “persuadables,” who conclude that evolution and ID are both valid and should be presented equally to students with the academic intention of allowing them to form their own conclusions.

The successful media marketing of ID along with the politicization of the issue by politicians, who understand that fundamentalist can be courted by presenting evolution as anathema to Christianity  has served to effectively and dangerously confuse the issue write Miller, Scott and Okamoto. It also signals the end of an era when there was “broad public acceptance of the benefits of science and technology,” the authors conclude in the article Public Acceptance of evolution.

Which leads to the question how can scientists hope to regain momentum in the marketplace of evolutionary ideas when they have been reluctant to engage media savvy ID proponents in open forums? (Witness the failure of scientist to forcefully and directly challenge those who led the movement to revise the Kansas science curriculum).

Also, how can science hope to regain momentum in the political marketplace of ideas when, as Miller, et al. write,  “the growing number of adults who are uncertain about (evolution) suggests that current science instruction is not effective

One can only conclude that until science finds a much better way of communicating established theory and highly validated information through mainstream channels, religious propaganda and political mischief will continue to hold sway with science.

Abby Lieberman_ Week 3

September 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Week 3 | 1 Comment

There are many social psychologists who say that most people are passive media consumers; that is, their beliefs and perceptions of the world emerge out of their television viewing, newspaper and magazine reading, and whatever else they hear about certain issues.  Others, however, believe that that most consumers are actually active viewers; they feel that people choose or select what media to consume and formulate an educated view of the world based on what media provides and their own ideas. Either way, in reading Nisbet and Nisbet’s feature article titled, “Evolution & intelligent Design: Understanding Public Opinion” and in reviewing the Pew Research Center’s report, “Public Praises Science, Scientists Fault Public, Media”, it is clear that the general public is not provided enough scientific information in order to make informed decisions and formulate knowledgeable beliefs about what is and is not science.

In their article, Nisbet and Nisbet argue that media consumers are not given enough correct information on scientific issues, particularly on intelligent design.  They discuss that the way journalists frame ID is reflected in people’s decisions and that, often, the media sets consumers up to believe something that is not true. According to Nisbet and Nisbet, “many journalists compound the problem by carefully, yet erroneously, balancing pro-evolution against ID arguments inevitably leading to a confusing picture about the sate of science” (5). They stress the important role journalism plays in people’s scientific beliefs and that there simply isn’t enough correct information out there; in fact, there is too much misleading information.  Additionally, they explain that, to go against the ID movement, it is imperative that supporters of evolution engage with the public on a more regular basis.  The media should not be the only outlet for information on the topic; board meetings and community gatherings would foster a more active and knowledgeable public (5).

Pew Research’s report, “Public Praises Science, Scientists Fault Public, Media” is evidence that what Nisbet and Nisbet explain is, in fact, true. The study finds that “Scientists hold generally negative views of the quality of news coverage of scientific issues” (22).  However, it also shows that part of the misleading coverage is a result of scientists not providing enough information to journalists and reporters. Overall, 85% of scientists see the public’s lack of knowledge on key scientific issues, such as that of evolution and ID, to be a problem (55).  The study, like Nisbet and Nisbet’s article, concludes that the public must be more engaged and involved in the discussion.

This goes back to whether or not people are active or passive media consumers.  The best way to tackle the situation at hand and to inform people of the truth depends on the ways in which they consume media. A person who is a passive consumer may flip on a random channel and take in what they are hearing, but not necessarily employ their own viewpoints in how they feel about it.  They will believe what they hear.  On the flip side, a person who is an active consumer may not even choose to put on a certain TV channel at all or read a certain newspaper, for that matter, because neither would pertain to their beliefs.  In this case they may be preventing themselves from consuming vital scientific knowledge altogether. So what is the best way to fix how the public consumes scientific information? The media is a vehicle for the ways in which information is consumed, but what is the best way to present scientific data? How can you cater to the active and the passive media consumer at the same time?

Megan Geske Week 3: Pew and Nisbet

September 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Week 3, Weekly Responses | 5 Comments

In the article Framing Science: A New Paradigm in Public Engagement, Nisbet argues that scientists need to frame their findings and ideas in ways “that address intended audience’s values, interests and worldviews” (3). Proponents of Intelligent Design used a “scientific uncertainty” frame in the mainstream media in order to plant doubts about the validity of the theory of evolution. In addition, journalists writing about the debate focused on the tactics of ID proponents, and largely ignored the scientific background. By showing arguments from both sides, journalists actually gave credibility to the “scientific uncertainty” frame, when there was actually no controversy in the scientific world.
Section 5 of the Pew Report further discusses the fact that the public and scientists often hold differing views of issues such as evolution and climate change; while there is a general consensus in the scientific community about the theory of evolution, the public remains divided. The report found that the public’s view on evolution is closely tied to their religious beliefs, with 57% of white evangelical Prtotestants not believing in evolution, and about half of the people who do not attend religious services believing in evolution due to natural selection. In addition to religion, the report found that younger respondents were more likely to believe that humans evolved by means of natural selection.
Both Nisbet and the Pew Report delve into the issue that while scientists agree that humans and living things evolved by natural selection, the public is not so sure. While the Pew Report focuses on religion and age as factors for the public’s uncertainty, Nisbet focuses on the way scientists communicate with the public, or rather their lack of communication skills. The Pew Report offers demographic explanations for the public divide in opinion, but I believe that Nisbet offers the more compelling evidence: scientists don’t know how to communicate. In the movie Flock of Dodo’s, one scientist stated that “evolutionary biologists…don’t respect the kinds of arguments these people [ID proponents] are making, so they just ignore it and think it’s going to go away.” Scientists need to be able to effectively show the public that evolution is not a “scientific uncertainty”. In addition, I believe the biggest problem lies in the hands of journalists, whose “strategy and conflict” frame is giving the public a false impression about the scientific community. I think the best way to create a more unified public opinion may lie in the hands of the journalists.
My questions:

The Pew Report showed that large percentages of the American public do not agree that scientists have reached a consensus about issues such as evolution and climate change. Why do you think the public is unsure about what the scientific community believes?

What do you believe is the best way for the scientific community to sway the public? Framing? Is it the journalists’ fault? Why is it important for the public to agree with the scientists?

Some Evolution and ID Links:




And just for fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzHHZ5oXAr0

Pew and Nisbet Articles

September 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Week 3 | 1 Comment

In Section 5 of the Pew Report, he discusses how the public opinion on various scientific theories can be influenced by many factors such as age, gender, religion, and political party. He addresses evolution, stem cell research, animal testing, climate change, and vaccinations to exemplify how an individual’s characteristics and beliefs can sway their opinion on these topics of science. For example, when it comes to evolution, many people acknowledge that it exists but are torn on whether it has occurred due to natural selection or whether there is a “divine being” involved. Those with higher education levels are more likely to accept the idea of natural selection than those with less educational background. Those who are very religious and regularly attend church are less likely to accept natural selection as the means of evolution. Characteristics such as gender, age, and political party have also had an effect on public opinion concerning debated scientific processes such as animal testing and stem cell research.

Nisbet also recognizes these effects on public opinion in his article Framing Science: A New Paradigm in Public Engagement. He believes that due to these factors there has been controversy on topics such as evolution and climate change, but the framing of these issues is also a cause of the controversy. He says that there has commonly been a strategy to inform the public strictly with facts, and to let the facts speak for themselves so that we can reach a consensus. However, he stresses the importance of framing scientific issues in terms of an “audience-based” approach by appealing to the audience on a more personal level. An example of this is how framing evolution in terms of the medical advances it could bring appealed to the audience more instead of framing it in terms of legal cases or straight facts.

Both of these articles have valid points in their approach to public opinion in relation to evolution, climate change, etc. Considering how many differences were addressed, how effective would framing really be in creating some kind of common ground? It seems as though there are too many differences that would have to be accounted for in order to appeal to the general public. Even if there was a framing scheme that could appeal to most, isn’t it likely that there will be at least one group that will oppose? Even if it is for the purpose of playing devil’s advocate? According to the articles, those who have strong religious or political beliefs are not likely to be swayed by the scientific community that has experts on the subject. Would it make more sense to accept the fact that there will be differences in opinion rather than trying to manipulate the overall message that scientists are trying to get out in order to reach agreement?




Week 3 Pew and Miller Readings

September 18, 2011 at 9:57 am | Posted in Week 3, Weekly Responses | 1 Comment

Section 5 of the Pew Research Center reading on “Evolution, Climate Change, and Other Issues,” highlights the results of several surveys regarding Americans’ opinion on such issues. In doing so, they point out that scientists agree on evolution and climate change, whereas the general public stands divided. In, “The Origin and Development of Life,” they compare polls from scientists only and the general public. 61% of the public says humans evolved over time, whereas 32% say evolution is due to “natural causes such as natural selection”, and 22% say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today. However, 97% of scientists say humans evolved over time, and 87% say it was through natural causes. They then point out factors that may affect the results of these surveys. For instance, religious affiliation provides different results. Also, younger respondents were found to be more likely to say humans evolved through natural selection, in addition to higher educated people being more likely to say this. With regard to climate change, 85% of Americans say the earth is warming. However, 70% of scientists feel this is a problem, compared to only 40% of the public seeing it as such. Likewise, only 49% of the public feel it is caused by human activity, compared to 84% of scientists saying such. Furthermore, liberals and democrats were found more likely than conservatives and republicans to believe global warming is caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels. Additionally, 52% of the general public is in favor of using animals in science research, compared to 93% of scientists. Men, republicans, and younger people were found more likely to support this than women, democrats, and older people respectively. Likewise, scientists were more likely to support federal funding for stem cell research than the general public, 93% to 58%. Similarly, 70% of scientists are in favor of nuclear power plants for electricity, compared to only 51% of the general public. Finally, 82% of scientists favor requiring child vaccinations, whereas only 69% of the public agree. It is clear that scientists are in much greater congruence among there kind, compared to among the general public.

In Miller’s, “Public Acceptance of Evolution,” similar surveys were conducted to find out percentages of those who accept and do not accept evolution, and possible causes of such findings. In the beginning, they point out that biblical literalists do not accept the concept of evolution of humans. Furthermore, attempting to institute Intelligent Design into public schools is believed to be religiously motivated. Over the past 20 years, the acceptance of evolution among the general U.S. public has shown to decline from 45%-40%. Only 14% of American adults thought evolution was “definitely true”. Compared to 9 other European countries, a significantly less proportion of American adults accept evolution as truth. A third of Americans indicate evolution is “absolutely false”, whereas only 7% believe this in Denmark, France, and Great Britain, and only 15% in the Netherlands. Why is this so? They hypothesize that it has to do with a higher percentage of biblical literalists among their religious population compared to other countries. Also, it may be due to the fact that this debate has become politicized – republicans are more favorable of “creation science” than democrats. There is also a statistical correlation between being pro-life and rejecting evolution. In the end, Miller suggests that basic concepts of evolution should be taught in middle school, high school, and college and if more Americans had knowledge of the science of evolution, they would be more likely to accept it.

Both readings do a good job surveying relevant topics with significant findings regarding evolution and public opinion. However, both articles touch on unique subjects. The Pew article touches on the opinion on child vaccinations, nuclear power plants, funding for stem cell research, using animals in scientific research, and climate chance. The Miller article touches on statistics among general populations of various countries. They both analyze the impact of religion on public opinion. The Pew article basically concludes that those who think more like scientists are more likely to believe in evolution, human activity’s role in climate change, using animals in research, funding stem cell research, nuclear power, and child vaccinations. These results may be affected by things such as political affiliation, religious affiliation, and education or lack-thereof. The Miller article, likewise, concludes that more education leads to a higher acceptance of evolution, and that a higher percentage of biblical literalists in a given sample will lower the acceptance rate of evolution within that general public.

Some questions for discussion from these readings might include:

Do you think biblical literalists will ever be able to compromise with evolutionists? Why or why not?

Will future generations of descendants of biblical literalists be more likely to compromise with evolutionists? Why or why not?

Are scientists, with their higher knowledge of these subjects, more fit to make decisions on climate change than our politicians? Why or why not?

Luke Yiannatji

Week 3 Post – Pew Research (Section 5) & Public Acceptance of Evolution

September 18, 2011 at 12:22 am | Posted in Week 3 | 1 Comment

Section 5: Evolution, Climate Change and Other Issues from Pew Research Center talks about two issues that divide the public and that is evolution and climate change. “87% of scientists say humans and other living things have evolved over time and it is due to natural processes, when only 32% of the public believes this.” There are many different attributes to look at when it comes to the differences in people’s view on evolution. 1) Gender – Males are more likely to believe in evolution, when females are more likely to believe living things have existed in their present form since the beginning 2) Age – Younger people are more likely to believe in evolution, and more older people believe in the existing in present form 3) Education – the more education you have ( some or more college ) the more likely you are to believe in evolution, then someone with not as much education that would believe in existing in present form. Religion and attendance at religious services also features to look at when it comes to people’s different views on evolution. When it comes to the divide over climate change, we can look at age and education to guess where the public may stand on this important issue, but the strongest correlation of opinion is Republican versus Democrat. “Two-thirds of Republicans say that the earth is getting warmer mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere, when the same amount of Democrats say the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity.”

Jon D. Miller’s Public Acceptance of Evolution stated that, “the public appears to be divided evenly in terms of accepting or rejecting evolution.” Over the past 20 years, surveys have been conveyed conducting this research. When true and false surveys were conducted in the US, they got different results then when they asked for statements like “definitely true, probably false, etc.”. It seems like most US adults were somewhere in the middle, and really aren’t positive whether evolution is true or false. But in other countries, they received much different results; adults in Japan and 32 European countries were more likely to accept the theory of evolution when surveyed then the adults in the US.

Both of these articles are talking about different variables that can contribute to one’s belief in evolution. They also both give statistics to show that the public is still very divided on this topic of evolution. Even if the scientists believe it, and have the resources to back them up; the people that have religious beliefs feel like it is taking away from their impeccable image of God.

Reading these articles and watching Judgment Day made me wonder if we will ever come to an agreement on evolution. I feel like even if there is research done and evidence to prove whether evolution is true or false, some still won’t believe. Won’t people still just believe what they want? Won’t it always be a problem to teach evolution to the children of nonbelievers or have scientists teach creationism? Then what, what are we suppose to teach our children? Or do we leave it up to the parents to teach them what they want, and leave this aspect out of science class for good?

Links for the debate between ID and Evolution:




Jorden Gemuend – Week 3

September 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Week 3, Weekly Responses | 2 Comments

“Evolution and Intelligent Design: Understanding Public Opinion,” an article by Nisbet and Nisbet, immediately dives into the tension that has been forming between the ideas of evolution and intelligent design. The publication lays out the political and social backdrop that was occurring during the 2005 Dover federal court case. Explanations are given of the two movements stating that ID is associated with creationist beliefs and is religiously motivated, while evolution is supported overwhelmingly by the scientific community. Confused by the disconnection between scientific consensus and public opinion, the authors turn to a series of polls to provide some explanation. The findings of the polls show that public opinion and information of the debate is largely fueled through mainstream news. Results also indicated that not only are these topics important in the public eye, but that the public mostly believes that ID should be taught alongside evolution. The authors attempt to attribute these findings based on lack of appreciation for scientific evidence, low information, fear of technology and experts, and political endorsements. The articles ends with some suggested strategies for how evolutionist could help align public opinion with their scientific findings.

Miller, Scott, and Okamoto also write about public opinion of evolution and intelligent design in “Public Acceptance of Evolution.” The authors clearly lay out that evolution is a concept non-compatible with Biblical religions, and that ID is the attempt to promote a Godly beginning to life without referencing to God. Turning to a set of polls focused around the public knowledge and opinions of evolution, findings show that the U.S. public is split evenly on the issue with half accepting the idea of evolution and half rejecting it. A majority of responses were found to be near the less polar middle of the spectrum. These national numbers are found to be less accepting that those of European countries and Japan. Politics are one possible explanation of why these numbers differ as Republicans have taken on creationist views as a platform. Additional poll results indicated that U.S. adults with a higher understanding of modern genetics have more positive attitudes toward evolution. The national lack of intelligence is used to point towards the lack of support for evolution. These findings should be troubling, according to the authors, as they see political and religious science to be the future.

Both Nisbet and Nisbet and Miller, Scott, and Okamoto view ID as a front for a religious movement to inject creationistic ideas into society. The articles turn to polling to test public opinion and while Miller shows an even divide, Nisbet asserts that the acceptance of ID is actually greater than that of evolution. Where the two articles differ is how they attempt to explain why these results are appearing. Nisbet and Nisbet show that mainsteam news sources are the primary information source to public opinion, while Miller et al points toward the lesser degree in which the U.S. public accepts evolution compared with other nations. What is really interesting is how both articles claim that the politicization of science and an unintelligent public has led to the low rates of acceptance for evolution. The two articles both make it clear that you should be worried by these trends, and that education and science is at risk.

My question: Given that both articles pointed toward an association between the acceptance of evolution and public knowledge, do you think activists for evolution create an appeal for evolution by claiming that non-intelligent people do not support evolution?

– Jorden Gemuend




Week 3

September 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Week 3 | Leave a comment

Miller’s “Public Acceptance of Evolution” explores the differences between American and European acceptance of the theory of evolution, tracking public opinion since 1985. Approximately one third of American adults reject evolution, contrary to the general acceptance of evolution in a majority of European nations. Miller attributes this rejection to several figures, such as the difference between American Christian fundamentalism and European fundamentalism. American fundamentalist believe that Genesis is a true account, whereas Europeans are more likely to believe it is metaphorical. Additionally, Americans that believe in a personal god that they directly pray to are more likely to reject evolution. Additionally, Americans politicize the theory of evolution and poor scientific instruction has led Americans with less of an understanding of genetics to reject evolutionary beliefs from a human exceptionalism perspective

Nisbit’s “Framing Science: A New Paradigm in Public Engagement” discusses how effective science communication is often based on the framing of facts based on the audience and their beliefs, not simply relaying facts to the public. In the evolution debate, the Intelligent Design supporters have been particularly effective in using frames and garnering support with strong, smooth speakers. Frames, while often giving weight to one side of an issue more than other, are not an explicit political position, but instead are translated automatically by audiences via techniques such as catchphrases. It has been a greater challenge for scientists to frame evolution, using frames of the middle way between religion and science and of social progress, particularly in terms of medicine.

Both Miller and Nisbit recognize the need to reach out to the American public and educate them about evolution, particularly in light of the strong public relations campaign ID has created, finding support from religious leaders and presidents. However, where Miller believes a stronger scientific education of students is necessary to change the ID-created public perception wedge, Nisbit focuses on public engagement via the media. Engagement must occur in order to create changes in opinion and currently, ID supporters seem to have the greatest amount of control over the framing of the medias coverage of Evolution vs. ID.

My question is, given the many powerful frames that the ID supporters put forth, such as public accountability, uncertainty, and strategy & conflict, what sort of framing should scientists and creation experts use to produce a more powerful message to the American public?




Jade Hanson Week 3

September 16, 2011 at 12:17 am | Posted in Week 3 | Leave a comment

The first article I examined was the Pew Research Center Article entitled Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media. This piece stresses how the views of scientists often differ from those of the public. For example, evolution and global warming are two topics in which the public and scientists opinions differ a substantial amount. However, children’s vaccinations are one topic in which the gap between the public and scientists is not very noteworthy. This research piece also examined how different political and ideological views affected citizens’ stances on scientific issues. In the majority of cases, liberal Democrats’ opinions were a closer reflection of scientists’ opinions than the beliefs of conservative republicans.


The second article I looked at in depth was the piece called Evolution & Intelligent Design: Understanding Public Opinion.  This piece focused specifically on the debate between the introduction of intelligent design into high school science classes. Newsweek and CBS News both discovered that the majority of Americans would be in favor of allowing creation to be taught as well as evolution. This piece mainly focuses on  the impact religion has on American citizens belief in “science” in regards to the ID vs evolution debate.


Both pieces bring about valid issues in how citizens decide what is science and what is not. They theorize that while in most cases a large group of Americans do side with those of scientists, many other factors that are not related to science, such as religion and political association, affect how Americans view science. The authors of both articles clearly highlight problem within our science system at a societal level However, while Nisbet and Nisbet suggest the framing of words can affect people’s opinions on certain issues, neither piece argues how to rid our science system of non-scientific influences. My question for this week is are there ways to separate people’s ideologies from their scientific beliefs? For example, should the American government instill programs in our country that teach people to demarcate science and other influences? While I believe that this will never happen because it will be viewed by many as unconstitutional and the revolution this would uproot would probably take close to about 50 years, the idea is something to consider. Would a “Brave New World” outlook on science benefit our society?


Jade Hanson









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