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Fixing the Gallup Poll on Human Origins
In the Appendix of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, which I reviewed here, Richard Dawkins talks about a notorious Gallup poll, conducted in America periodically since 1982, on the question of human origins. I say "notorious" because whenever this poll is discussed, complaints invariably arise. You see, by confusing mythic with measurable language, the questions force people into camps which do not, in fact, reflect the views of many—perhaps most—Americans on the subject. I propose to fix to this problem by offering a fourth question.
Currently, the sample of national opinion on the question of our origins is worded this way (with the 2008 percentages of the American population supposedly holding each position represented in parentheses after the question):
Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?
1. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process. (36%)
2. Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in the process. (14%)
3. God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. (44%)
All of the above confuse mythic-meaningful religious language with factual-measurable scientific language (in my book I call this crucial distinction night language and day language; see links below). By distinguishing rather than collapsing these two ways of speaking, the following question would, I believe, much more accurately reflect what many Americans and others around the world hold to be true:
4. Human beings emerged naturally from a long process of physical and biological creativity that can be spoken of religiously as "God's creation" or scientifically as "evolution".
I predict that when Gallup or any other reputable polling organization incorporates a question like #4 into their survey of opinions about human origins, the national and international news media will see it as a story worthy of wide and prominent coverage. Why? Because the results will not only evidence a radical shift in the creation vs. evolution debate in America, but the reporting of such will also stimulate fresh conversation on the subject of science and religion around the world.
Here's an analogy some may find helpful...
Poseidan is widely known in Greek mythology as "the god of the seas". What is less known, however, is that for perhaps millions of people Poseidon was a powerful, meaningful (i.e., mythic) personification of the seas. He was not merely some trivial, unnatural entity who managed or ruled the oceans from on-high or down-below.
But over time, as stories of Poseidon's adventures proliferated and were passed from generation to generation, and as people confused night language for day language by taking the poetry literally, they forgot Poseidon was a personification and began thinking of him as objectively real, rather than subjectively real. That's when this god began to die—that is, lose influence. Why? Because these "sacred stories" were no longer aligned with reality—either objective reality or subjective reality!
So, given this little bit of "Theology 101" as background...
Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of squid.
- 1. Squid came into being over millions of years from less advanced forms of marine life, but Poseidan guided the process.
- 2. Squid came into being over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but Poseidon had no part in the process.
- 3. Poseidon created squid pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.
- 4. Squid emerged naturally from a long process of physical and biological creativity that can be spoken of mythically as "Poseidon's creation" or scientifically as "evolution".
ALSO SEE (or hear):
Preface to the paperback edition of Thank God for Evolution
God is a Personification, Not a Person
Reality: God's Secular Name
Are God and Satan Real?
God as a Personification of Undeniable Reality
Podcast: The New Atheists as God's Prophets