Apparently 1/3 of Texans Believe in The Flintstones…

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 14, 2010 7:46 pm

Surprised?

Picture 8

MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs, Texas

Comments (42)

  1. well, this was reported a while ago. but doesn’t seem that much deviated from americans as a whole (a bit more).

  2. Really, the “don’t know” category is just as bad. You’re a grown person and you don’t know this? And 59% of people fall in that category?

  3. This kinda fills me with sadness and despair. The task is so huge. Here’s hoping your work, Sheril, and those like you, will make some inroads.

  4. Linda

    What does this say about our educational system? Particularly sciences?

  5. Eugene

    I blame Flintstones. (Seriously. I believed that humans and dinos lived side by side when I was a kid.)

  6. I’d tell you to move back to N.C., Sheril, but there, 50% believed in Jesse Helms… not sure which is worse!?

  7. ChH

    There’s “Duh I saw dinos and men in a cartoon, so I think they lived at the same time”.
    Then there’s “I’ve studied evolutionary theory and understand it claims the last non-avian dinosaurs died out around 65 MYA, but I have examined the evidence, and I don’t believe evolutionary theory properly explains it.”
    The causes of these two routes to the same answer are entirely different.

  8. @ChH

    @ChH
    First of all, how does the second statement actually lead to the conclusion that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time? Secondly, why are you claiming that “evolutionary theory” shows that dinosaurs died 65 million years ago? That is also wrong — carbon dating shows this. Evolutionary theory tries to explain how humans exist today and not 3 million years ago, and how there is such a diversity of species.

  9. Dave English

    The first question isn’t a good question as religious beliefs differ from scientific answers (not me), but there’s no excuse other than pure ignorance checking any box except for “disagree” to the second question. Just figure it won’t matter a wit 20 millionyears from now, perhaps much sooner if the 59% take over.

  10. MutantJedi

    @Eugene,

    I grew up with the Flintstones and I had no problem telling that it was a cartoon and a fantasy. Perhaps that’s because my education in Canada was a bit more reality based than what seems to be found in Texas.

  11. ChH

    @ChH:
    1. The evidence I refer to that contradicts evolution includes indications of a young earth, and indications that men and non-avian dinosaurs did live at the same time – Schweitzer’s intact soft tissue, human & theropod footprints in the same sediment, cave-drawings of dinosaurs along with other megafauna widely accepted to have lived recently, etc.
    2. Even the proponents of carbon dating only use it for more like the last 65,000 years, not 65 million or more. And they have to fudge their numbers to account for variable C-14 concentrations over time and location. Dinosaur fossils are primarily dated by the strata in which they were found. Strata are primarily dated by the fossils found in them.
    3. I think we all agree that humans did not exist 3 MYA. As for the diversity … it all appeared at once during the Cambrian explosion ;-)

  12. Albert Bakker

    ChH should have probably read the article in the Texas Tribune first. It undermines brilliantly whatever excuse he or she was trying to make up. There you could have read the poll and the actual statements. For your convience: http://static.texastribune.org/media/documents/UTTT_Feb_2010_poll3-summary.pdf

    Truly a sad state of affairs for the citizenry of the world’s most powerful empire in history.

  13. Killuminati

    All but a example of the deliberate dumbing down of soceity. The education system is ineffective and is primarly used to program the youth of today and strictly train the left brain. Humans aren’t born dumb.

  14. ChH

    Albert, I read the article and the survey.
    My point was that the difference in belief is in part due to a well-considered difference in world-view rather than ignorance / lack of education.
    I will say this – I disagree with the Texas board of education on how to approach this. My wife & I homeschool our kids, and we are teaching them both the 4.5 GY-old earth evolutionist perspective and the young-Earth creationist perspective, and reviewing the evidence for each. It’ll be up to them as they become adults to decide which to believe.

  15. I am glad to see that so many Texans know that birds are dinosaurs.

  16. Jim

    Kereng, that’s exactly why I regularly vote “Don’t know” in surveys like this. While I’ve no doubt that a considerable number of the people who answer similarly in these surveys really just aren’t sure of the answer, there’s quite enough room here to not be sure of the question.

    The “Don’t know” on the human development question is just silly.

  17. Walker

    30% is relatively close to the infamous crazification factor, so we should not be surprised at all.

  18. Chris

    Are not many modern reptiles considered dinosaurs: alligator and crocodile for example? Birds are considered by science to be modern dinosaurs as well. There’s also a handful of marine life that has been dated back millions of years with minimal evolution, so technically humans did and still do live with dinosaurs…Depends on your definition of “dinosaur”. Also, the split on the belief in evolution is 51 to 49%, hardly overwhelming when considering the majority of the country is religious. That figure actually bodes well (as a non-scientific sample) since nearly 80% of Americans are religious, with Texas generally being considered one of the most religious states (likely more than the national avg).

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/080208-bird-origins.html

    http://www.texasalmanac.com/religion/

    It’s also ironic because the real world doesn’t care if people believe humans lived with dinosaurs or evolved from apes. We have more important modern issues to deal with, like alternative energy technology and fixing the economy. It’s a broad generalization to call these people “stupid”, as it is to call anyone religious person “stupid”. It’s what people DO in the present that is a better judge of intelligence because not everyone studies evolutionary science…

  19. ChH

    Chris, like dinosaurs, gators & crocs are archosaurs. But they are not dinosaurs because their legs extend out to the side, while dinosaur legs extend straight down from the body.

  20. Albert Bakker

    @ChH – If by your proposition that “a well considered difference in world view rather than ignorance or lack of education” is a plausible explanation for those ridiculous results, “a well considered difference in world view” is code for being a Christian creationist then yeah I buy that.

    Otherwise it would be about as likely as to suppose a collective, or rather perhaps serial outburst of scientific pedantry on the part of those poor Texans in responding to the fourth statement as kereng (#16) humorously suspects.

  21. When you go look at the survey that was done, 1% of the people polled identified their religion as “Don’t Know”. Not surprising to get so many “don’t know” on the other questions.

  22. Dan L.

    I blame the GNU atheists.

  23. Nullius in Verba

    I’d be interested in the results for the question:
    “What examples can you give of the evidence used by scientists to claim that the dinosaurs (besides birds) died out before mankind came into being?”

    It’s a question that the religious can answer without contradicting their own beliefs, and which would test whether all the people who said they did believe the dinosaurs died out early are doing so for properly scientific reasons, or whether it is merely the rote recitation of factoids with no real understanding.

    I suspect the situation is worse than you think.

  24. ThomasL

    Great point Nullius,

    Regurgitating the “right” answer says nothing of ones actually understanding “why” such is viewed as being the right answer, only that I remember being taught to respond to the question in that way (much of our educational system works more like an exercise in training Pavlov’s dog than teaching reasoning…).

    I’m not sure answering one way because “that’s what my science teachers said” is actually any more profoundly intellectual than another answering the other way because “that’s what my minister taught me”…

    Part of why such “polls” tell us exactly nothing.

  25. vel

    ChH, I’d love to see what “evidence” you’ve found for the YEC nonsense. And by evidence, I don’t mean myths.

  26. Chris

    “I will say this – I disagree with the Texas board of education on how to approach this. My wife & I homeschool our kids, and we are teaching them both the 4.5 GY-old earth evolutionist perspective and the young-Earth creationist perspective, and reviewing the evidence for each. It’ll be up to them as they become adults to decide which to believe.”

    I’m not religious, but I agree. I believe it’s best to present all sides of an argument to foster objectivity and weed out personal bias, thus allowing one to draw their own conclusions. I’d also like to note that there’s a variety of things considered “paranormal” that science cannot explain. Does that mean the cause of these unexplained events was the work of a deity or just something we don’t know? The answer could go either way depending on one’s world view. If you believe in religion, you could look at these events as evidence of a higher power, while science ponders how in the world is that possible and reaches no conclusion.

  27. ChH

    vel, a debate on the evidence here would be a pointless beating of a dead horse. If you’re interested, check these out:
    http://www.creationists.org/77JC/stones/incastone06x.jpg
    http://www.creationists.org/living-dinosaurs-inca-burial-stones-part-2.html
    http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/dinocarving.html

    Now, obviously it’s your prerogative to reject this evidence for whatever reason you want – but there’s a lot more like it out there (polystrate fossils, etc), not based on writings from four thousand years ago.

  28. Albert Bakker

    #27 Is that so Chris? Teaching children both supernatural nonsense and science is a good idea because then you “present all sides of an argument to foster objectivity and weed out personal bias” which is best because it allows the kid who is subjected such a “choice” to draw his or her own conclusions.

    The false balance fallacy is what it is often called. In this case a parody on the “teach the controversy” ploy of Discovery Institute. You presume equal validity between utter discredited horse manure on the one side and established science on the other and then that constitutes your balance.

    But that is a best case scenario.

    If for some unfathomable reason some parents got it in their heads to be qualified to home-school their kids and present them with this kind of “choice” to “foster their objectivity and weed out their personal biases,” how likely you think it is those parents who teach creationist nonsense as if it were a description of nature, not apply some mild pressure on the poor kid to pick the right choice and take the utter discredited horse manure over well established science?

    Which with time may perhaps explain ridiculous responses to simple queries about the history of this planet.

    I can somewhat understand your take on this, since apparently you are one of those people endowed with the enviable talent to mention the word “paranormal” without the urge to gag or giggle.

    You might not believe it, but many people think that to accept not being able to explaining things is to be preferred over simply making stuff up.

  29. ChH

    I like Nullius in Verba’s idea.

    To follow up on that, it would have been informative to ask if people agree / disagree / don’t know about these statements:
    1. Humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.
    2. Most scientists believe humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

    If you get the same answers for #2 and #1, I’m wrong and there’s a bunch of idiots who got the sum of their paleontology from watching the Flintstones.

    But I’d bet there would be a huge difference – that most people know what scientists are preaching, but they just don’t believe it.

  30. Chris

    “I can somewhat understand your take on this, since apparently you are one of those people endowed with the enviable talent to mention the word “paranormal” without the urge to gag or giggle.

    You might not believe it, but many people think that to accept not being able to explaining things is to be preferred over simply making stuff up.”

    I appreciate your kind words, I was unaware I was so talented. Well, if science simply cannot explain something when some alternative explanation seems to fit, who is right then? It’s in the eye of the beholder, i.e the skeptic or the religious. Science can’t explain everything and that’s what fuels curiosity and spirituality…

    I’d also have no problem with schools teaching both evolution and creation. I actually was forced to attend Catholic school up until high school and appreciate the experience because it helped solidify my understanding of both arguments… and yes that school did teach evolution as well. People simply need to understand the differences between science and religion… and yes, both can co-exist in the same individual. Ignorance only breeds negativity towards opposing views, knowledge helps bridge the gap in understanding all points of view. Your disdain of religion is apparently obvious in your rhetoric. I, on the other hand, am quite tolerant of religious views and offer my counter views to theirs with no hostility…freedom of religion, it’s in the US Constitution. Science simply explains the physical, while religion fulfills the emotional and personal. Some people need religion to feel grounded, others don’t, personal preference. Most people not trained in the sciences are also unaware of the science used in the real world, so it’s not exactly their fault for not knowing scientific explanations or understanding the scientific thought process. This is exactly why it’s far better to educate and understand than mock and scold… as you so readily did here.

  31. Chris

    I’d also like to add that the overwhelming majority of religious folks in the states are not zealots or “wackos”. Most have an understanding of the real world just as everyone else, but differ, in varying degrees, regarding the origin of the universe and the scientifically unexplainable – which are essentially personal issues since they serve no practical purpose in the real world. You’re not going to find many, if any, religious folks denying modern medicine, laws of physics, etc. They understand that a deity is not going save them when they become ill or prevent a building from collapsing in a hurricane. They keep faith as a form of positive thought in getting through difficult life experiences.

  32. Albert Bakker

    #31 – You’re welcome Chris.

    I am not against teaching – about – creationism. On the contrary. If time allows for it, I’d be all for providing kids with a whole smörgåsbord of creation myths. The more the better. Rather I am dead set against presenting them or arbitrarily one of them, with the authority of a teacher nonetheless, like they were valid descriptions of nature on equal footing with the theory of evolution. They are not. Creation myths serve a different purpose and consequently have an entirely different value to the systems of thought in which they arose and were developed and are only intelligible within that context. A value which incidentally is destroyed in the process of “fostering objectivity and weeding out personal biases” too.

    It’s a spherical bad idea to paraphrase Fritz Zwicky.

  33. Chris

    They both should be presented in a neutral manner, simply stating the support and criticism of each side to provoke thought and debate. I believe the facts will sort themselves out and kids will then understand why evolution makes more sense, and if they don’t see it that way, they’ll have to defend themselves when challenged to do so.

  34. Albert Bakker

    Chris #34 – You might have convinced yourself and certainly have convinced me that you honestly believe what you are saying is reasonable, but actually it is completely unreasonable.

    There really, really, really is no “each side” here. There is only one side to this “debate”. Creationism, wether it be from the Popol Vuh, the Enuma Elish, Edda, Bible or Brihadaranyaka Upanishad or the creation myths of Samoan, Algonquin, Aztec, Aborigine people etc. has no place in biology. It is a subject of theology. Or in a broader sense of mythology, maybe anthropology of religion.

    But it is most definitely complete nonsensical to treat these stories as if they are somehow valid science or to posit them as true by default when successful in casting doubt on or creating confusion about some contested detail within evolution science.

  35. ThomasL

    @34:

    That sounds way too much like you expect actual critical thinking skills Chris – as we all know, rote memorization is all that really happens in most of our schools, and is superior to critical analysis anyway (heck, I got told straight out during student teaching that “we don’t have time for that, just teach ‘em the right answer…”). Thus, teaching any more than one theory just confuses everyone as then they have conflicting and even contradictory ideas. As we never actually teach reason (and given some threads in here I doubt some of our educated intellectual types have any faith in reason anyway – “framing” seems to be more important these days), it leaves them in a confused state, unable to ever establish which idea or theory has stronger factual support.

    Naturally we will be teaching the *only* “right” theory, of course (a quick look at history shows us there is nothing to worry about in regards to doing this as rarely any “everyone agrees” type theory is ever shown to have been wrong later down the road). It’s rather presumptuous of you to think that others can think enough to sort it out… I mean do you really expect people to use reason & logic to compare theories and determine for themselves if something is reasoned or more like Swiss Cheese and full of B.S.?

    A quote that has been making the rounds lately states:
    “You are now about to embark upon a course of studies which will occupy you for [four] years. Together, they form a noble adventure. But I’d like to remind you of an important point . . . Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in [later] life – save only this – that if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot. And that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.”
    – Professor John Alexander Smith, 1914

    We obviously don’t believe such is important anymore (“detect when a man is talking rot”). We no longer feel anyone will be able to detect logical B.S., thus we don’t dare teach anything but that which is seen as being “right” (ignoring that such understandings’ have and do change all the time…).

    I’m sure some will find my sarcasm troublesome, but one can either trust that logical thought and reasoned argumentation will ultimately prevail, or they can believe it won’t, and thus argue for the need to hide ideas or simply ignore them wholesale (though they might want to take the time to ponder what happens when you choose that path).

    The topic under discussion matters little – either we can learn to use reason and logic to build our understandings and encourage its development in others, or we can’t – and if we can’t, one must ask “what’s the point of learning at all?” (for then the whole idea of “educated” becomes a big joke as reason will never lead one to enlightenment anyway and we’ve reduced ourselves to solely a stimulus-response creature).

  36. Nullius in Verba

    #31,

    “Well, if science simply cannot explain something when some alternative explanation seems to fit, who is right then?”

    If there’s an alternative theory that seems to fit, then science would have already picked it. It wouldn’t be sat there saying it can’t explain this. Of course, “seems to fit” depends on how closely you look, and how broadly. Does it fit with everything else we know? Does it fit in extreme cases, or at the microscopic level, or when the forces and pressures at each and every point are required to balance, or effects have to propagate over distance and through other materials and in the face of background randomness?

    Few people consider the matter that deeply, which is why shallow explanations often satisfy them. If science is rejecting what appears to fit, then you have to ask what its reason is. If science can give an example of how it doesn’t fit – then you gain a deeper understanding. If science gives its explanation, but on closer examination the lack of fit is insubstantial, then maybe science has to try again. But nothing is gained by simply asserting that science has reason to reject an explanation without saying what that reason is.

    So, for example, when I was at university, a fellow physics student mischievously brought up the subject of dowsing, saying it really did work. OK, I said, here’s the programme – first we prove that we can dowse; then we prove that we can dowse in a double-blind experiment; then we measure the range at which we can detect something; then we try to determine if we can block the effect by putting different materials in the way, can you interfere with the signal? What properties of substances can we detect? Do the influences have different strengths? How precisely located is the effect? Is it waves or particles, or diffusive, or what? Are there interference patterns, scattering, or refraction? Does it travel in straight lines? Does it travel preferentially in particular directions? And so on – all scientist’s questions.

    And as you think of each one, you can start to see ways in which things don’t quite fit. For example, dowsers pick up the signal when they’re right on top of something, but standing a foot to the side they’re almost exactly as close to the influencing object as they were, but suddenly don’t pick up anything. So the influence has to ‘beam’ straight up. So it’s presumably influenced by gravity somehow, but how can that work? Does it have mass? Is it subject to forces? If the object being detected is accelerating (say in an underground tunnel), can the force still go straight up? Can you detect something in an upstairs room directly above you? You see, the explanation is nowhere near as complete as you might think.

    Sadly, we didn’t get past step two. We could both dowse, but the effect disappeared completely when we did it double-blind. (Incidentally, can you say why the first step was necessary?) But it proved an entertaining exercise to come up with the right sort of questions, and quite frankly, it doesn’t much matter whether the effect is real or not when it comes to learning about and understanding science.

    Science can study and provide explanations for the paranormal as easily as it can for anything else. There is absolutely no reason why a physics teacher couldn’t use something like dowsing as a classroom example, and still teach genuine science. In this case, science can show that it is an ideomotor effect, and it leads naturally on to the important topics of subconscious bias, placebo effects, suggestion, and the reasons scientists have to use double blind experiments when dealing with certain sorts of experiments. I can’t think of any scientific principle that it is more important for students to understand.

    Learn to ask the right questions. Examine it, test it, measure it, extend it, generalise it, see how it relates to everything else. Learn how not to fool yourself. Don’t be satisfied with pat answers and things “seeming to fit”. Whether it turns out to be true or false makes no difference, what matters is the method.
    And if you teach people to ask those same questions about everything, then they will be a lot harder to fool on everything else.

  37. Chris

    Albert, I never said anything about teaching it as part of a science course. It would have to be part of a theology course of some sort and if the topic came up in a science class, I’d welcome the critical thinking debate. Provoking debate would certainly clarify the issue and likely help create more logical people than to ignore it all together. In essence, you could look at it as a logical dismantling of creationism. That’s pretty much what the class will turn into if it was to come up.

    Thomas, I understand you point of view. I originally went to school to become a math teacher, until I learned how little “teaching” actually takes place. It’s this reason that I believe schools need to welcome objectivity and provoke critical thinking over parroting. Critical thinking is a learned activity and really only takes place on the collegiate level today. Schools don’t do enough to provoke thought on the tough questions because they’re all so focused on getting their parrots to pass state and federal exams… it’s quite sad.

    Nullis, I don’t disagree, but I’m only referring to those things that science simply cannot explain, such as a person mysteriously recovering from a known fatal disease and the like. There’s likely a reason, but since science has yet to explain that specific case, people are going to think whatever they want: be it something that reinforces their religion or scientific curiosity. It depends on one’s own personal biases in that case: religion or skepticism.

  38. Mike Duquette

    To insertt god into a supposed gap of scientific knowledge, only stiffles future reaserch and questions for possible natural reasons for events.
    One may never look even in the obvious places.
    Paranormal should never be the possibility much less the first possibility as it so often is.

  39. ThomasL

    Agreed Mike,

    While many think “God” is used as a reason “for” things, the reality is most often whenever “God” is brought up it basically equates with “I don’t want to have to think about this problem any further”, that being because they find the conclusions being drawn uncomfortable (as a friend put it to me – “I hate when you go all philosophical on us, it doesn’t give me warm, fuzzy feelings…”), they lack the ability or what have you being the real underlying reasons. The actual statement “’cause of God” is really just a way to shut down the conversation, not a way to agree to anything (one could say it is a way to agree not to agree though…).

    At any rate, as I stated above, such is immaterial. This should all be rather clear to one who has learned the scientific method and been taught to use reason and logic as precious tools which are required to gain understanding of our natural surroundings even more so than for one who has simply never had to confront the problem.

  40. Chris

    I agree as well. I don’t have a problem with people thanking God or giving God credit for something personal, but I get uneasy when they use God to explain the explainable physical world. Fortunately, I very rarely come across that mentality.

  41. Brian Too

    Well duh. Texas is the home of Bedrock City, everyone knows that.

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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