Monday, June 29, 2015

Yabba-dabba-D'OH!

“One woe doth tread another’s heel, So fast they follow.” As if things weren’t already looking bad enough, here comes some more embarrassing news

Jurassic World” may have been a documentary as far as millions of Americans are concerned.
A recent survey by YouGov — a for-profit research firm that conducts all sorts of online polls — found that 41 percent of those queried think dinosaurs and humans “probably” or “definitely” once co-existed on Earth at the same time.
The online poll (PDF) of 1,000 adults was conducted between June 15 and 17 and has a 4.4 percent plus-or-minus margin of error. ...
Note that with 16 percent “not sure,” it’s entirely possible that I’m actually living in a country where most people disregard the scientific consensus that dinosaurs lived tens of millions of years ago and tens of millions of years before the first humans emerged.
Perhaps these results shouldn’t be so shocking when we consider that there are entire museums, like Kentucky’s Creation Museum, devoted to showing how dinosaurs fit into the biblical timeline of history, complete with this animatronic display of a dinosaur hanging out with an Old Testament kid tending a fire.
YouGov also notes a clear religious split in the survey results. Most Americans who identified themselves as “born again” (56 percent) for the survey said that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, as opposed to just 22 percent who did not identify that way.
(This is all a little confusing, though, when you consider that there are also groups out there, such as Christians Against Dinosaurs, that consider the very existence of dinos to be a Jurassic-size hoax.)

Let me get my methodological objection out of the way: YouGov polls aren’t truly random according to standard statistical methodology. To be truly random, everyone in the target population must have an equal opportunity to become part of the sample; posting the questionnaire on a website doesn't guarantee such equality, no matter how you advertise it. It’s not really any better than handing out surveys in Mall of America.

Also, the phenomenon of online communities make it relatively easy to “load the ballot box” if you want to make a belief look more prevalent than it is (say, for instance, if you want to make “born again” Christians look dumber than they really are). So the test really doesn’t tell us how prevalent this ignorance is among the general public; we can even reasonably doubt how prevalent it is among the sample respondents.

However, these are concerns that only bug social-science wonks like me. There are plenty of people out there who don’t care a fig about methodology, so long as the result makes them feel smart by comparison. People who trust online poll results show a rather robust faith in the reliability of the Internet. I wonder how many of them have quit eating Ramen Instant Noodles.

Unlike Eric Mack, the author of the C-NET piece, I’m quite certain that most of the people who were “not sure”, “probably”, and “definitely” sure men and dinosaurs coexisted answered so, not because they reject the scientific evidence, but because they never knew the correct answer. Perhaps they all have vague memories of Land of the Lost ....

Nevertheless, some people do believe dinosaurs coexisted with men. (It’s entirely possible I live in a country where writers don’t realize that to coexist is to exist together “at the same time”, he said, needling Mack.) And some people do believe that dinosaurs are a hoax perpetrated by the scientific establishment. All I can say is, such beliefs aren’t required of Christians, “born again” or not. 

And Christians who do insist that the Bible falsifies dinosaurs or evolution make me cringe as much as do people who say, “But they’re just stories,” as if stories were by definition fat, happy lies. Shut up and sit in the corner, dumbass; you’re not helping.

At the end of the day, the only thing I’m sure of is that, every day, the Internet is helping to spread ignorance, error, and dumbth. #WeAreDoomed.

H/T to Deacon Greg, as well as apologies for the derivative title of this post.