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Brokaw Misconstrues Independent Voter Trends on Teaching Evolution

Last Sunday morning, MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” (hosted by Tom Brokaw) interviewed Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty about whether “creationism vs. evolution … should be taught side by side in public schools.” Pawlenty observed that Brokaw should be talking about intelligent design (ID), not creationism: “In the scientific community, it seems like intelligent design is dismissed. Not entirely, there are a lot of scientists who would make the case that it is appropriate to be taught and appropriate to be demonstrated.” Pawlenty said that the decision should be left to local districts. Discovery Institute, of course, has long-opposed mandating ID in public schools.

Continuing to call the issue “creationism vs. evolution” and failing to acknowledge intelligent design, Brokaw then asked political strategist Mike Murphy how the teaching of “creationism vs. evolution” would “cut with the independents.” Also confused and mistaken, Murphy replied, “It’s trouble.”

In fact, polls have shown that large percentages of Independent voters — and even strong majorities of Democrats — support both teaching ID alongside evolution as well as the far more modest proposition to simply teach both the scientific evidence for and against evolution, without teaching ID.

A 2006 Zogby Poll found that 74% of Independent voters and 60% of Democrats support the view that biology teachers should teach Darwinian evolution, but also the evidence against it. The poll also found that 65% of Democrats and 79% of Independents support the view that “When Darwin’s theory of evolution is taught in school, students should also be able to learn about scientific evidence that points to an intelligent design of life.” This bears repeating: 79% of Independent voters supported teaching ID when evolution is taught. 86% and 85% of Republicans in the poll supported these positions, respectively.

In these politically polarized times, on how many issues do over 60% of Democrats and over 70% of Independents agree with a viewpoint held by over 80% of Republicans? It seems that Brokaw and Murphy may need to re-analyze the poll data about where the majority of Americans truly stand on the reasonable proposition that evolution should be taught in a non-dogmatic and critical fashion.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



MSNBCpollsTom Brokaw