In Polling We Don’t Trust: Follow the Money

July 3, 2009

Charles_Darwin_seatedThe Freakonomics blog at The New York Times, in it’s continuing quest to point out problems with misusing statistics and polls, wrote yesterday:

According to a Zogby poll taken this year, Darwin’s 200th anniversary, Americans favor intelligent design over Darwinian theory. According to the poll, 33 percent of respondents said they agreed with Darwinism, but 52 percent agreed that “the development of life was guided by intelligent design.

A slam dunk for the ID crowd? Not necessarily. Read on.

The poll was commissioned by The Discovery Institute, which advocates intelligent design. This is the kind of thing that gives Gary Langer fits.

That’s the kind of thing that should give all of us fits. Langer, by the way, believes bad poll modeling is often a culprit in inaccurate polling rather than the perceived truthfulness of the respondents. He writes in a 2007 blog:

But why admit that you built a bad model, asked the wrong question, asked it badly, forgot the follow-up, or just can’t figure it out, when, heck, you can just blame the respondent instead

Even if the Zobgy poll was slanted due to improper questioning or other shenanigans, it may not that be far from reality. The freethinking and scientific community must do a better job in educating the public on the reality of evolution and the inconsistency of intelligent design. Ideas?

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A Step in the Right Direction

July 3, 2009

I usually find Tibetan Buddhism to be filled with mystic woo-woo (like the idea of directed reincarnation — i.e. some kid ends up being proclaimed a new lama)

However, it’s encouraging to read reports like this one in the New York Times about a college physics class for Tibetan Buddhist monks.

And while I’m not sure he practices what he’s preaching, the Dalai Lama said, of the program:

Yet the Tibetan spiritual leader views science and Buddhism as complementary “investigative approaches with the same greater goal, of seeking the truth,” he wrote in “The Universe in a Single Atom,” his book on “how science and spirituality can serve our world.” He stresses that science is especially important for monastics who study the nature of the mind and the relationship between mind and brain.

While it’s encouraging to see a major world religious leader promote a scientific worldview, I can’t help but wonder how he can scientifically explain his belief that the soul or energy of a previous lama inhabited him as an infant. How does one test such a thing?  However, I agree the study of meditations potential benefits to  brain functions is a valuable mixture of science and Buddhism.