We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.
Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk
Sunday, July 28, 2013
God & Evolution: Indirectly or Not At All?
The YouGov posting goes on to note that when compared with similar polls conducted by CBS in 2004 and 2008 this most recent poll shows an increase in those who believe that "human beings evolved without guidance from God" from 13% in 2004 to 15% in 2008 to 21% in 2013.
The problem is that, as reported in a CBS news posting concerning its 2004 poll, the wording for the statement about God's not guiding evolution is, "Humans evolved, God did not guide [the] process." The YouGov statement is wordier but still comparable were it not for the word, "directly". In the CBS poll God is not involved at all. In the YouGov poll God is not directly involved. That leaves the possibility that God is indirectly involved in at least a couple of possible ways. It is possible that God set the process of evolution going but since then has not been involved. It is also possible that in one guise or another God indirectly encourages the emergence of a more godly humanity but does not directly influence the course of events because that would violate human freedom. Now, both of these possibilities leave room for debate, but that is precisely the problem. The YouGov wording is too open ended. It requires interpretation. And there is no way of knowing how many individuals who believe that God is involved with evolution indirectly decided to affirm the statement that, "Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process" and how many decided that the second response, "Human begins evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but God guided this process," better fit their views. Some respondents who do not believe that God is involved in evolution at all, on the other hand, might also have a problem with the wording of the first YouGov statement. It leaves open the possibility that God might be indirectly involved when they believe that God is not involved at all. Such a person might chose "not sure" rather than leave even a slight possibility of divine involvement in evolution.
There is little doubt that the number of Americans who reject divine involvement in evolution is growing. There is every reason to doubt on the basis of the YouGov poll that it has grown by 8% in nine years. It would not be particularly surprising if it has, but we don't know that it has based on this data. And while this may be a minor point, statistical data such as this is always open to interpretation and should never be taken as certain even without the added inconsistency of wording in this particular case. As the texts on survey methods remind us, questionnaires don't reveal what people think. What they do reveal is how a particular group of respondents answered a particular question on a particular day.