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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Intelligent design in Canada?: Canadians pretty evenly split

Recently, Decima polled Canadians on the origin of humans - God dunit? God neverdunit? Dunno?

I infer that the responses to the questions below give us some idea of Canadians' thoughts on intelligent design. With some key qualifications, God's involvement in human origins can be used to predict public opinion on intelligent design. That is, people who don't think that God had anything to do with human origins don't usually think that crayfish show evidence of intelligent design either.

Here are the Canadian responses to the 2007 question by percentage, along with the US figures to a similar series of questions in brackets:

 Less than one in three Canadians (29%) believe that God had no part in the
creation or development of human beings. (US: 13%)
 Fewer still (26%) believe “that God created human beings pretty much in their
present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”. (US: 46%)
 A plurality, but still only 34%, say that “human beings have developed over millions
of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”. (US: 36%)

None of this surprises me particularly. Canada is more secular than the United States, so far more people would say God had nothing to do with it and far fewer would be creationists in the sense of choice 2.

Choice 3, you will notice, is chosen by about the same numbers of Canadians as Americans. Notably, more Canadians than Americans seem not to have chosen any of the options (11% vs. 5%).

Indeed, all this confirms the view I took last year when Montreal-based Darwin lobbyist Brian Alters was turned down by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for a grant to "study" the dangers that intelligent design theory represents to Canada (as a precursor, of course, to wringing further funds from the taxpayer to "combat" the menace he has discovered).

At the time, I identified key reasons why the ID controversy never flares up much in Canada. Among other reasons, we have neither a functional Christian Right nor groups that are the equivalent of American Civil Liberties Union. So, apart from Brian himself and his friends, there are not many people who can hope to get either private donations or government grants from sponsoring a big public fight on the subject. I concluded,
Look, Canada is the kind of place where gays can marry each other and Catholics can start each day with the Hail Mary in tax supported schools if they want to. That's just how things are here. Everyone here finds something to hate. Not everyone expects to be paid for it.

What did surprise me is that Decima, the polling firm, did not ask for the religious affiliation of the respondents. Here's why I think that was an oversight: In a trend that also departs very much from the American scene, the people who intend to vote Liberal were much more likely than those who intended to vote either Conservative or NDP (leftist) to choose a "theistic" option - God either created humans or guided the process. Only 22% of Liberals thought God had nothing to do with it, but 31% of Conservatives thought that, as did 31% of leftist voters.

This is quite different from the United States, where most Republicans "doubt evolution" but most Democrats do not. I believe that data on religious affiliation would shed some light on reasons for the cultural difference that this illustrates.

The social breakdowns they do provide are interesting, however. In Quebec, 40% think God played no role, significantly higher than anywhere else. Men are about 50% more likely to think that than women, and people with higher incomes are 50% more likely to think God played no role than people with lower incomes.

I am quoted here on the poll.

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