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Sunday, August 17, 2003
Anti-Evolution Poll Called Bogus
By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
A survey suggesting New Mexico scientists support teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools is "bogus," Sandia National Laboratories president C. Paul Robinson wrote in a letter Wednesday to members of the state Board of Education.
The leader of the anti-evolution group that commissioned the poll said Friday his group will stop using its results.
The Intelligent Design Network New Mexico commissioned the poll, sending its results to members of the state Board of Education last month in support of its push to change state science teaching standards.
The group's news release announcing the poll results said New Mexico scientists at Sandia Labs and elsewhere who responded to the survey supported teaching "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution in public schools by a 4-to-1 margin.
The group's opponents say intelligent design is a carefully masked version of religiously inspired "creationism," which has been banned by law from public school science curricula as unscientific.
Robinson, in his letter to the state board, said the poll's methodology was unscientific and its results are therefore unreliable.
"As one of the world's leading scientific laboratories, we at Sandia are very careful to apply accepted scientific methods to all surveys in which we participate," Robinson wrote. "That is not the case with the survey in question."
Zogby International, a professional polling firm, conducted the survey for Intelligent Design Network New Mexico.
According to Joe Renick, the group's head, e-mails were sent to 16,000 employees at Sandia, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the state's universities inviting them to log into a Web site to take the survey.
Of those, 248 scientists responded, Renick said.
In addition, Renick's organization had Zogby conduct a telephone survey of New Mexico parents. It showed similar support for teaching intelligent design.
Renick's group objects to science teaching standards being considered for adoption by the State Board of Education. They describe evolution as the only viable explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.
Renick said he never intended to suggest the lab survey's results were representative of all the employees of Sandia and the other scientific institutions.
"It should not be interpreted as representative," Renick said in a telephone interview.
In a July 28 news release, Renick said the poll "could be important in convincing the State Board of Education that the current language developed by the Department of Education does not reflect the general attitudes of parents of schoolchildren in New Mexico or that of scientists in New Mexico's national labs."
Renick said Friday his organization plans to stop using the poll, saying it "is turning into a distraction from the really important business of the science standards."
The State Board of Education is scheduled to consider the science standards during a meeting Aug. 27-29.