On Tuesday, The Blaze penned a piece that posed the following question to readers: Are some evangelicals beginning to question the existence of Adam and Eve?
As is the case in all of the faith articles we compose, it was our goal to raise the question and then allow our audience to respond accordingly. So, at the end of the article, we decided to include a poll that asks a very simple and related question: How did mankind come about?
Many regular Blaze readers voted. But so did others -- people who had a very different motivation for taking the poll.
A group of atheists, after feeling angst about the initial results of the poll favoring God-inspired creation, launched a mini-campaign, spread the word and purposefully "hijacked" the thoughtful poll so that the results landed in their favor (i.e. that humanity evolved without God's involvement).
It wasn't long after the poll was posted that something seemed odd with the results and the sources from which they were emerging. In addition to inflated anti-God numbers, we noticed that thousands (more than 5,000 at the time) of responses had come from Norway -- an oddity considering The Blaze's coverage, focus and readership.
Thus, we were forced to close the statistical breakdown to the public and investigate. Below, see the potential choices respondents could opt for:
As you'll notice, these poll options offered a variety of perspective on the matter. There is even an option for people who are currently unsure regarding whether they believe evolution, God or a mixture of the two spawned humanity. While the poll was quickly compromised, initially (for the first hour or two), the results were not entirely surprising (remember, these polls we conduct are not "scientific," nor are they nationally representative; we're simply interested in what our audience thinks about matters of importance).
In the early evening on Tuesday, directly following the polls publication, 75.16 percent of those responding chose the "God created man in present form, as per the Genesis story." And, 17.52 percent said that "God created man and the universe, but scientific evolution occurred." Only 4.55 percent chose that "man evolved without God's creation or intervention." These numbers were unacceptable to a group of atheists.
The Blaze began to notice the proportions within the poll evolving and changing. Suddenly, the atheistic, "no God" version of creation was gaining steam. As Tuesday progressed and Wednesday came, we realized that something was awry. As it turns out, a prominent atheist and professor of biology at The University of Minnesota--Morris, named Dr. PZ Myers, was behind the statistical changes. On Tuesday, Myers ignited a mini firestorm when he wrote a blog piece entitled, "Glenn Beck has a very silly poll." It read:
His site, The Blaze, has an article about these crazy conservative Christians who disagree with the mainstream view that there were precisely two people, Adam and Eve, who founded the whole human race. And it has a poll which is going in a predictable direction for wacky Beck. [...]
Maybe we can change some of those numbers around.
He also posted a link to the article on Twitter:
Notice the last part of his blog post. This battle cry was the spark that set the entire change ablaze (no pun intended). Following the post, Myers' loyal followers (he has a popular blog where he discusses his atheism and he has nearly 74,000 Twitter followers) began posting comments on his blog, clearly highlighting their effort to prevent Blaze readers from participating in the Adam and Eve poll. Their efforts to "hijack" the poll began almost immediately.
At 6:07 p.m. on Tuesday evening (just a few hours after the original Blaze article was posted), a comment by "Spanish Inquisitor" read, "Almost up to 7% in less than 15 minutes." Here, the poster was commenting on the low support for the "Man evolved without God's creation or intervention" in the poll, which the group was seeking to change. At 7:52 p.m., another commenter wrote:
Up to 34%. I voted early and often, and posted it on the chat for PET. Rarely vote multiple times but I really dislike Glenn Beck.
As the comments progressed, they made clear the group's intention to destroy the poll, forcing the results to come up favorable to their own cause.
But whatever happened to making a solid case and then fairly proving it? What was the point of these atheists' time-sucking exploits?
On Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to speak with Myers about his anti-poll sentiment and the resulting activity on behalf of his atheist friends. The discussion was intriguing. When asked why he called the poll "silly" and why he asked respondents to "change some of those numbers around," he said:
"All internet polls are silly. They’re kind of pointless. It was a question to a select audience. You know what answer you’ll get. They’re kind of pointless in that sense…it’s a pointless poll. What we like to do is have a little fun with it...we like to shake them up." [...]
This is the other thing about this poll...it’s not just that it’s pointless, but it’s kind of a stupid poll. There is a correct answer. The earth is 4.5 billion years old."
Myers claims that he and his fellow atheists opposed the poll because it "reinforces peoples' views" and acts as a sounding board. But, when asked how his site -- which is geared toward atheists and which has a very narrow scope through which it views a variety of issues -- differs from this description, his response fell flat (and it was, frankly, quite condescending):
"People who come to [my] blog are better educated. The comments on The Blaze were appalling. It was incredible how bad the arguments were."
Although he initially said they (he and his atheist friends) like to tinker with "conservative" polls, he then said that "any" internet poll that the group deems "silly" might be altered in this way. When I mentioned the fact that we saw thousands of responses from Norway (Myers left for Norway today to deliver an evolutionary address), he snickered.
And guess what? If you're part of the 40 percent of Americans that believe in creationism rather than evolution, Myers thinks you're an ignoramus. When I asked him his thoughts on national polls that show that his view is in the minority, he said:
"[Some people are] ignorant. Most of the people in this country don’t go out and argue for these ideas. They listen to what their preacher tells them. They accept it as dogma...It is stupid for people to believe in ideas that are counter to the facts."
While Myers believes that those who fully embrace evolution are "kind of stupid," he isn't as disenchanted by those who believe that God played a role in humanity's creation:
"There are a lot of intelligent people who say that God twiddled his fingers in one species and made them special. There's no evidence for that, but if you want to believe that, then fine."
In the end, Myers and I didn't see eye to eye. I explained my dislike, regardless of opinion on any matter, for purposefully destroying a poll that was intended to explore our readers' diverse views, while he seemed more focused upon proving that evolution is a viable truth. I explained my belief that, in a democracy, everyone should be free to hold his or her own beliefs, regardless of whether they embrace creationism, evolution or any other form of human formation. His response?
"I would think that in a democracy what you’d been doing would be encourage people to get educated."
Sometimes, one simply cannot win.
We agreed, then, to disagree and moved on. In the end, the actions taken on atheists' behalf did little to ignite a conversation. They were simply "silly" (not to steal a word from Myers' own blog post). But, we wanted to bring you the full story and all of the facts on the matter. Below, watch Myers deliver a speech at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention:
So, what ended up happening with the poll, you ask? As mentioned, we made the decision to close the results to the public until we had the chance to investigate them further. This was not done to hide anything, as Myers' adherents have claimed. Rather, we wanted to conduct a poll that showcased the views of The Blaze audience. Now that the poll has closed, allow me to showcase the end results:
The atheists involved were able to take the 75.16 percent God-inspired proportion and transform the poll to show 85.05 percent of respondents agreeing with their take -- that God had no involvement in the formation of mankind. Considering national polls (though, again, we weren't attempting to create a nationally-representative poll in the first place), this is, of course, totally unrealistic on every level. In the original piece, we wrote:
More recent (2010) Gallup data shows 40 percent of the nation embracing the notion that God created man in his current form, with only 16 percent claiming that God played no part in the process of creation. While the scientific and Christian communities continue to grapple with internal disagreement, it seems the creationists are thus far winning the PR war.
In the end, more than 46,000 votes were cast in The Blaze poll (though there were many repeat voters, obviously, in this first category). And, here's a pie chart that more visually shows the breakdown: