From: David Opderbeck (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Sep 10 2003 - 10:21:43 EDT
Hello. I'm new to this list and am finding the discussion of the Zogby
survey results interesting. By way of brief background to my following
comment, I'm a law professor and previously I was a litigation attorney for
12 years. Surveys are often introduced as evidence in court proceedings,
particularly in my area of expertise, intellectual property. For example,
in a trademark infringement case, surveys are often used to determine
whether the consumer public perceives the defendant's mark to be
confusingly similar to the plaintiff's mark. One of the key evidentiary
principles for determining the weight to attribute to a given survey is
whether the survey employed leading questions or questions that make
questionable assumptions. This survey would be easy to attack on that
basis. To highlight one example:
> 2. The state board of education is currently deciding which biology
> textbooks should be approved for use in public schools in Texas.
> the following two statements comes closer to your own opinion?
> A: The state board of education should approve biology textbooks
> only Darwin's theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that
> B: The state board of education should approve biology textbooks
> Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence
> By nearly a five-to-one margin, people are more likely to agree
> Statement B (75%) than Statement A (16%). Approximately one in ten
> sure (9%)
Part B of this question assumes there is "scientific evidence against"
Darwin's theory of evolution. Behind that assumption, as has previously
been pointed out, is an assumption about what is meant by "Darwin's theory
of evolution." Also behind that intial assumption is, presumably, an
assumption about what is meant by "scientific evidence," and that, whatever
"scientific evidence" means, there is some such evidence "against" Darwin's
theory. We could have expert witnesses on the stand for days testifying
about those assumptions alone.
The really difficult and interesting thing from a public policy perspective
is how it would be possible to craft a fair and balanced (to use a phrase
that has been much bandied about lately) survey when much of the public
generally lacks any understanding that terms such as "scientific evidence"
are loaded. I'd hate to see public policy made based on this Zogby survey,
but I'd also hate to see public dollars spent on public education without
accounting for public opinion at all.
Prof. David W. Opderbeck, Esq., J.D., LL.M.
Fellow, Visiting Professor and Associate Director
Institute of Law, Science and Technology
Seton Hall University School of Law
One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102
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