Field of Science

Facebook battle over evolution II

Three weeks ago I posted a graph showing the number of members of the Facebook group We can find 1,000,000 people who DO believe in Evolution before June (join). Getting 1 million members before June was looking really good, I thought, but after collecting data for three weeks, the picture has changed.


Three weeks ago it looked like this:

Based on these data I projected that we would reach a million members on March 10th, but that is now totally out the window.

Here is the most current data:

At this rate the group will not have a million members by June. I wonder if a million members can be found at all.

So WTF happened to the rise in members? All of a sudden is dropped from about 10 thousand to 1,500 per day. My guess is that most people who care about such things - joining a Facebook group to thwart creationists - joined early, and that everyone else couldn't care less (or are creationists (or fence-sitters (or illiterate))).

Now, I don't care about this particular group on Facebook, though I do appreciate the fact that the original creationist group with the same goal of reaching a million members before June is way, way behind at less than a hundred thousand members, with no chance whatsover to reach their goal.

But I do care that it is possible to conclude that even among Facebook users (aka LinkedIn for non-professionals and other high-schoolers) people either don't believe in evolution, or have not yet decided that the evidence is in favor.

And that would be pathetic.


  1. I've seen this group on Facebook and though I am completely anti-creationist I have not joined for two reasons. 1, it's a Facebook group. I never join Facebook groups because they are completely pointless. 2, I don't 'believe' in evolution. Evolution is a fact, it doesn't require belief. So while I would love to see a million people supporting evolution, I will not be adding my support in this way.
    I like the graphs though :)

  2. That seems to be the trend with Facebook groups and politics...a lot of initial interest as people join, and then everything drops off pretty quickly after that.

  3. Morgan, thanks! I love the graphs, too.

    Why are Facebook groups pointless? Seems to me you are just saying it. Can you convince me this is true?

    But you do believe in evolution. You believe, given the overwhelming amount of evidence, that evolution has occurred and continues to occur. You also believe, given how well it explains the observations, that the theory of evolution is a good theory. To believe does not only mean contrary or irrespective of evidence, as in 'blind faith'. I am well aware that many people look at it the way you do, but you are all falsely equating the word 'believe' with what creationists do. The word also just means that I think it is true that there is someone in the next room, even though you aren't sure. To 'believe' doesn't mean you can't change your mind.

    be·lieve   [bih-leev] Show IPA verb,-lieved, -liev·ing.
    –verb (used without object)
    1. to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so: Only if one believes in something can one act purposefully.

    –verb (used with object)
    2. to have confidence or faith in the truth of (a positive assertion, story, etc.); give credence to.
    3. to have confidence in the assertions of (a person).
    4. to have a conviction that (a person or thing) is, has been, or will be engaged in a given action or involved in a given situation: The fugitive is believed to be headed for the Mexican border.
    5. to suppose or assume; understand (usually fol. by a noun clause): I believe that he has left town.

    It's not that I don't understand when people are frustrated with creationists equating the two forms of belief, implying that evolution requires faith the same way religion does, but that is just not enough reason to go around changing the language.

  4. Ryan, I doubt that it's because interest wanes, unless you by interest means some kind of average over the whole Facebook population. If the link to join has a chance p(n) of appearing on the screen of one user is a function of how many users the group has, and there is a distribution of probabilities that such people seeing the link will then join, then at first many people will join, and then the number of people to join will decrease and the membership number saturate. If this is true (which I will try to check with a little simulation - yes, others would solve some equations, but I like simulations better), then just those two numbers explain the phenomenon.

    That should be interesting...

  5. Bjørn, thanks for the well considered response!
    After I, possible rashly, commented here I went and checked out the group more thoroughly and was pleased to find the following disclaimer re the word 'believe':

    "Apologies for the name of the group, it has been pointed out numerous times that 'believe' is really the wrong word word when talking about a scientific theory...
    I didn't really think about it at the time of creating, I just copied and pasted the opposing group's name, and there's no way of changing it now. If you feel that strongly then you are free to create another group with a more appropriate title, but please don't complain about it on this group wall as there is nothing more I can do about it, other than apologise."

    My problem is, of course, with the way the word has come to represent blind religious faith but seeing as this is recognised by the group and wasn't intentionally used to equate the two forms of belief I am willing to reconsider my initial skepticism.

    You also called out my issue with Facebook groups. Checking my profile I realised that I had actually signed up to a number of groups whose agendas I agree with. I guess I find the overwhelming majority of FB groups to be pointless. When groups with good intentions, such as this one, are lumped in together with such inanity as:

    "If you tickle my feet i am not responsible for what happens to your face." (42,183 members)

    "The Official Rules For Calling ShotGun" (178,059 members)

    "I dont get drunk... I get AWESOME" (161,761 members)

    just to name a few chosen at random, you can perhaps see where I'm coming from?

    As a student of science I am more than happy to change my thinking when presented with new evidence. I will add my support to this group, if just to get myself involved in the data you have so dutifully collected and presented :)

  6. Bjorn,

    You're on to something with that, definitely. Good point.

    I guess I was thinking along the lines of activity...meaning that at first people would be more interested and sending out more links, and that the interest would drop off after a while and there would be less people who join.

    But I think your suggestion makes more sense overall--it's not JUST about interest per se.

  7. Morgan, you are indeed quite right that there is a heap of inanity of Facebook. I get involved in very little myself, but being an evolutionary biologist I couldn't help myself with this one. But, the question really was whether joining Facebook groups actually DO anything. Does it matter what happens on Facebook to anything else but what happens on Facebook? My suspicion is that when people who are fence-sitters or have never considered the issue see the group, they might start learning more, and then hopefully realize how strong the evidence is for evolution. But as of yet, I don't know of any evidence suggesting that Facebooks groups like this change anything in the real world at all.

    And yes, I am aware of the reason for the bad connotation of the word believe. And it should be pointed out which kind of belief is meant, because they are fundamentally at odds, of course.

    Ryan, I thought you might have been talking about activity after joining. ;) I probably really will do a little calculation, and if so I'll then write a post about it.

  8. Well, this group has structural flaws:

    1: It is a 'fan' group rather than a 'group' group, meaning that the creator cannot appoint admins.

    2: The creator is MIA and does nothing to deal with the huge amounts of SPAM, porn and fundamentalist trolling that floods the wall.

    3: The name of the group cannot be changed.

    The lack of administration has resulted into the group turning into a farce. It became steadily worse around the time that the graph flattened out. It's not surprising to me at all that new users would baulk at joining the group after taking one look at the wall. Many users, such as myself, also LEFT the group for this very reason.

    So don't read too much into the opinions of people regarding evolution. That's really not in play here. Do a study of any unmoderated group focusing on a popular and divisive issue and you will find the same thing.

    I hope the creator learned a lesson from this.

    Groups must have active admins.


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