Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Gallup Poll on Belief in Human Evolution

On June 2, the Gallup organization released another poll on acceptance of human evolution.  In a random sample of 1028 adults (18 years +), they found the following:
  • The percentage of people that accept some form of theistic evolution has dropped since 2012 from 46% to 42%.
  • The percentage of people who accept a young earth creation model of human origins is exactly three times that of people who seldom or never attend church: 69% to 23%.
  • While the percentage of people who have less than a high school education and who accept the young earth model of human origins is 57%, of those who have a college degree, only 27% accept this model. 
The authors of the poll results hasten to mention that education may not play as large a role as one might think: 
These relationships do not necessarily prove that if Americans were to learn more about evolution they would be more likely to believe in it. Those with less education are most likely to espouse the creationist view and to be least familiar with evolution, but it's not clear that gaining more education per se would shift their perspectives. Many religious Americans accept creationism mostly on the basis of their religious convictions. Whether their beliefs would change if they became more familiar with evolution is an open question.
This tracks with modern-day young earth creationism, for which I do not know a single adherent who is not an evangelical Christian.  I do not know whether or not the relationship is real or not.  I do know that I have several friends who are Ph.D.s who are highly skeptical if not doubtful of evolution.  This is not because they have familiarity with the subject (one is a materials scientist, the other a chemical engineer) but because they think it is inherently anti-Christian.  My pastor, who is quite intelligent, and I engaged in a long conversation about it and yet I am quite certain that he remains unconvinced of its authenticity because, as he has stated since then, it conflicts with his understanding of scripture.

The writers also note:
However, significantly fewer Americans claim familiarity with "creationism" than did so seven years ago. In 2007, 86% were familiar, including 50% who were very familiar. Now, 76% are familiar, with just 38% very familiar. In short, even though the adherence to the creationist view has not changed over time, familiarity with the term "creationism" has diminished.
Given the current news climate and what I perceive to be the increased importance of this subject in Christian circles, I find this unusual. Given that these results are not broken down by age, however, it is possible that the drop is related to the rise of people that are more a-religious and thus do not come into contact with this controversy.  If this is the case, this is disheartening. 

1 comment:

  1. Rob Mitchell2:25 AM

    Thanks for posting this, Jim. To one of your own observations, there are some examples of YEC or similar thought outside of Evangelicalism.
    Firstly, outside of Evangelicalism but still inside of Christianity is Robert Sungenis, a Roman Catholic writer who holds not only to YEC, but to Geocentrism. Here's a link to his website:


    I'll have to admit the first time I saw his books and website, I thought this was a satire site, but it appears that Sungenis is sincere.

    In an article (linked below), he specifically sets forth a literal-historical hermeneutic of Genesis in an interesting answer to a question on the issue of starlight and time. In it, he embraces not only YEC, but a literal firmament, in addition to Geocentrism.

    Anti-evolutionary thought is also thriving among Muslims. One of the brighter lights in the firmament (no pun intended) of Islamic thought is Adnan Oktar, featured in the Wall Street Journal article linked below. Interestingly, Oktar allows for a creation billions of years old, but not evolution:

    On Al Fayhaa Television in Iraq, a program advancing the idea that the shape of the earth is flat was broadcast in 2007:


    This appears to be very much a minority report among Muslims who have any education whatsoever, but may enjoy more popularity among nomads and tribal peoples who live their entire lives within a few miles of their place of birth and practice folk Islam.
    While flat earth views are peripheral, anti-evolutionary thought seems to be fairly mainstream for Muslims:

    The Qur'an affirms that God created the world in six days in Surahs 7:54, 10:3, 11:7, and 25:59.
    A traditional interpretation of the Qur'an (something like Talmud) is found in The History of al-Tabari, Volume 1- General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood (trans. Franz Rosenthal, State University of New York Press, Albany 1989), pp. 187-193, where al-Tabari sets forth a Seven Thousand Year history of the world in which the world lasts seven literal thousand-year Days, which sounds very like Irenaeus in the Apostolic Fathers of Christianity and Seventh-Day-Adventist theology of Ellen G. White. You can read some quotes here:


    Zoroaster claimed in 1700BC that the earth was then 12,000 years old,

    I would be remiss if I failed to mention that YEC views also have a long history in Judaism. The Seder Olam Rabbah compiled by Jose ben Halafta in AD160 places the creation in the year 3751BC, and the later Seder Olam Zutta from AD 804 dates it a little earlier, in 4339 BC. The Hebrew calendar of Hillel I has since the 4th century set forth the year of creation as 3761BC. Nevertheless contemporary Jewish theologians of most schools of thought accept standard scientific views of the age of the world, even though there is a strain of anti-evolutionism among Jews.

    Excluding folk religions, which embrace animism and naive phenomenalism may embrace views of the origin of the world which are animistic, that the world rests on the back of a turtle or some other beast, or that the night is a great black bird that devours the sun. Such views tend not to dwell on abstract concepts like chronologies.

    The poll mentioned in your post was of course here in the USA but it is interesting to see that there is a spectrum of views among other religious thinkers in other traditions.