Latest Gallup Poll on U.S. acceptance of evolution: flatlined, as usual

This Gallup poll is about ten months old, but I don’t think I’ve posted it before, and I like to update the statistics since the same poll is given every year. The question, too, is always the same (see below) and deals specifically with human evolution. Here are the overall data:

Gallup 2012

Gallup’s summary is this:

Gallup has asked Americans to choose among these three explanations for the origin and development of human beings 11 times since 1982. Although the percentages choosing each view have varied from survey to survey, the 46% who today choose the creationist explanation is virtually the same as the 45% average over that period — and very similar to the 44% who chose that explanation in 1982. The 32% who choose the “theistic evolution” view that humans evolved under God’s guidance is slightly below the 30-year average of 37%, while the 15% choosing the secular evolution view is slightly higher (12%).

The bad news is that young-earth creationists still comprise nearly half of Americans, while 2/3 of the remainder accept a form of theistic evolution (and “God’s guiding” probably means, to most of them, a direct intervention of God in creating humans rather than a deistic view that God set up the physical conditions, and maybe the Ur-organism, and then it run.  Fewer than one in six Americans accept evolution as scientists do: a materialistic, unguided process with no supernatural intervention. The unguided evolution stats are up a bit over the past 30 years—nearly 50%—but it’s still a fraction of what it should be in an enlightened country.

Here are the data broken down by church attendance.  The tend is clear, as always: the more you go to church, the more likely you are to be a creationist and less likely to believe in naturalistic evolution. Curiously, theistic evolution is found more frequently among those who go to church less often:

By Church attendance

No surprise here: Republicans are far more likely to be young-earth creationists, and less likely to be naturalistic evolutionists, than are Democrats. Nearly 60% of Republicans are young-earth creationists with respect to humans (remember, the question is how humans came to be). I think it’s fair to conclude that most Republicans are deluded when it comes to science.  They should not be trusted to run our country.

by political party jpeg

And, as usual, the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be a creationist and the more likely you are to be a naturalistic evolutionist (or a theistic evolutionist!):

by education JPEG

Here’s the Gallup conclusion, carefully hedged:

Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982. The 46% of Americans who today believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years is little changed from the 44% who believed this 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.

More broadly, some 78% of Americans today believe that God had a hand in the development of humans in some way, just slightly less than the percentage who felt this way 30 years ago.

All in all, there is no evidence in this trend of a substantial movement toward a secular viewpoint on human origins.

Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.

The summary of the statistics is fine, but the implication that Americans can’t understand human evolution is ludicrous. True, maybe many Americans can’t understand the “latest evidence and competing viewpoints” on human evolution, but really, they can see and understand clearly the evidence that humans did evolve from arboreal small-brained, big-teethed primates. The evidence is in my book, for crying out loud, and isn’t hard to grasp!

Further the “competing viewpoints” idea, while formally true (we’re not yet sure, except for Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the latest fossils,  which species are on the direct line to modern Homo sapiens, and which are side branches that became extinct), has the sinister implication that there’s dissent about whether humans evolved at all.  They should add as well that “relatively few scientists believe that God guided the evolution of humans.”

The summary is somewhat of a sop to evolution-deniers, unworthy of a respectable poll.

70 Comments

  1. ANTHONY BENNETT
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Napier   I get a lot of useful information from this site: ‘Why Evolution is True’. It is avowedly atheistic and humanist and very anti-Christian.   I thought you might be interested in this particular article   Tony

    ________________________________

  2. David Duncan
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    “I think it’s fair to conclude that most Republicans are deluded when it comes to science.  They should not be trusted to run our country.”

    The Democrats are pretty bad too. Not as bad as the Republicans, but they are in the same ball park. But I’d trust a Democrat to appoint better science advisers than a R.

    I also thought a third evolution option should have been offered: evolution is true but no opinion of whether God guided it or not.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:03 am | Permalink

      5% of Republicans believe that God had no hand in human evolution compared with 19% of independents and Democrats. The ratio of Creationists to independents and Democrats is approx 6/4 in both cases.

      The correspondence in the viewpoints of independents and Democrats is interesting.

      These figures show that Republicans are all but completely deluded when it comes to human science and that there are precious few politicians elsewhere who are not equally deluded. Gruesome.

      • Leigh Jackson
        Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:13 am | Permalink

        That should read “ratio of Creationist Republicans…”.

  3. Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    That’s a disturbing jump in YEC numbers….

    • Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      You mean the increase in YECs from 2011 to 2012? It looks to me like the 2011 figure was a random blip to me. There’s no evidence of a trend in YECkiness since the first poll in 1982.

      • Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        I think that is too big to be a random blip.

        But here is some better demographic news, just released; it is the proportion of Americans that are affiliated with each religion, or unaffiliated, subdivided by age group. Young people are much less religious than the older folks:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/10/new-survey-shows-millennials-are-losing-faith-but-americans-still-think-atheism-is-bad-for-society/

        • Posted April 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          I think that is too big to be a random blip.

          Except that it is not too big to be a random blip. The predicted percentage for 2011 using regression analysis is 44%. The probability that there would be a random deviation of at least ±4% at least once in the 11 years the survey has been conducted is about 10%, so the deviation is not statistically significant by the usual metric (5% level of significance).

          As for the 2012 figure (46%), the predicted value by regression is essentially the same as the previous year: 44%. Again, the deviation of 2% is well within the realm of random error and is entirely unremarkable.

  4. Leon Cejas
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I would agree that anyone who believes in a young earth is unfit to run this country, or even to vote. I would furthermore claim that anyone who believes in gun control as a means to reduce crime or a minimum wage as a means to reduce unemployment probably went to the same basket weaving classes in college and is equally unfit to run for office or vote. Not only is science education sadly lacking, so is a basic understanding of statistics or economics.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Minimum wage laws aren’t intended to reduce unemployment.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      A decent minimum wage may not reduce unemplyoment, but it doesn’t make it worse and it’s ultimately good for business (in addition to the fact that it is the right thing to do from the societal point of view). You may want to read Peter Dreier’s recent HuffPo blog entry on the subject:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/raising-the-minimum-wage-_b_2750336.html

      • Gary W
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        A decent minimum wage may not reduce unemplyoment, but it doesn’t make it worse and it’s ultimately good for business

        Wikipedia’s entry on the minimum wage reports the results of many surveys of professional economists on the issue. The surveys generally find that, by a significant margin, economists oppose increases in the minimum wage (or even having a minimum wage at all).

        The article also reports that a 2007 survey of more than 100 studies on the impact of the minimum wage on employment concluded that a sizable majority “give a relatively consistent (although not always statistically significant) indication of negative employment effects of minimum wages.”

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          And the most recent survey reported in the article you linked to: “In 2013, a diverse group of economics experts was surveyed on their view of the minimum wage’s impact on employment. Thirty-four percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “Raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour would make it noticeably harder for low-skilled workers to find employment.” Thirty-two percent disagreed and the remaining voters were uncertain or had no opinion on the question. [90]”

          The minimum wage today is quite a bit lower than it was in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, when adjusted for inflation.

          http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0774473.html

          • Gary W
            Posted April 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            And the most recent survey reported in the article you linked to …

            Even in that survey, a slight plurality of respondents agreed that raising the minimum wage would “make it noticeably harder for low-skilled workers to find employment.” And the other surveys found much higher support among economists for the view that the minimum wage adversely affects employment.

            In addition to those surveys of expert opinion, the cited survey of more than 100 studies of the issue found that “a sizable majority” reported that minimum wages have a negative impact on employment.
            But, as usual, you ignore all the evidence that contradicts your predetermined position and mention only the evidence that you (falsely, in this case) believe supports it.

            Your frequent and long-winded political comments on this website rarely contain any substantive content. They’re mostly just vacuous rhetoric and propaganda. But on the rare occasions when you do actually try to support your claims with facts and evidence, you invariably exhibit clear confirmation bias, as you are doing again here.

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          Gary, you seem to have exhibited a bit of of confirmation bias while reading the Wikipedia article :-). I suggest that you read it again.

          It is true that economists are divided on the issue of minimum wage. Despite using mathematical models, economics isn’t an exact science and there exist many points of contention. But Leon’s comment, comparing the views of gun control and minimum wage proponents with those of creationists, was way off base. Creationism is proof of extreme ignorance or denial of reality (or both), while favoring the minimum wage is based on interpretation of evidence and is the position of many renowned economists. Calling people like Paul Krugman ignorant, because their political philosophy doesn’t align with our own, is plain silly.

          • Gary W
            Posted April 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            Gary, you seem to have exhibited a bit of of confirmation bias while reading the Wikipedia article. I suggest that you read it again.

            Huh? The article cites 8 surveys of expert opinion on the effects of the minimum wage. In all but two of those surveys, a majority or plurality of respondents agreed that the minimum wage negatively impacts employment. Of those two remaining surveys, one surveyed only economists who supported a raise in the minimum wage (and tells us nothing about how large that sample is) and one was inconclusive (“their 65 respondents were nearly evenly divided when asked if the minimum wage should be increased”).
            In addition, the review of minimum wage studies found that “a sizable majority” of the more than 100 studies reviewed concluded that minimum wages negatively affect employment.

            The problem here is not confirmation bias by me, it’s a failure by you to read the citation I provided.

            • Brygida Berse
              Posted April 11, 2013 at 3:28 am | Permalink

              The problem here is not confirmation bias by me, it’s a failure by you to read the citation I provided.

              The cited article demonstrates that, between 1978 and 2013, the percentage of economists who claim that the minimum wage negatively affects employment has been falling steadily from 90% to 34%.

              Do you really agree with the proposition that the people who hold the opposite view occupy the same intellectual/educational level as creationists?

              And, by the way: “give a relatively consistent (although not always statistically significant) indication of” [the actual phrase in the article] =/= “concluded that” [your interpretation]. Nice try though.

              • Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

                That’s also the wrong question. Rather, a slightly better one is: *does* raising the MW reduce employment? Answer seems to be no, but that’s for social statistics and modeling, not the pronouncements of anyone.

              • Brygida Berse
                Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

                That’s also the wrong question.

                That’s right, and many economists who fawor the MW point to its overall impact on the economy (productivity, technological development, etc.) rather than the unemployment rate of unskilled workers.

              • Gary W
                Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

                The cited article demonstrates that, between 1978 and 2013, the percentage of economists who claim that the minimum wage negatively affects employment has been falling steadily from 90% to 34%.

                It doesn’t demonstrate any such thing.

                What it *does* clearly demonstrate is that your dogmatic assertion that the minimum wage “doesn’t make [unemployment] worse and [is] ultimately good for business” is not consistent with expert opinion or academic studies. The effects of the miniumum wage on employment are unclear and a matter of serious dispute among experts. If you had any integrity you would have said so. But like Jeff Johnson you just seem to be a far-left ideologue who simply ignores or dismisses any evidence that challenges your ideology.

    • dev41
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Gun control may not reduce crime, but it will reduce the carnage.

  5. Posted April 10, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    How many high school biology books devote a good solid chapter to human evolution? How many school boards allow, let alone insist, that human evolution be taught? How many teachers feel comfortable in teaching human evolution (or even believe in it)? Having taught Intro to Anthropology for more than 30 years I spent three weeks at the beginning of the course teaching human evolution with minimally three lectures on natural selection. I then spent several days in the middle of the course teaching how human cultures have gone through a similar process. My impression is that I made little to no dent in the prevailing god created or god guided mindset of most students. Some dropped the class and actually told me “too much evolution.” This was at a Minnesota State University with 12-14 thousand students.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 3:40 am | Permalink

      Where were your students originally from? Mostly Minnesota or elsewhere in the country? I don’t have the data from the whole US, but I’ve tutored high school students from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Florida and was actually quite impressed by the quality and depth of their class materials about evolution. I can imagine that the situation may be quite different in the Bible Belt, though.

  6. Sastra
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The common view in American culture seems to be that anything which touches a person’s “faith” is not only immune to criticism, it’s immune to evidence. When you believe something on faith you’ve tapped into a special sort of Extra-Sensory Perception ability which makes facts very subjective, personal, and real. You’re no longer held down by the material world. Screw the Enlightenment: THIS is what it is to be enlightened.

    Just look at how smug people are when they publicly announce that they are certain God exists. They are no less smug I think when they sheepishly admit they have doubts but still struggle boldly on and manage to hold on to their faith in God. Both groups of people apparently want a cookie. They expect praise. They’ve done something difficult and right and noble. Rejecting evolution means they’re humble.

    Science can’t compete with this type of sloppy, self-assured, self-validating smugness.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Wouldn’t be surprised if it is addictive, that feeling of assured superiority. People become addicted to “adrenalin highs” and “runner’s highs,” why not this?

      “Indignation addiction” (heard this one somewhere before, but can’t remember where) seems to go hand in hand with the “assured superiority addiction” among believers and accommodationists (maybe all of us, actually). They sure are quick to become indignant at the slightest hint of criticism of their religious views. It may not be just an immunization strategy, it may be addictive behavior. Perhaps such behavior patterns are neurochemically reinforced.

  7. Sunny
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    “The summary of the statistics is fine, but the implication that American’s can’t understand human evolution is ludicrous. True, maybe many American’s can’t understand ”

    ===

    Typo: No apostrophe for “Americans”

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Fixed, thanks!

  8. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/101872/how-does-gallup-polling-work.aspx/a>

    …The majority of Gallup surveys in the U.S. are based on interviews conducted by landline and cellular telephones [...] within each contacted household reached via landline, an interview is sought with an adult 18 years of age or older living in the household who has had the most recent birthday [...] The typical sample size for a Gallup poll, either a traditional stand-alone poll or one night’s interviewing from Gallup’s Daily tracking, is 1,000 national adults…

    Perhaps someone would look at the link I’ve provided & assess if it’s likely that the survey represents a fair sample of age ranges & economic status? How does Gallup balance against the likelihood that the willing interviewee is going to lean towards being unemployed or retired [i.e. not too busy at the moment]

    I’m hypothesizing that the sample will be behind the curve on current thinking.

    • Posted April 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      I can’t speak to the flaws in Gallup’s methodology and how it might impact this question, but Gallup has done a notoriously bad job of predicting the presidential election for the last three cycles. In the final poll before the election it had Romney leading by 6.2%, when Obama actually won by 3.9%. They’ve done poorly for the last three presidential election cycles. So, there may be reason to believe their estimates are off.

      • Gary W
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        In the final poll before the election it had Romney leading by 6.2%, when Obama actually won by 3.9%.

        Here is Gallup’s final pre-election survey of likely voters. Gallup projected a 50%/49% split in favor of Romney, but acknowledged this estimate was unreliable because it assumed an even split of undecided voters between the two major candidates. I have no idea where you get your “Romney leading by 6.2%” claim from.

        • Barry
          Posted April 11, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

          I’m not exactly sure what this point is about. Are you saying that Gallup methodology on this issue has been suspect since 1982, or that it is suspect for this last year, although in a surprisingly consistent pattern with previous measurements? Is your thought that the data is actually wrong and you think it should be something else? It is very consistent with Pew, for example.

          We know the exactly methodological flaws in Gallup sampling that caused them to err in the election prediction. Are you saying these sampling errors also exist in these data? I just read the statistical report on Gallup’s website and don’t see that error.

          It is important to judge the evidence and evaluate actual methodology rather than cast spurious and inaccurate aspersions.

          • Gary W
            Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

            Is this comment supposed to be a reply to me? Because it sounds like you intended it as a response to crookedmargins.

    • Notagod
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Nate silver, of FiveThirtyEight (hosted by The New York Times), correctly predicted the outcome of all fifty states in the last presidential election by a method he devised for weighting the accuracy of polls. He also compared the accuracy of the pollsters. Of the pollsters that conducted a minimum of five polls, Gallup had the worst accuracy with an error rate of 7.2, that analysis is here.

      Nate Silver also has another analysis titled Gallup vs. the World which shows a 6.2 number like crookedmargins mentions, though the report is dated October 18, 2012:

      The Gallup national tracking poll now shows a very strong lead for Mitt Romney. As of Wednesday, he was ahead by six points among likely voters. Mr. Romney’s advantage grew further, to seven points, when Gallup updated its numbers on Thursday afternoon.

      Apparently Gallup has had problems in the past as well, including:

      In 2000, for example, Gallup had George W. Bush 16 points ahead among likely voters in polling it conducted in early August. By Sept. 20, about six weeks later, they had Al Gore up by 10 points instead: a 26-point swing toward Mr. Gore over the course of a month and a half. No other polling firm showed a swing remotely that large.

      Neither article is very long and I think both are worth reading for anyone that is interested.

      • Gary W
        Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        Nate Silver also has another analysis titled Gallup vs. the World which shows a 6.2 number like crookedmargins mentions, though the report is dated October 18, 2012:

        crookedmargin’s claim referred to Gallup’s “final poll before the election.” Gallup’s final poll was in early November, not the middle of October. And that poll estimated a 1 point margin of victory for Romney, not a 6 point margin. crookedmargin’s claim is simply false.

        • Notagod
          Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          That would only be true if you focus your attention on the word “final” instead of on the more pertinent observation that Gallup polls overall have been among the worst for accuracy. If the topic was concerned with the specific “final poll” you would have yourself something there and wouldn’t be simply whining in the wind, as per usual.

          • Gary W
            Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

            That would only be true if you focus your attention on the word “final” instead of on the more pertinent observation that Gallup polls overall have been among the worst for accuracy.

            I focused my attention on the claim I was responding to. That claim is false, as I have explained. The fact that crookedmargin got that claim wrong — whether through ignorance or willful misrepresentation — does not inspire confidence in his broader claim about the quality of Gallup’s polling.

            • Notagod
              Posted April 13, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

              Atheist

  9. Barney
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature” should read “at odds with the overwhelming majority of …”, at the very least. I think there’s a good case for “at odds with all of …”. Nothing that claims that humans have not evolved from an earlier species can realistically be called ‘science’ any more.

    It’s appalling that 46% of college graduates believe the Abrahamic creation myth is literally true. I’m English; if I’d ever met anyone at university who claimed it, I’d really be thinking “how on earth did they get in here?” Even if you’ve been brainwashed by your parents for your childhood, and your school intimidated into not talking about evolution, a university education is meant to expose you to generally-held views of reality, such as the basic history of humanity.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Sure, but by the time you reach university, even if evolution is enthusiastically taught there, you have 18 of the most formative years of programming to overcome.

      It is not just the incorrect knowledge you have to overcome either. This, for me, is what gives the lie to the “religion and science are compatible” claim. If they were then it seems to me that any reasonably good course on evolution would indeed change a believers mind regarding acceptance of evolution because in that case it should just be a matter of correcting their knowledge.

      But, no, once a person has been raised to believe in religion from the time they were a babe all sorts of other things have to be overcome as well like group identity issues, moral views and metaphysical issues. All those things that religion includes as a package deal that you are pressured/trained to believe in. And that they are interdependent parts of a complete world view.

      If one domino goes down then the rest start going down. But all the rest are holding up that one the biology teacher is trying to tip over. Of course, many people avoid the pressure by doing something else. They simply believe two contradictory things at the same time.

  10. Sastra
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The summary of the statistics is fine, but the implication that Americans can’t understand human evolution is ludicrous. True, maybe many Americans can’t understand the “latest evidence and competing viewpoints” on human evolution, but really, they can see and understand clearly the evidence that humans did evolve from arboreal small-brained, big-teethed primates. The evidence is in my book, for crying out loud, and isn’t hard to grasp!

    You’re right when we’re considering evolution as an academic subject, but I think you’re over-estimating how complicated and counter-intuitive evolution is for the average person. It’s not quite as simple as learning that the earth travels around the sun even though it looks to US as if the sun is rising on one side and going down on the other. And not just learning this but visualizing it instinctively takes work. I suspect a small number of ordinary people still only accept it superficially. It requires some spacial ability and abstract thought.

    Evolution requires more. So yes, Americans CAN understand it if they put some effort into it the same way they CAN understand basic math statistics if they put some effort into it. But who was it said “You know how dumb the average person is? Well, half of them are dumber than THAT!”

    Which is a misuse of statistics itself, I think. Many folks consider school to be something you get through when you’re a kid and forget about as soon as the test is over. And that may be when folk biology and folk physics and other natural intuitions regain their dominance.

    • Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      “You know how dumb the average person is? Well, half of them are dumber than THAT!”

      Which is a misuse of statistics itself, I think.

      Sounds like a valid statistical conclusion to me…at least if we’re talking about IQ.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        If the “average” is the median, then it’s true by definition. If the population is normally distributed, then it is still true, even if by “average” you use the mean.

        • Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

          Exactly. IQ scores are normally distributed by design, so the statement, “You know how dumb the average person is? Well, half of them are dumber than THAT!” if based on IQ scores would be literally true.

          But more importantly, saying “median” instead of “average” just wouldn’t be funny. And, believe me, as a statistician I know a mean joke when I see one.

          • Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            P.S. Thank you. I’ve been waiting for like two decades to use that line .

          • Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

            Mean jokes are all the mode now, so I hear.

            /@

  11. Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Dispiriting.

    /@

  12. Gary W
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s fair to conclude that most Republicans are deluded when it comes to science. They should not be trusted to run our country.

    Then neither are Democrats. According to the poll, 41% of Democrats are young-earth creationists, and an additional 32% are “theistic evolutionists.” Republicans are less accepting of evolution than Democrats, but both groups exhibit high levels of irrationality regarding evolution.

  13. s.k.graham
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Be of good cheer. The change from last year is unimportant, as the noise swamps the signal.

    There clear trend over the past decade or so, is that the “Evolution, NO God” line is upward by about 1 point every two years. The other two lines are each trending down by about .5 points every two years.

    Looking at just the change from last year is the same mistake global-warming deniers regularly make when looking at temperature data.

    • Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Indeed! An exponential function fits the Evolution-only data pretty well (r^2=0.73), with a rate of increase of 0.02. If this holds, acceptance of a material evolutionary history for humankind should pass 50% in the US in about 95 years. Not sure if that is good news or bad news…

  14. Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    These poll results are not surprising. But since rational people let the data drive their efforts, shouldn’t this data (as well as other data) drive the effort to persuade for evolution?

    Is rationality weaker than irrationality? Is the use of reason an impediment? I think not. So why do the many reasoned explanations in support of evolution fail to persuade the general public that evolution is correct?

    Clearly the average person is intelligent enough to understand the evidence, so why the failure to reach them? Even among those who seldom or never attend church, only 26% accept evolution.

    On April 7, Jerry posted a comment about a talk he will be giving in Oakland tomorrow (?) on evolution and why Americans reject it. His comment includes a slide “which reveals a negative correlation between belief in God and acceptance of evolution among 30 European countries, Japan, and the U.S. The correlation is highly significant and, as you see, the U.S. is second lowest in accepting evolution, with only Turkey below us.”

    A couple of things jump out from the data, the first being that there are 6 countries (unidentified) where religiosity is higher but so is their acceptance of evolution! In at least one case it’s a full 20 points higher than in the US. It would be helpful to know what they are doing differently in that country.

    Another thing is that if religiosity and acceptance of evolution were strictly contrary ideas, then the slope of the trend line should be much steeper, dropping rapidly from left to right as religiosity increases. Though it does fall left to right, it falls more slowly. Clearly something else is going on; something the data does not reveal.

    It certainly seems a good deal of progress could be made in the US even if the level of religiosity here does not go down. How to do that? I know “compatibilism” is generally regarded as a bad thing on this site; but is that how these other countries do it? Is that why the trend line is not as steep as it “should” be? Clearly there are a lot of people in all these countries who have found a way to reconcile their religious beliefs with evolution. Isn’t that a good thing?

    If it gained more acceptance of evolution, would turning a blind eye to compatibilism be so bad? Would it be worse than the current situation? I think not.

    sean s.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Not sure by context precisely what you mean by “compatiblism.” I think the large majority of even Gnu Atheists would agree without reservation that having all religious people pay at least lip service to accepting evolution would be better that what the situation is now.

      But, believing that your god somewhere along the line stepped in and provided some essential ingredient or guidance to the process of evolution so that we would come into existence is not really accepting evolution. It may be a step in the right direction, granted. But the problem of acceptance of evolution is just a highly visible symptom of the real problem.

      Also, as has been pointed out many times, that people can and do believe many contradictory things at the same time does not mean that they are compatible.

      Atheists don’t typically tell compatiblists or accommodations to stop accommodating, but we do criticize them when they tell us we should shut up. The one notable exception is when a science organization, the NCSE for example, practices accommodation and compatablism. Our typical criticism then is that they should leave religion completely out of it.

      • Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Darrelle,

        Perhaps the term “compatibilism” is not quite right; maybe “accommodationism” would be better; maybe something else. I don’t want to get caught up on semantics.

        As for “Gnu Atheism”; I know nothing.

        As you say, “people can and do believe many contradictory things at the same time”; and believers are usually quite comfortable with believing something that they know doesn’t make sense if probed too closely (i.e. theodicy). Use this to advantage.

        For that reason, proponents of evolution should turn a blind-eye to efforts by believers to reconcile/accommodate/etc. their religious beliefs with evolution. The statistics that started this thread show that is doable and probably much better for all.

        If a science organization “practices accommodation or compatibilism” without misrepresenting the science, that should not prompt any strong response; if they do misrepresent the science, that misrepresentation (and only that) should be resisted, but not any accommodationism of itself.

        There is no need to draw a hard line and make people choose sides; besides that is likely to work to the disadvantage of science anyway. As long as they get the science right, ignore the rest.

        sean s.

        • Leigh Jackson
          Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          It is one thing for science organisations to turn a blind eye to efforts by believers to reconcile their beliefs with science. It is quite another for science organisations to misrepresent the facts. Theistic evolution is NOT compatible with the science of evolution. The only way one can introduce a theist deity into evolution is via a God-of-the-gaps. Such a move is intellectually bankrupt.

          How did all the varieties of life come about? The scientific answer is clear and unequivocal: evolution from an original common ancestor by physical mechanisms. The origins of all living and extinct species, including homo sapiens, can be satisfactorily explained by science, if not in total and exhaustive detail, which is unreasonable to expect, without use of the mysterious word “God”.

          Science organisations could broadcast that theistic evolution is a worthless and contemptible piece of intellectual chicanery, but better would be to remain a dignified silence on the highly controversial question of the compatibility of science and theistic religion.

          • Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

            Leigh,

            I agree with you that scientific organizations must not misrepresent facts, and need not be silent when others misrepresent facts. But even though a “God of the gaps” may be “intellectually bankrupt”, it is still better than the out-right rejection of evolution.

            Convincing believers to accept evolution will be a process, it will include them at times embracing ideas that are incorrect BUT BETTER THAN REJECTION. If the goal is to get them to make a Great Leap from religious rejection to perfect understanding and acceptance then evolution will always be rejected and the harmful effects that has on scientific understanding will continue. There is much complaining and bemoaning about the current situation; that is worthless; the question is how will it get fixed? And what will it look like part way through?

            If this situation is going to be fixed, then supporters of evolution have to be realistic; this will be a process, and the intermediate steps will not be satisfactory unless one remembers that the situation could be much worse.

            Theistic evolution is BETTER than plain old creationism. Advocates of evolution need to recognize what is progress and work on getting believers to that point, not by endorsing theistic evolution, but by ignoring it for the time being.

            Otherwise, the situation will not improve for a very long time, if ever in our lifetimes. This is a process; embrace the process or throw in the towel.

            sean s.

  15. Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I’d just like to point out that even some people who believe in evolution do not seem to understand it. See my blog post:

    http://brandonrobshaw.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/evolution/

  16. neil
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    So, if the precentage of the population that describes itself as “religious” is dropping, as an earlier post claimed, but the percentage that accepts evolution (or evilution as the churchfolk call it)is flat, I guess it is not evolution that is making people less religious. People are just being turned off by religion. May I say to the churches in this regard–keep up the good work.

  17. Peter Ozzie Jones
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    At the university I worked at there is a physicist who is one of the world’s experts in accurate clocks. He is a full prof, gets grants, work used by NASA etc, publishes in jorurnals – ie all the hallmarks of a legit scientist.

    Yet, he also writes absolute nonsense on how the speed of light has changed so that what is in the Bible is true after all.

    Do people like that legitimise those that deny evolution?

    In my discussions the claim is that “. . . significant number of scientists do not agree on the evidence”. I then ask where are their papers in Nature etc showing that people like our genial host have got it all wrong? It’s like “Waiting for Godot”! Are there any credible rebuttals?

    • Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      That’s the right attitude – where are the scientific papers?

      Chemical and Engineering News has also ran a few editorials over the years about science education, inc. evolution and biology. Every time they get letters back decrying this. Are the numbers significant. No, but they publish a few just so they can not be accused of censorship or whatnot. Of course, this is a *newsmagazine* (or sort of) …

  18. rickflick
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Most people don’t usually give these questions any serious thought. When asked, they search for the answer that would disappoint grandma the least.

  19. Kris Larner
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    The most disappointing stat, I think, is that 25% of post-grads are young-earth creationists, even after an education they are still so dumb.

    • Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      It is suggestive that this is about the same proportion that are in Altemeyer’s “authoritarian” category. I would love to see *that* connection investigated too.

  20. Randy
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Part of the problem is the media. Channels which masquerade as learning or science channels don’t actually offer anything useful on evolution (or anything else). I have a science degree, but I knew very little about evolution until I sought out several BBC television episodes and series on the subject. I am amazed when any non-biologist on this continent promotes the theory of evolution, because I wonder where they learned about it. You have to really want to know, or you just never are exposed to it.

  21. Posted April 11, 2013 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Hmm…land of the brave and home of the free. But…not quite, eh?!

  22. Gordon Hill
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    In my limited experience with those who do not accept evolution as a fact I have found several misconceptions:
    1. Species are distinctly unique.
    2. The ToE states how life began.
    3. Speciation was (is) instantaneous.
    4. Genesis is a factual account.

    Informing others on the first three can be view altering. #4 is a killer.

  23. Joe White
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    “Fewer than one in six Americans accept evolution as scientists do: a materialistic, unguided process with no supernatural intervention.”

    Actually about 40% of scientists who accept evolution are theistic evolutionists.

    http://ncse.com/rncse/17/6/many-scientists-see-gods-hand-evolution

  24. Gavin Young
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    It is erroneous to interpret the poll as indicating that “that young-earth creationists still comprise nearly half of Americans”. That is because the poll doesn’t ask the people if they believe that “God created the planet Earth within the last 10,000 years or so” but rather if they believe that “God created humans beings …within the last 10,000 years or so.” Many people who believe that humans have existed for no more than 10,000 also believe the earth existed for millions or billions of years, and thus those people are old earth creationists. For example when I was a creationist I believed such.


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