02 January 2014

The American public's views on evolution

"According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

About half of those who express a belief in human evolution take the view that evolution is “due to natural processes such as natural selection” (32% of the American public overall). But many Americans believe that God or a supreme being played a role in the process of evolution. Indeed, roughly a quarter of adults (24%) say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.

There also are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.

These are some of the key findings from a nationwide Pew Research Center survey conducted March 21-April 8, 2013, with a representative sample of 1,983 adults, ages 18 and older. The survey was conducted on landlines and cellphones in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.0 percentage points."
Additional graphs and discussion at the Pew Center.

15 comments:

  1. It's funny this matter of science get's tied up so deeply with religion in many surveys and discussions. We don't argue lightning or tornadoes are strictly governed by faith.

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    1. Don't we? Remember how shocking it was when the Okie atheist didn't thank god for her deliverance from that tornado.

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  2. I see problems with this. Consider your typical theistic evolutionist faced with the choice between "evolution is due to natural processes such as natural selection" versus "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today". You might assume that a theistic evolutionist would choose the latter, however the wording strongly suggests that the supreme being is PERVASIVELY involved in the process of evolution, which is quite likely not something the theist can assent to. On the other hand, your typical theistic evolutionist DOES believe that evolution is, for the most part, due to natural processes such as natural selection -- just not ENTIRELY so. So they might well conclude that the first option matches their beliefs better than the second, contrary to the likely intent of the survey writers.

    I've read other articles that have pointed out one or two other problems with the survey, but this is the stand-out for me.

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  3. I still don't understand. Science is not a matter of faith. People who don't "believe" in evolution or global climate change don't seem to understand that.

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    1. It is, in the sense that science consists of belief in the best hypothesis available at any one time. Since scientific beliefs change as hypotheses are tested and disproved, a previously held belief (in an explanation now known to be incorrect) could reasonably be deemed "faith".

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    2. That's "acceptance" not "faith/belief". One is data-driven, the other is not.

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  4. I would wager that most people's views of other scientific fields are equally mid-19th century. Who here has a solid understanding of quantum mechanics? Or is your physics knowledge basically 18th century Newtonian? How about modern economic theory? Where do banks 'get' their money? And we should remember that Darwinian evolution is also long outdated. His ideas are over a century old. How many pride themselves on 'believing' evolution but have no idea what the Modern Synthesis is about? It's easy to make fun of ignorance and thereby form exclusionary elitist societies. It's not so easy to be humble.

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    1. The difference is that for those other topics most people would say "I don't know" when you ask them questions about those topics and the people didn't understand the latest scientific orthodoxy about those subjects.

      That is completely different from Creationism where people are deliberately ignorant about well establish scientific theories (or facts as they become known after a long enough period of time) and instead take pride in rejecting science.

      Or as Stephen Hawking put it 'The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'

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    2. Yes, Danack, I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about 'willfully ignorant'. I don't think it's lack of education that makes people reject evolution. It's a choice between modern knowledge and ancient faith. People choose faith. Questions about evolution have become a popular litmus test, but I think the same people would also 'fail' questions about astrophysics, the age of the Earth, the physiology of death, and effective social policy.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. If guns and religion can't fix it, it ain't worth fixin'.

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  6. And the mockery begins. First, I do believe in evolution. I also believe, simultaneously, in creation. I also believe that God directed at least some of the evolutionary process.

    The mockery is that evolutionists, claiming a sophistication that is not warranted, want to act as if believing that evolution were directed by God is just as silly and backward as believing that God created the universe 6000 years ago! That is wrong. That is snobbery. Worse, it is unjustified and illogical.

    Go back to the Big Bang. Now, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed (oddly enough, evolutionists are willing to accept eternal matter but not eternal intelligence), then either all of matter was in stasis for all eternity...until something happened and we became the current universe...this being subject to the First Mover argument. OR OR OR

    The universe is just one of an infinite number of universes than have banged, the, collapsed...only to bang again. If so, then it stands to reason, there being only so many ways to arrange to finite number of atoms in the universe, that there have been an infinite number of universes...JUST LIKE THIS ONE. EXACTLY. One if which someone did precisely what I am doing now.

    So, I can believe THAT...or I can believe in an Eternal Intelligence that is behind it all. I'm going with the latter. It is much more reasonable to me.

    And what sort of Intelligence would this be? Why, the very best, of course. Otherwise, it wouldn't be all that intelligent, right? We deem goodness better than evil, and Washington better than Hitler. That is the work of OUR finite intelligence, so any eternal intelligence must be even more for the good than we! Oh, wait--that sounds more like religion. Yes, it does. Indeed.

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    1. And the mockery begins. First, I do believe in evolution. I also believe, simultaneously, in creation. I also believe that God directed at least some of the evolutionary process.,

      You deserve to be mocked. There is no equivalence of the meanings of the two words 'believing' as used in your phrase. Your first 'believe' (in evolution) means: to take a to be true, valid or honest. Your second 'believe' (in god) means to have a firm or wholehearted religious conviction. These two meanings are not the same.

      Unfortunately, people who want to discredit science, e.g. creationists, like to glance over the crucial difference between the two as to equate science and religion. It is however, ignoring the essential difference between faith and science.

      Faith is a conviction that bears no proof in itself. One can not proof the existence of god. (Neither can one proof the absence of god). You can also not question elements of faith. A faith is taken as a whole, and often defined by religious people of some authority. Be they reverends, priests, rabbis, imams, popes or ayatollahs. Religious doctrine can generally not be changed. [I say generally, because some protestants and Hindus take a more liberal approach than say the pope or the Ayatollah]

      Science is a conviction based on verifiable observations, and in the case of theory - logical thinking. [Theory can be a bit ahead of experiments.] Science is by its very nature always questioned. Science will change if better observations are done, and old ones are invalidated.

      Due to this abuse of the dual meaning of the word 'believe', I have take to saying that I am convinced by science, leaving the word 'believing' to religion and Santa Claus.

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  7. Nepkarel, here's the REAL difference between us: When you can't explain something, you BELIEVE that science will eventually explain it. When I can't explain something, I may BELIEVE that science will eventually explain it...or that God is behind it all.

    I certainly do understand that science is different from faith. And I am not making a play for "creationism" in the standard sense. I simply acknowledge that there has certainly been evolution. Did God play a role in it? Well, since I do believe in a God, I would have no reason to believe He sits idle as thing go on around Him.

    Consider that you think that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, yet might take exception to thinking that God (or Intelligence) might also have the same characteristics of being eternal. On what grounds?

    Again, you are left with what I left you in the first post: Either nothing happened for all eternity...then something changed and we now have the universe...OR...we have been cycling through universe after universe for eternity and have every reason to therefore think that there have been an infinite number of universes JUST. LIKE. THIS. ONE.

    If you wish to believe that instead of postulating a God, I understand. But let's have none of the notion that not postulating a God in this situation is somehow superior to thinking there is one.

    I don't claim proof of God. I do claim EVIDENCE for God.

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    1. When you can't explain something, you BELIEVE that science will eventually explain it. When I can't explain something, I may BELIEVE that science will eventually explain it...or that God is behind it all.

      Same difference in meaning. To differentiate, I expect that science will figure it out at some point. You may believe whatever you want.

      I simply acknowledge that there has certainly been evolution. Did God play a role in it? Well, since I do believe in a God, I would have no reason to believe He sits idle as thing go on around Him.

      Believe what you want, but you can not prove that he did, or did not. To me, that makes it an uninteresting question.

      Consider that you think that matter can neither be created nor destroyed

      I don't. It can. Also: define matter.

      yet might take exception to thinking that God (or Intelligence) might also have the same characteristics of being eternal.

      To me, god is irrelevant, because there is nothing sensible one can say about his existence or influence. All one can say is that one believes in god or not. If it makes you happy, by all means believe in god. But God's existence simply not an interesting point of discussion. On the other hand, science is interesting because you can make reasonable arguments that can be proven true or not true.

      Either nothing happened for all eternity

      Stuff is happening, so that's incorrect.

      OR...we have been cycling through universe after universe for eternity and have every reason to therefore think that there have been an infinite number of universes JUST. LIKE. THIS. ONE.

      Well, that's a rather generic statement of stuff happening. We're somewhere in there.

      Not sure what your point is.

      If you wish to believe that instead of postulating a God, I understand. But let's have none of the notion that not postulating a God in this situation is somehow superior to thinking there is one.

      I don't. I never did. As mentioned before, god's existence is irrelevant to me. I am not interested in that discussion.

      I don't claim proof of God. I do claim EVIDENCE for God.

      Please present it. Whatever it is, it will not hold up in the field of science. All you can do is state that you *believe* that there is evidence for the presence of a god. If that makes you happy, please believe that. But that belief does not make it so.

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