Gallup has released a new poll that shows that Americans still reject the concept of evolution of humans in high numbers. Indeed, twice the number of Americans believe that humans were created by God in their current image than there are those who believe in natural evolution. Indeed, those 42 percent believe that man was created by God in the last 10,000 years. That is a considerable difference even if you focus only on anatomically modern humans which appeared in the Middle Paleolithic period about 200,000 years ago. For those who believe in the science behind evolution, the news is not all bad. Nineteen percent believe in evolution without divine involvement while another 31 percent believe that there was evolution from “less advanced forms of life” but that God directed that process. That is fifty percent. Of course, that does appear to leave eight percent that is still . . . well . . . evolving.
Creationism remains remarkably stable in our society despite the continuing discoveries of ancient bones and archeological sites. In 1982, the first such poll showed 44% believed in the theory.
Conversely, those people who believe in evolution has been growing but at a rate only Darwin would appreciate. Those accepting evolution has risen only ten percent from late 1999. When you look at church-attending Americans, the number believing in Darwinian evolution falls to only one out every 100 church goers.
However, the poll still shows that “the percentage of Americans who adhere to a strict secularist viewpoint — that humans evolved over time, with God having no part in this process — has doubled since 1999.”
What is striking is the situation with people with less than high school education– 57% believe in a creationist version of human origin while only 10% believe in an evolution without any divine intervention. The biggest change in numbers appears to come with higher education. Once at the college level, only 27% believe that God created humans in their current image while 41% accept Darwin’s theory of evolution of humans.
As we head into another presidential campaign, it will be interesting to see if this again becomes part of the debate as it did when three out of ten Republican candidates proclaimed their faith in creationism. It would seem that evolution remains a bright line division in our society.
As an academic, I find the rigidity of the faith in creationism remarkable given the continuing finds of modern human bones going back over a million years. However, it is the impact of higher education that is particularly fascinating. It is not surprising, given the views of their parents, that high schoolers would continue to hold firm on creationism. It is the extreme shift after exposure to college that seems to bring out the greatest change. Yet, that figure could be skewed in a type of self-selection (as opposed to natural selection) since the percentage of students who believe in evolution going to college may be higher. According to the government, “In October 2013, 65.9 percent of 2013 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities.” That leaves roughly 33 percent who would not be included in the poll sample from the high school pool. Thus, it is not clear what percentage of students actually shift from creationist to secular views of human evolution.