Tuesday, December 31, 2013

33% of Americans don't believe in evolution

Yesterday, Pew Research Center released the results of a survey about Americans' beliefs in evolution.  As news headlines will readily note, the study reports that 33% of Americans do not believe in evolution.  Those most likely to believe in evolution are male, 18 to 29 years old, college graduates, Democrats, and white mainline Protestants.  There also appears to have been a slight shift away from belief in evolution from 2009, when the previous version of the survey showed that only 31% of Americans did not believe in evolution.

The significance of these results is still unclear.  There is no doubt that some people will use the results to show that there is a strong anti-evolution sentiment among Americans, while others will be quick to note that a majority of Americans still believe in evolution.  Personally, I do not see much to be gained or lost by this poll.

The greatest issue I have with the study is that "evolution" is not well-defined.  Respondents were presented with three options: 1) Humans and other living things have evolved over time, 2) Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, 3) Don't know.  The way the question is phrased, "evolution" appears to simply refer to any change over time.  Therefore, even I, a young-earth creationist, would choose option 1 and would be included among those who "believe in evolution," because I don't think today's animals are identical to those that were originally created.  I imagine that those who responded that living things have existed in their present form either actually believe that no change has occurred, or they associate negative connotations with the word "evolution."

It is my opinion, then, that this survey does not accurately reflect the public's views on the history of life.  Asking whether a person "believes in evolution" is not specific enough to determine their stance on the origins debate.  One's views on the historicity of Genesis, on the nature of evolutionary change, and on the extent of biologic interrelationships are much more revealing.  Unfortunately, Pew Research's researchers seem to have taken the outdated view that anyone who does not believe that all life evolved from a common ancestor must not believe that life changed at all.  That simply is no longer the case.

No comments:

Post a Comment