Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Starting Point of the Creation/Evolution Discussion

Gallup has been asking representative samples of Americans since 1982 which of these three options comes closest to their own view:

God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. [Creationist view]

Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation. [Theistic evolution]

Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process. [Naturalistic Evolution]

Think of how you would answer this question.

Then estimate what percentage of Americans would choose each of these options.



The actual responses of American have remained pretty stable over the past quarter century. Here are the typical percentages:

Creationist view 47%

Theistic evolution 40%

Naturalistic Evolution 9%

Most people are surprised at this distribution. Most educated people, in particular, have a hard time accepting the idea that half of Americans would take the young-earth creationist position over other views.

I am impressed at how large the middle position, the theistic evolution position, is. If you force people to choose between creation and evolution, most people in a religious country will choose creation. If you give people a middle option, a sizable number will choose that. The constituency for naturalistic evolution, by contrast, is the same size as the constituency for "no religion."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The numbers make sense to me. The majority of people in the country identify themselves as Christian, even if they are not actively religious. I don't see any way you could believe in naturalistic evolution if you are a Christian, hence the responses you listed.

I'm curious, Gruntled, how you would answer this question.

Gruntled said...

I'm a centrist -- I take the middle position.

Anonymous said...

They forgot to include the creation science and intelligent design positions =-).

ural said...

Anonymous said...
They forgot to include the creation science and intelligent design positions =-).

Of course they didn't. It doesn't fit their narrative.

Gruntled said...

I can't say for sure why Gallup did not include creation science and intelligent design options. I have two guesses, though.

First, in 1982, when they started asking these questions, creation science was barely outlined as a position distinct from creationism, and ID was not even that developed. To preserve comparability over time, therefore, Gallup kept the same question.

Second, both creation science and ID are fairly esoteric positions. I don't think there would be that many in a national survey who could distinguish them from the available positions.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...it was a joke they're the all the same thing as determined by the US court system.