A recent USA Today / Gallup poll shows that a full 46% of American citizens believe that despite all of the evidence to the contrary, humanity was nevertheless created in its present form by a supernatural being approximately 10,000 years ago.
Forty six percent. Ye gods, my head hurts.
This was a telephone survey performed last month on a total population of 1,012 people across the United States. Cell and land lines were called. For more details check this site out; I’m not going to go through the methodology here, but I’ll cover some of their findings with additional commentary.
Probably one of the more interesting characteristics of this chart is the fact that, for the most part, the percentage of (what essentially are) young earth creationists was slowly dropping over time. True, they started at 44% in 1982 and went up by 1994, but their numbers were in a slow decline up until this last survey. Hell, they were at an all time low of 40% in the middle of 2010. Given the severity of hand wringing and purse clutching on the part of evangelicals in recent years, I would have expected a steady increase starting around 2001, with an even sharper uptick in 2008. Just shows you how much I know.
The other interesting part is that the increase in young earth creationists comes almost exclusively at the expense of the deists (or what I probably would call the “couch potato” Christians from a few posts ago). On the other hand, the percentage of those who believe evolution happened without any divine interference remained essentially constant from 2010 to now. Better still, the trend for nonbelievers has been pretty steadily trending upward from 2000 (9%) to now (15%). I would be OK with another six point increase over the next ten years. While we’d still be a far cry from a number of Western European countries or Scandinavia in that regard, I’d still take it as a significant sign of improvement … provided that the number of young earth creationists goes back down to a more reasonable number. Like zero, for example. Zero would be nice.
The next three are pretty much what you would expect. First, that more religious people believe in the 6000-year creation story:
I see results like this from the first row and think, “no kidding.” People who attend church weekly are very regimented with their religious practices and will generally believe what they are told by their priest / minister more readily than some know-it-all professor with a white lab coat and a PhD. Combine this with the trend in recent years of some of the more conservative / evangelical churches becoming increasingly political and divisive, and it’s little surprise that this relationship exists.
What does surprise me is that this relationship doesn’t reverse itself when you look at the population that rarely or never attends church. These, of all people, would be the ones I would have expected to reject the idea of a literal Adam and Eve creation, but a significant 25% still believe it. The only possibility I can think of (though I’m open to other ideas) is that many of the strict “bible believing” Christians have started leaving the church because they feel they are being corrupted by worldly influence. I’ve heard this line of thought before when I would occasionally listen in on Family Radio and our buddy Harold Camping before he finally lost what little touch he had with the real world.
Republicans are more religious? Perish the thought. Again, what surprises me is not that the trending shows that this is true, but that a strong percentage of Democrats and even independents believe in creationism as well. At this point, I’m wondering if maybe I can get access to information on the geographic locations of the respondents. If the majority of Democrats hailed from the deep south, then it doesn’t shock me that they would still believe in the young earth interpretation of the bible.
And here we have the expected trend of decreasing literal interpretation of the bible with increasing education. Although … you’ll also notice that there is still a strong belief in a higher power / god / something guiding the process, but with an increase in education the tendency for one to believe in the actions of the Abrahamic biblical god goes away.
Hey, it just goes to show you that even with all of that education, the desire to believe, even in the absence of any supporting evidence, can be powerful enough to survive in one form or another. I personally don’t see anything wrong with that, provided it doesn’t interfere with what they consider science and what they consider faith.
It also goes to show you that science needs a better PR campaign. If 46% of the people in this country literally believe we were sculpted by God and fell from grace after a talking snake persuaded our ancestral mother to eat a forbidden fruit of knowledge, then they’re obviously not getting the education they need to be able to tell myth from reality.