A new Gallup poll shows that 40 percent of American adults comply to a strict view of creationism, in which God brought humans into existence within the last 10,000 years. More encouragingly, a record number of Americans now say God had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, yet for Americans, this seminal science book is still proving to be a tough sell. Despite over 150 years of scientific inquiry—from studies of transitional fossils and vestigial traits to the discovery of DNA and empirical observations of evolution in action—a sizeable portion of the American population still prefers divine intervention over natural selection.
A Gallup poll conducted from June 3 to 16, 2019 via landlines and mobile phone calls shows that 40 percent of American adults still ascribe to a strict biblical interpretation of humanity’s origins, while one in three believe evolution to be true, but that God played an active role in guiding the development of our species over time. The proportion of strict creationists is up 2 percent from a similar poll done in 2017, but down 6 percent from a poll done in 2012.
As for Americans who believe in evolution with God playing no role, that’s now up to 22 percent—the highest figure ever recorded since Gallup started running this poll 37 years ago. As Gallup pointed out, this “coincides with an increasing number of Americans saying they have no religious identification.” Back in 1982, a mere 9 percent of Americans took the strict no-God view on humanity’s origins.
For the poll, Gallup conducted phone interviews of 1,015 American adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Respondents were asked to choose which of these statements came closest to matching their own views on the origin and development of human beings:
(1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process
(2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process
(3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so
During the nearly four decades in which Gallup has conducted this poll, as many as 47 percent of American adults, and as few as 38 percent, have taken a strict creationist view of human origins. Similarly, between 31 and 40 percent of Americans have attributed a combination of God and natural processes to human evolutionary development.
As the new results show, Americans’ views on creationism and evolution are heavily influenced by religious identification, church attendance, education, gender, and political orientation.
Of Americans who attend church on a weekly basis, 68 percent said God created humanity in its present form, and nearly half of Americans who attend church on a monthly basis described their views as being strictly creationist.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans reporting no religious affiliation said God played no part whatsoever in human evolution, whereas 89 percent of Protestants and 80 percent of Catholics ascribed to either a strict creationist view or a God-played-a-role view on human evolution.
Of American adults with no college degree, 48 percent ascribed to the creationist view, but 30 percent with a college degree still believe God guided human evolution. One in three Americans with a college degree said God played no role.
In terms of gender, American women (45 percent) were more likely to hold a strict view of creationism compared to men (35 percent). Of those who said God played no role, 18 percent of women ascribed to this view, compared to 26 percent of men. Women and men were split down the middle on the view that God played a role in evolution.
Finally, 54 percent of conservatives took a strict view of creationism, whereas 38 percent of liberals said God had no part in the process.
As an important aside, it needs to be pointed out that the belief in a God who guides evolution is still a form of creationism; the potency of natural selection as articulated by Darwin is that it’s a self-sustaining and fully autonomous process that requires no outside intervention. Consequently, the belief in evolution and an intervening God is not as benign as it appears. With that in mind, the total number of American adults who believe in creationism of some sort jumps to a whopping 73 percent.
That’s incredibly discouraging, but at least the number of Americans who don’t believe God played a role in human evolution is steadily increasing. Here’s to hoping it continues to rise.