Last August UMR Research conducted a survey of New Zealanders’ attitudes to evolution and belief in a god. Their findings showed an overwhelming support for evolution. They also show that slightly more believers in a god support evolution than support creationism.It’s worth considering the data in detail as statistics are easily distorted. In fact one news report has already got the data wrong, and a Christian website (Christian News NZ) has misrepresented the findings.
Is evolution true or false?
One of the survey’s question asked “Do you think evolution, that is the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life is definitely true, probably true, probably false, or definitely false?”
The results showed overwhelming support (75%) for evolution (26% definitely and 49% probably), whereas 20% were opposed (12% definitely false and 8% probably false).
What is God’s role?
Attitudes to involvement of a God in evolution or creation were also assessed in a separate question: Did God guide evolution, did evolution occur without God or did God create humans “in their present form exactly the way the Bible describes it?”
Here 24% chose creationism and 67% evolution. Of the later 27% chose God-guided evolution and 40% evolution without God. This data suggests 51% of New Zealanders believe in a god – the 2006 Census listed 52% Christian adherents and a total of 3.8% adherents of the next three largest religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam).
These last figures suggest, contrary to what some seem to claim, that many of those who believe in a god do accept evolution – in fact, slightly more than half do.
What about the misrepresentation of these figures by the news article and Christian News NZ? Well they quoted only the numbers supporting creationism (24%) and those supporting evolution as “definitely true” (26%), rather than the total support (75%). Just shows how easy it is to distort data if you want to.
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript
Evolution’s threat to religion?
Isaac Newton and intelligent design
Intelligent design at the shopping mall