Only 25% of Americans oppose evolution

Reporting of poll results is not good at the best of times. But it seems polls surveying attitudes towards evolutionary science almost inevitably are reported with an anti-science basis. It’s not just creationist sources like the Discovery Institute with their bogus polls (eg. Darwin Day Poll Shatters Stereotypes). Recently we had the Theos poll in the UKΒ  which was reported asΒ  Poll reveals public doubts over Darwin’s theory of evolution – but could equally have been reported as 78% of Britons support Darwin?.

Now we have the US Gallup poll headlined On Darwin’s Birthday, Only 4 in 10 Believe in Evolution. But that could also have been reported with headlines unfavourable to the anti-evolution brigade. For example:

Only 25% of American oppose evolution.

The data shows that only 25% oppose evolution which is not very different to New Zealand (see New Zealand supports evolution). The real scandal, though, is that 36% have no opinion.


Opposition to evolution declines with education

While 27% of those with high school or less education oppose evolution this drops to 11% of people with postgraduate education.


Church attendance encourages anti-science attitudes

Whereas only 11% of those who don’t attend church oppose evolution this increases to 41% for those attending church weekly.


The way polls are reported, and especially the headlines, is important because the tone and claims of the initial report usually gets picked up and uncritically repeated by most of the rest of the news media. Very rarely do the secondary news sources actually check the data to see if the original interpretations and bias are correct.

Its worth critical readers hunting down the actual data and checking for themselves.


Technorati Cosmos: other blogs commenting on this post

See also: The Debate Over Evolution

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7 responses to “Only 25% of Americans oppose evolution

  1. “Only 25% of American oppose evolution.”

    That is terrible. I wonder what the percentage is of those who oppose Pythagoras theorem, relativity, or the Doppler effect.


  2. Probably similar to the percentage who believe that the sun orbits the earth.


  3. I’ve never liked that ‘believe’ word. Personally I accept evolution, based on all the available evidence. ‘Belief’ suggests an element of faith – not exactly appropriate in a scientific context. Dratted pollsters πŸ˜‰


  4. Yes, Alison. I noticed when I looked into the Attitude of Dawkins and Dennett to “big bang” theory (Stuart had claimed that atheists rejected the theory) that it was not a matter of them believing any particular theory. They just take science as it comes – accepting well founded theories. And then modifying their acceptance as new data comes in and the scientific consensus shifts.

    Stuart was quite mistaken.


  5. I see a wrong headline here.
    “Church attendance encourages anti-science attitudes” should read “Church attendance encourages anti-evolution attitudes”.
    Christianity actually underpinned the development of science in western society.


  6. Ken, I think we’ll start to see this kind of argument (that atheists reject the big bang) more and more from apologists. Christians were overjoyed when science discovered that the movement of the stars and galaxies pointed to a singularity because it more closely fit with their creation story. Sure some still have an issue with the fact that the universe is older than the story would indicate but the majority love this bit of science.

    But now a lot of philosophical arguments (i.e. the Kalam Cosmological Argument) are completely dependent on the universe having a ‘beginning’ and therefore a cause and so, like all dogma, they will tend to see any investigation into alternative explanations of the origins of the universe as atheistic rather than scientific.

    And this is the problem with tying scientific observations to religious beliefs; once you’ve tied the two together it is very difficult to look at alternatives.

    I predict that if science makes further discoveries that indicate that our universe didn’t actually start at the Big Bang that, once again, Christianity will take a couple of hundred years to make the adjustment. Just like geocentrism. Just like evolution.


  7. Ross – I guess headlines have to be inclusive. However, surely opposition to evolutionary science is obviously opposition to science. It involves not only rejection of the data but also the scientific methodology. And it is usually accompanied by a load of rubbish about philosophical “materialism” and “naturalism.” All aimed at undermining science.

    Now, I am not suggesting that all religions, all churches, encourage this. After all, many Churches in the US (and in New Zealand) did mark Darwin’s birthday this year with sermons, etc., supporting evolutionary science – and science in general.


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