Creationism in America & Europe

By Razib Khan | March 28, 2009 11:56 am

So I’m reading/hearing about something flaring up in Texas again in regards to Creationism. I always get these strange “articles” in my RSS for the “evolution” query on Google Alerts where an uninformed columnist rambles on how the theory has been disproved or brought into doubt. These arguments are not my brief, I’ll leave that to Josh Rosenau et al. Nevertheless one of the interesting things about the discussion in regards to Creationists has been the reality that the United States is swarming with them, though there are Creationists elsewhere, especially in the Islamic world. It is a difference of degree, not kind.
Attitudes toward Creationism vary across European countries, and even within European countries. But what about the United States? It’s not a coincidence that the same states crop up when it comes to Creationism vs. Evolution flair ups.
The General Social Survey has several variables which ask about evolution. SCITESTY, SCITEST4, EVOLVED and CREATION. Additionally it has regional divisions which break down along Census parameters:


censudiv.png
Here are the results from the questions above by region:

Humans Evo. From Animals Man has Evo. Humans Developed From Earlier Species Of Animal Human Developed From Animals
Def. True + Prob True Yes
Def True + Prob True True
New England 69.4 65.3 60.8 78.6
Mid Atlantic 59.4 65.4 62.1 58.4
E North Central 44 55.2 45.4 50.5
W North Central 48.2 60.9 49.6 55.5
S Atlantic 41.7 40.1 37.3 43.6
E South Central 31.7 46.5 19.1 27.2
W South Central 41 43.9 34.5 38.9
Mountain 50.7 54.7 43.3 51.5
Pacific 54.3 63.9 52.9 59.9

I assume no one is surprised, as I’ve reported similar results before. The United States is a big country with 300 million citizens and a lot of cultural diversity, even among those who are white (I want to make clear here that I’m not using diversity as a euphemism for colored people). Now I’ve taken two of the questions above which are similar to survey from a few years ago among European nations, with the different American regions included.
humansevolve1.png
humansevolve2.png
As you can see, Blue America overlaps to a great degree with Europe. American exceptionalism is then more a function of Red America.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Creationism
  • http://healspiel.blogspot.com/ adina

    What accounts for the discepancy between “humans developed” and “humans evolved” as well as the discrepancy between “developed from animals” vs. “developed from earlier species of animal”? People believe that humans developed, but didn’t “evolve” from animals? That they developed from an earlier species of animal, but not, um, from an animal? I don’t get it.

  • http://www.squidproquosf.com Leslie

    After reading this I just realized that I’ve never been taught evolution in school of any sort. I’ve picked up what I know here and there from reading. I went to private school in Nashville tn, and then majored in cell and molecular biology and the entire concept has been suspiciously absent from all curriculum.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Adina, I suspect that part of that discrepancy is coming from the word “evolution.” When many people hear that word it sets off all sorts of negative gut reactions.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/2009/03/creationism_in_america_europe.php?utm_source=sbhomepage&utm_medium=link&utm_content=channellink Austin

    Great post, Razib!
    I greatly enjoy your postings. They are always laden with data that offer your readers glimmers of insight into our collective national condition.
    Yet, I don’t believe for one second that, during the period that this country was populated by persons primarily from the European countries, that the dumb persons settled in the South and the smart persons settled in the North and West. There has to be other causal factors which explain why the Southern states are disproportiatly represented by the ‘creationist’ view.
    Is it possible (as suggested by a not so recent PBS program) that these findings might be accounted for by the early dispersion pattern of religious indoctorination in the USA.
    Early in our nation’s history, the more primitive religions (primarily Baptist) targeted the Southern states for religious indoctorination. Not surprisingly, the Baptist’s did not require that their minister’s have a formal education (religious or otherwise).
    Is it possible that the South is currently dominated by the ‘creationsist’ based religions because the Baptist’s got there first and with the most pseudo-ministers?
    Razib, could you dig a little deeper?

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Adina, I suspect that part of that discrepancy is coming from the word “evolution.” When many people hear that word it sets off all sorts of negative gut reactions.
    yes. wording matters a lot in these polls. also, sample size results in fluctuations. some of the classes were extremely small (e.g., evolutionists in e. south central).
    Yet, I don’t believe for one second that, during the period that this country was populated by persons primarily from the European countries, that the dumb persons settled in the South and the smart persons settled in the North and West.
    1) even controlling for ethnicity southerners have a smaller vocabulary today.
    2) the colonial pattern was for new england to be the most educated, mid-atlantic the middle, and south the least. in fact, new england was the world’s first universal literacy society (top to bottom). this was partly a function of the requirements for immigration into this country, combined with the source (east anglia).
    3) the south as the religious conservative redoubt is more a feature of the last few antebellum period. in fact the southern colonies were dominated by the church of england in the lowlands (the established church) and calvinists in the uplands. i believe there were a few groups of baptists in places like georgia, but these were exceptions. in fact from what i know baptism was more of a northern sect because it was in the north that mass religious fervor and revival was concentrated during the colonial phase. the leaders of the south during the colonial period and early republic were notably less devout. consider jefferson & madison’s deism, which were not atypical. john calhoun and henry clay, the lower and upper south’s eminent politicans for the antebellum period (excluding andrew jackson, who was probably more a national figure) were unitarian and lax epsicopaians. the conversion of the south to baptism was more a feature of the second great awakening. in short, the variation in belief is rooted in the south’s culture, but it is unlikely to go back to the colonial period, when the literate elite of the south was arguably the most heterodox.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Re:Baptism. Baptism also became stronger post the Civil War. Many Protestant denominations split during or right before the war. After the war the denominations joined back together. The exception to this was the Baptists who stayed separate. This separatism allowed them to hook onto to post-Confederate pro-Confederate ideals. Protestantism in general, but especially Southern Baptism became part of and intertwined with the entire Lost Cause narrative. This is discussed in some of the essays in “The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History” edited by Gary W. Gallagher (I don’t seem to have my copy here so I can’t cite where unfortunately).

  • http://truthspew.wordpress.com Tony P

    I learned about evolution in elementary and high school classes. The real kicker about it is that I attended Catholic schools from grades 1 through 12.
    But I’m a New Englander, born and raised. One of the other things to look at in New England is that most of our population is descended from, you guessed it, European stock. Not only that our institutions of higher learning follow the European college scheme.

  • http://walldorf.typepad.com/ stefan

    The graphs may be mislabeled: , for instance, how can the United States have the 2nd lowest fraction affirming for ‘humans developed from animals’ in the last graph? Only East South Central has a lower, and only barely so, level on this measure, all other US regions shows have higher levels affirming this statement, some substantially higher?

  • B.B.

    Razib says:
    As you can see, Blue America overlaps to a great degree with Europe. American exceptionalism is then more a function of Red America.
    Don’t you mean human exceptionalism?
    stefan says:
    The graphs may be mislabeled: , for instance, how can the United States have the 2nd lowest fraction affirming for ‘humans developed from animals’ in the last graph? Only East South Central has a lower, and only barely so, level on this measure, all other US regions shows have higher levels affirming this statement, some substantially higher?
    The data on attitudes towards the Theory of Evolution internationally is from a 2006 article published in the journal Science, while the data for regional differences within the United States is from the 2008 General Social Survey. On top of differences in time, sampling methodology probably differs as well.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Don’t you mean human exceptionalism?
    say more.
    The data on attitudes towards the Theory of Evolution internationally is from a 2006 article published in the journal Science, while the data for regional differences within the United States is from the 2008 General Social Survey. On top of differences in time, sampling methodology probably differs as well.
    yes. and the different regions also have different populations. e.g., new england is among the less populous.

  • B.B.

    razib says:
    say more.
    I thought bringing up the belief in American exceptionalism was something of a non-sequitar in a discussion about regional variations in attitudes towards evolution, so it gave me the impression that what you really meant to say was that human exceptionalism (i.e. the belief that humans have a special status in nature) is more common in Red America. I believe it was John Derbyshire who has made the point that a central reason why religious (red state) people object to the ToE was that it was a threat to their belief in human exceptionalism, which is a central tenant to Abrahamic religions.
    I must of misunderstood what you were getting at.

  • http://walldorf.typepad.com/ stefan

    I wrote: “The graphs may be mislabeled: , for instance, how can the United States have the 2nd lowest fraction affirming for ‘humans developed from animals’ in the last graph? Only East South Central has a lower, and only barely so, level on this measure, all other US regions shows have higher levels affirming this statement, some substantially higher?”
    Razib replied: “The data on attitudes towards the Theory of Evolution internationally is from a 2006 article published in the journal Science, while the data for regional differences within the United States is from the 2008 General Social Survey. On top of differences in time, sampling methodology probably differs as well.”
    But this creates a big problem, since it look like the average response of Americans in the 2006 Science article is quite a bit lower than the average response of Americans, across all US regions, in the GSS. Without a method for correcting for this difference — I’d eyeball it at 15% — there is little value in showing the the GSS response for New England is in the middle of the range for European countries. Just shifting the GSS rate down by 15% to line up with Science data puts New England at around where the bottom European country, Poland, is.
    At best this provides evidence that even the highest evolution belief US region, New England, lines up with low evolution belief European countries like Poland. I see no evidence here that ‘Blue America overlaps to a great degree with Europe.’

  • deadpost

    I wonder how much of evolution rejection results from the (often disturbing to moral viewpoints) implications of evolutionary psychology, as much as the threat to human exceptionalism and viewing humans are “just animals”.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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