The girls are all right, they accept human evolution

By Razib Khan | July 14, 2010 1:00 am

One of the trends that makes me less pessimistic about the inevitability of an idiocratic end-point to technological civilization is that it seems young Americans are more likely to accept evolution than earlier age cohorts.  The EVOLVED variable asks whether one believes that “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animal.” It was asked in 2004 and 2008, and its response is dichotomous between true and false. The favorable age trend I was aware of, but almost randomly I decided to control for some demographic variables, and I stumbled onto something which surprised me a bit, but in hindsight shouldn’t have: much of the greater acceptance of evolution among the youth has to do with a closing of the sex gap between men and women. Traditionally women have been more religious and Creationist in their inclinations, but far less so in Gen Y. Chart below of EVOLVED.


The convergence between men and women here seems to mirror what is occurring with religion more generally. Young men aren’t getting that much more secular, but women are, resulting in an aggregate of serious secularization.

Here are the percentages for 2004 and later in relation to attitudes toward the bible.


So some, but not all, of the closing of the “evolution gap” across sexes can be attributed to decreased belief in the core precepts of organized religion (e.g., the revealed nature of scripture). Rather, if you constrain the beliefs about evolution to those who believe that that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, you see that women are converging with men in the proportion who are theistic evolutionists, and turning away from Creationism. Among these believers, for those who were 61 or older 42% of women accepted evolution vs. 56% of men. For those in the age bracket 18-30 the proportion was 65% for both sexes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Creationism, Data Analysis, GSS
MORE ABOUT: Creationism, Data, GSS
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  • bioIgnoramus

    Anyone who holds a newborn knows that we are all descended either from apes or from Winston Churchill. The parsimonious interpretation is that we are all descended from apes and that Winston Churchill was too. I rest my case.

  • abb3w

    Could this be a result of the historical science (and math) education gap between the sexes, and contemporary closing (but not elimination) of the gap?

  • Divalent

    Can you be sure that the difference in older age groups is not due to a decline in acceptance of evolution as time goes by? By saying that, I’m implying (without data to suggest it) that women become more religious (or more fundamentalist) as they get past 30.

    So is there any data on the issue in the older cohorts from the past that show their positions are roughly stable?

  • bioIgnoramus

    To furriners, it’s a mystery why becoming more “religious” should imply that you become less accepting of evolution. Why is American Christianity so inane?

  • Razib Khan

    So is there any data on the issue in the older cohorts from the past that show their positions are roughly stable?

    not enough data on evolution, but not, people don’t become that much more religious.

  • Caledonian

    To furriners, it’s a mystery why becoming more “religious” should imply that you become less accepting of evolution. Why is American Christianity so inane?

    You might as well ask why male peacocks have such extraordinary and fitness-costly plumage. It’s a social signal, all the more effective because it makes the holder of the disbelief contrast with the rest of society.

    Other societies have their own bugbears, sacred cows, and social signals. My intuition is that they’re as ridiculous to Americans as Americans’ are to foreigners.

  • bioIgnoramus

    This furriner finds that the Parisian bourgeoise’s desire to be chic adds to the pleasure of visiting Paris; even the Milanese’s sharp suiting can afford some pleasure to this visitor, but the adopted dimwittedness of American Christians in the matter of evolution provokes only derision. How can I put this? The bible does not report Jesus’ views on Darwin, you idiots!

  • Half Sigma

    Women are turning from Christianity to the new religion of “green” and Gaia. So they believe in evolution, but also believe that the Planet is alive and thinking, and other nonsense.


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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


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