Recently over at bloggingheads.tv Matt Lewis broached the issue of science, religion, and politics. Being outside of his bailiwick Lewis seemed to be under some misimpressions. First, he seemed to think that most political liberals were not theists. This is false. In the General Social Survey the GOD variable asks respondents about their confidence in the exist of God. Below are the proportions by ideology for the year 2000 and later who espouse the atheist or agnostic position on the existence of God:
|Atheist or agnostic|
About 1 out of 7 of liberals are an atheist or agnostic. 1 out of 25 conservatives. In contrast, 50 percent of atheists or agnostics are liberal, while only 20 percent are conservatives. Among militant atheists are the proportions are probably even more skewed.
With that out of the way, what about attitudes toward evolution? The GSS asked the EVOLVED question in the year 2006, 2008, and 2010. It asks: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” The responses are coded as true or false. Below are those who accepted this proposition for various classes of individuals (all political classes are for the year 2000 and later).
|Humans beings developed from animals: Yes|
|Christians||Protestants||Catholics||Word of God||Inspired||Book of Fables|
A word on the variables. The proportion of Christians who acceded to acceptance of evolution was queried with REIGION, while Protestants and Catholics with RELIG. In regards to the Bible I used BIBLE. Finally, I also used FUND in a follow up analysis.
What you see is that rejection of evolution is strongly conditional on religion. Roman Catholic conservatives are more liable to accept evolution than politically liberal Protestants. The main caveat on these results is that many theological conservative black Protestants identify as political liberals. Limiting the sample to non-Hispanic whites changes the picture. The proportion of Catholic conservatives who accept evolution does not change. But 65 percent of liberal non-Hispanic white Protestants now accept evolution.
The pattern in relation to age is intriguing. As I have noted before, the trend for the young to accept evolution at higher rates is not just a function of the fact that the young are more secular. But, it does seem that this is driven almost totally by Roman Catholics. Young Roman Catholics are only marginally more likely to be Creationist than young Jews or the non-religious. What’s going on with Protestants? The Biblical literalism question points to the answer: non-fundamentalist Christians have shifted toward evolution over the years. In contrast, the pattern for fundamentalists is more confused (the change from 20 to 30 is made ambiguous by noise). But, using the FUND variable and limiting to Protestants I have confirmed that there is a significant (outside 95 percent confidence intervals) trend for younger cohorts among Protestants to have a higher proportion of fundamentalists. The total number of Protestants is declining, but within Protestantism theological conservatism is getting relatively stronger.