For many years, Gallup has been asking the same survey question about belief in evolution. And it has been consistently finding that an alarming percentage of the public (more than 40 %) believes that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form within the last 10,000 years or so.” Technically speaking, this is young-Earth creationism. (The other two choices in the poll are a type of God-guided evolution and an atheistic or non-guided evolution. I would argue that both are pro-evolution responses.)
Anyway, we now have new Gallup results, and while it shouldn’t be over-emphasized, it’s starting to look like there’s some slight movement. The young Earthers are now at just 40 %; they’d been as high as 47 % at various points in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the non-guided evolution camp has gone up to 16 % (from as low as 9 % in the 1990s). Here’s an image from Gallup, showing responses to the same polling question over time:
Gallup headlined these results by emphasizing that 4 in 10 Americans reject evolution; but might it not also have said that more than half now accept it?
Anyways, in a discussion of these data, Gallup notes how they’ve drifted in recent years, but also puts that fact in its needed context–it’s not a very big change:
[Americans'] views have been generally stable over the last 28 years. Acceptance of the creationist viewpoint has decreased slightly over time, with a concomitant rise in acceptance of a secular evolution perspective. But these shifts have not been large, and the basic structure of beliefs about human beings’ origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s.
Fair enough. Still, I can’t help thinking about the arguments of Barry Kosmin, who will be my next guest on Point of Inquiry and is the chief expert on the growing number of non-religiously affiliated Americans (the “Nones”). I’m no pollster, but I wonder, could we be starting to see their growing prevalence in these data?
WILMINGTON, Del. — Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware on Tuesday questioned whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, appearing to disagree or not know that the First Amendment bars the government from establishing religion.
The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O’Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons’ position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.
Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”
“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.
When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”