In a Gallup poll conducted last month, 38% of U.S. adults said they believe God created humans in their present form in the last 10,000 years. Such a belief is called “Young Earth Creationism.” It typically comes, directly or indirectly, from a narrow interpretation of Genesis and rejecting, ignoring, or not being aware of scientific evidence of a much older time of creation.
The same number, a different 38% of U.S. adults, said they believe humans developed from less advanced forms of life over millions of years and God guided this process. Such a belief is often called “Old Earth Creationism.” It includes several categories, such as Theistic Evolution and Intelligent Design. It typically comes from a broader interpretation of Genesis and reliance on what multiple branches of science teach about the age of the Earth and evolution.
The 38% result is an all-time low for Young Earth Creationism, at least since 1982, when Gallup’s polling on the issue began. As recently as 2012, 46% believed in it. This poll is also the first time Young Earth Creationism tied with Old Earth Creationism.
One Reason It Matters
This poll is an important development because other surveys report that many people—young people in particular—leave the church because they view Christianity as antagonistic towards science.
While a large percentage of Christians are not antagonistic towards science—many top scientists, today and in the past, are Christians—a vocal group, such as Young Earth Creationists (those who go beyond merely believing in Young Earth Creationism to insist that the Bible requires a young earth and no human evolution), are often hostile towards science. Indeed, some Young Earth Creationists insist that one must choose between Christianity and evolution, which is false and can turn people away from God.
This post is the first in a series on Young Earth Creationism, Genesis, and scientists.
Vast Majority of Adults Believe God Created Humans
It is encouraging that at least 76% of adults believe God is responsible for the creation of humans.
In the poll, 19% said humans developed over millions of years, but said God had no part in this process.
A substantial part of that 19% probably believe in God but they have a particularly narrow view of God’s role in evolution. Pew Research’s 2014 in-depth study of religion revealed that only 9% of U.S. adults say they do not believe in “God or a universal spirit,” including only 3.1% who say they are atheists.
Some of the 19% likely believe God created life in a form God knew would lead to humans, but God was not “involved in the process” of evolution.
In other words, some of them likely believe God created life and put evolution in motion to lead to humans, but God was not involved in the process of evolution as it proceeded. This is kind of like an expert bowler rolling a bowling ball down the lane to bowl a strike–the bowler doesn’t touch the ball as it rolls down the lane, but the strike the bowler had in mind occurs. The poll was ambiguous on this point.
Belief in Young Earth Creationism Inversely Correlates With Education
Only 24% of college graduates believe in Young Earth Creationism. About twice as many (45%) believe in God-guided human-evolution over millions of years.
About the same percentage of college graduates who believe in Young Earth Creationism believe in evolution of humans without God’s involvement in the process.
The percentages are approximately the same for those who went to graduate school.
Nearly Weekly Church-Attendees Are Evenly Split on Young Earth and Old Earth
For those who attend church nearly weekly or monthly, approximately the same percentage believe in Young Earth Creationism as believe in God-involved evolution (44% and 45%).
Nearly two in every three (65%) of those who attend church more often—weekly— believe in Young Earth Creationism, while 28% of weekly attendees believe in God-involved evolution.
Gallup did not report on how age correlates with weekly church-attendance. My experience is that young-to-middle-aged adults find it more difficult to attend every week, as kids’ activities, work, illness, and similar things take up enough Sundays to make them not weekly attendees, but “nearly weekly” attendees instead.
The Gallup poll revealed a significant shift in adults’ views on how humans came to be. Is it one that will continue or was this year’s poll just an anomaly?
I view the shift as a positive development and will expand on that view in later posts.
Other posts in this series will consider the interpretation of Genesis 1, the views of scientists, and the main problem I see with Young Earth Creationists.
(The picture is one I took of part of Genesis 1 in one of my Bibles.)
Sources and Notes:
The poll discussed: http://www.gallup.com/poll/210956/belief-creationist-view-humans-new-low.aspx. The poll had a margin of error of 4%. No opinion was provided by 5% of those polled.
Survey on leaving church, antagonistic to science …: http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church
Some differentiate between “old-earth” and “evolutionary” creationist views, rather than calling a theistic-evolution view a sub-set of Old Earth Creationism, but I think that the sub-set description is clearer.
The Old Earth views are primarily from:
- Justin Taylor’s article, “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods.”
- Dr. Francis Collins’ book, “The Language of God”
- Dr. Steven Ball’s slide deck. “Recent Scholarly Perspectives on Genesis”
- Hugh Ross’s web-site, Reason to Believe