Evolution Rejected by One-Third of Americans
It's been a bad year for poor old Charles Darwin: A Pew Research poll show that one-third of Americans don't subscribe to his (or any) theory of evolution. Instead, they believe that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." The number has stayed pretty steady since 2009, but this year, it's a widening divide between GOPers and Democrats that has researchers talking.
The divide between those who believe in evolution and those who don't is becoming more and more politicized, according to the poll: 64 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans subscribed to evolutionary theory in 2009. Now, it's 67 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of GOPers. And yes, those numbers are right: 11 percent fewer Republicans are on the evolution train and believe that we've existed in our current form since forever ago — a belief that jibes with the idea that an all-powerful being snapped his fingers and we materialized. Or that aliens dropped us out of spaceships.
Unsurprisingly, religion was also strongly correlated with the theory of human origins to which poll participants ascribed. White evangelical Protestants were the most fervent believers in creationism, with 64 percent pretty into the idea (probably not the spaceship one). In contrast, only 15 percent of white mainstream Protestants didn't believe in evolution. In addition to the Protestants, unaffiliated adults and white Catholics also had large majorities subscribing to evolution (76 and 68 percent, respectively). Hispanic Catholics showed only a 53 percent majority believing in evolution. Black Protestants and white evangelicals had majority-creationist results.
But even if religious groups subscribe to evolution, it doesn't mean God (or a "supreme being") wasn't involved:
Half of those who believe in human evolution said it all became possible because of natural processes such as natural selection. However, 24% of adults said that a supreme being guided the evolution of living things.
But while ideas about human origin have always been a big part of religion, it's the political numbers that caught researchers' attention.
Pew believes that the new numbers reflect the shift in changing political attitudes as Democrats are tending to move more towards the left, while Republicans are heading in the other direction.
"I didn't expect to see that kind of shift," Pew senior researcher Cary Funk said. "I think it basically fits with a pattern of growing polarization. And we see that on some other science issues."
Researchers were so surprised by the findings that they controlled for other factors, including race and ethnic divides between the partisan groups. Regardless of how they sliced the numbers, evolutionary belief was still tied to political party.
"Differences in the racial and ethnic composition of Democrats and Republicans or differences in their levels of religious commitment do not wholly explain partisan differences in beliefs about evolution," read the Pew report. "Indeed, the partisan differences remain even when taking these other characteristics into account."
This is pretty troublesome because it reflects that we're moving away from the middle ground, and not only politically. As the research indicates, it seems that religion is beginning to play a larger role in our politics than it has been.
Not a great way to end the year, really.