Gallup poll latest to show Americans reject secular evolution
In the poll, 53 percent of adults say "God created human beings in their present form exactly the way the Bible describes it." Another 31 percent believe humans "evolved over millions of years from other forms of life and God guided" the process. Twelve percent say humans "have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life, but God has no part."
The poll of 1,005 adults, conducted Sept. 8-11 and posted on Gallup's website Oct. 13, is but the latest survey showing Americans tend to reject a strictly secular explanation for the existence of life:
-- A Harris poll of 1,000 adults in June found that 64 percent believe "human beings were created directly by God," 22 percent say humans "evolved from earlier species" and 10 percent believe humans "are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them." In another question, only 38 percent say humans "developed from earlier species."
-- An NBC News poll of 800 adults in March found that 44 percent believe in a biblical six-day creation, 13 percent in a "divine presence" in creation and 33 percent in evolution.
"Nobody starts out as a Darwinian evolutionist," said William Dembski, professor of science and theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and the author of "The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design."
"You start out with a wonder of creation, thinking that there's something beyond it. And then it has to be explained to you why there really is no wonder behind it."
The Gallup poll was released amidst a trial in Harrisburg, Pa., over whether Intelligent Design can be taught in a Pennsylvania school district. Intelligent Design says that patterns in nature are best explained by pointing to a creator (that is, intelligence). Supporters of the theory of Darwinian evolution have opposed Intelligent Design, saying it is not science. Evolution teaches, in part, that humans evolved over millions of years from apes.
But despite the fact that public schools are teaching evolution as fact, Americans are not buying it. A November 2004 poll of 1,016 adults found that 35 percent said evolution was "just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence." Thirty-five percent said evolution was "well-supported by evidence," while 28 percent didn't know enough about evolution to answer. In addition, a February 2001 poll of 1,016 adults found that 48 percent said the "theory of creationism" best explained the origin of human beings while 28 percent said the "theory of evolution" made the most sense.
Reflecting the argument Paul makes in Romans 1, Dembski said the "beauty" and the "extravagance" of creation -- the "beautiful sunsets, flowers and butterflies" -- points to the existence of a creator.
"Unless you're really indoctrinated into an atheistic mindset, I think [the beauty of creation] is going to keep tugging at our hearts and minds," he said.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the Gallup poll findings "incredible" and said they should be "encouraging" to conservative Christians.
"Virtually every American adult has had high school biology, and in high school biology they were taught as a fact that human beings evolved from simple life forms according to the Darwinian theory of evolution," Land said on his radio program, “Richard Land Live!” Oct. 15. "This [poll] must make high school biology teachers really depressed."
Said Dembski: "The secularized education system ... is not being executed as effectively as the secular elites would like. So that's something that we have to be thankful for -- that a lot of schools are not implementing it and forcing it down kids' throats. But it's still happening, and as far as it happens, the indoctrination can be quite effective."
For example, Dembski said, there is little public outcry over PBS programs such as "Nature" that are publicly funded and regularly present evolution as fact. Also, Americans themselves seem conflicted over what to believe. An August Gallup poll found that 58 percent said creationism was definitely or probably true and 55 percent said evolution was definitely or probably true -- meaning that many of those surveyed saw no conflict between creationism and evolution. And the Harris poll that found only 22 percent of adults believing humans evolved from earlier species also found that 46 percent believe apes and humans have a "common ancestry."
Americans, Dembski said, often try to take a middle road by believing God guided evolution. Nevertheless, he said, the poll numbers are promising for Intelligent Design proponents who are making their case in the public square.
"I think anybody who is on the God-had-something-to-do-with-it side -- whether it's through a direct act of creation or through some sort of evolution process -- is likely to give Intelligent Design a second look,” Dembski said. “We have a great pool of people that we can appeal to.