Many Americans, particularly evangelicals, dispute science on the origin of the universe, the age of Earth and evolution.

Many Americans, particularly evangelicals, dispute science on the origin of the universe, the age of Earth and evolution. Photo Courtesy of NASA via Shutterstock

WASHINGTON (RNS) Believers don’t buy the Big Bang, God-less evolution or a human responsibility for global warming. Actually, neither do many Americans.

But a new survey by The Associated Press found that religious identity — particularly evangelical Protestant — was one of the sharpest indicators of skepticism toward key issues in science.

The survey presented a series of statements that several prize-winning scientist say are facts. However, the research shows that confidence in their correctness varies sharply among U.S. adults. It found:

  • 51 percent of U.S. adults overall (including 77 percent of people who say they are born-again or evangelical) have little or no confidence that “the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang.”
  • 42 percent overall (76 percent of evangelicals) doubt that “life on Earth, including human beings, evolved through a process of natural selection.”
  • 37 percent overall (58 percent of evangelicals) doubt that the Earth’s temperature is rising “mostly because of man-made heat-trapping greenhouse gases.”
  • 36 percent overall (56 percent of evangelicals) doubt “the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.”

On the flip side, most people are pretty sure the “universe is so complex, there must be a supreme being guiding its creation” — 54 percent of all Americans, and 87 percent of evangelicals.

The survey of 1,012 adults, conducted March 20-24, has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Nobel Prize-winning scientists expressed dismay at the findings.

“When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can’t argue against faith,” Duke University biochemist Robert Lefkowitz, who won a Nobel Prize in 2012, told The Associated Press. He called faith “untestable.”

And Darrel Falk, a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and an evangelical Christian, said many biblical scholars do not see a conflict between religion and science. “The story of the cosmos and the Big Bang of creation is not inconsistent with the message of Genesis 1,” Falk said.

A recent survey on “religious understandings of science,” by Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, found that the two worldviews are not always in opposition.

Ecklund’s study for the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science compared views of 10,000 U.S. adults, including scientists, evangelicals and the general public.

She found that nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence and that they are about as likely as most Americans overall (about one in five) to attend weekly religious services.

However, there’s still significant distrust: 22 percent of scientists and 20 percent of the general population say religious people are hostile to science. Most of those people (52 percent) sided with religion.

KRE/MG END GROSSMAN

 

56 Comments

  1. And we should blame the breakdown of science education for this. Ever since that Cold War emphasis on advancing science and technology faded from American educational culture, its been rolling downhill.

    Most people barely have a grasp of what scientific principles and theory are in this country. Add to that religious belief which specifically tries to confound and attack such things and you have a recipe for enforced ignorance.

    • Lets be honest, you could not be honest about science or education if you tried.

      Anyone who uses the words “Evolutionist” or “Materialist” like the way you do is putting a big sign around their neck proclaiming “I AM AN IGNORANT LIAR AND PROUD OF IT”

      “Minions of mindless materialism must be DEFEATED in the public marketplace of ideas, straight to the fare thee well !!!!”

      Because people must be as stupid and superstitious as possible if they are to embrace THE LORD! This does not bode well for the intelligence of Christians. [Creationism is purely Fundamentalist Christian nonsense]

      You are telling me essentially you prefer voodoo and superstition to facts and evidence.

      • “Evidence” is merely attempts to categorize sense impressions. Sense impressions are limited, subject to error and superficial. Language, by its nature, is also superficial and limited to approximation. Those “facts”, being language describing evidence, are doubly suspect and incapable of presenting the truth. The science that depends on those “facts” is doomed to fail because it cannot approach that which is beyond the range of sense impressions and language.

        • @Peter,
          Evidence is limited to that which we can observe.
          But what else can you do?
          If you claim to have seen a mermaid but you did not take a photo of it and do not have a lock of her hair for a DNA test why should anyone believe you?
          If you say you saw a ghost, but nobody else saw it, why should anyone believe that either?

          If God exists just because you say so, and there is no other evidence, we have no reason to believe any of it.

          • That’s not a good yardstick for truth, since we cannot photograph or prove the existence of a multiverse or string theory either. The idea that all that exists can be observed or perceived by human sensory experience (logical positivism) has long been discredited.

    • How so? …..I believe in Creation & Science. I reject evolution though-since it is a worldview that is NOT supported by the science.
      Think about the damage done to people because of your worldview. All those so-called vestigial organs that we now know actually serve a purpose. Think of those people who, without a reason, had there appendix removed for instance.
      It was an evolutionary worldview that held back “science” in the medical field by claiming these organs served no purpose because of your evolutionary worldview–not because the science said so.

      • @dvd,

        Evolution is a fact.
        Chromosome 2 alone proves humans share a common ancestor with apes evolution as does the DNA proof.
        You have decided to ignore evidence where it exists.
        And you pretend there is evidence where there is none.

        • Nothing in science is fact. Its all theory. Year after year, new scientists disprove the theories of last year; new evidence is discovered to disprove what was considered fact for decades; differing theories are formed by different scientists regarding the same evidence. I cannot put my faith in something that is in a constant state of flux and is based in human fallibility.

      • Ways you have already lied:
        1. Evolution is universally accepted scientifically by the professionals in the field.

        2. Creationism is not a default fallback position if one attacks evolution. It has no scientific merit. You still have to prove creationism, which you can’t

        3.creationists lie about the nature of their religious belief. Although they rely on faith in private, they deny it in public claiming proof exists. Therefore faith is unnecessary.

        • Even if evolution were fact, which its not, its a theory invented in the minds of humans, it does not disprove creationism. There are no facts. There are only a whole lot of humans thinking up a lot of ideas based on the limited data that we have available to us at any one time. Not only is the data limited but so are our minds and we are very, very fallible. To believe that human science is truth is not only arrogant but also very, very naive.

  2. Well, the powerful delusion that a God exists will not be defeated if Atheists remain silent.

    There is a battle for hearts and minds going on. Atheists, speak up.
    Don’t be shy. The world is flooded with problems and we won’t see them addressed if religion continues to hold us back:

    Genital mutilation
    Superstition
    Climate Change
    Over population
    Women’s emancipation
    Vaccination programs
    Medical research, etc.

    Religion says these are all in God’s hands – not ours.
    And we lazily go along waiting for Armageddon to end the hard work of facing our responsibilities to one another.

    Religion is a toxin to civilization.

    • I find it fascinating that you, consciously or otherwise, use the same phrase as Paul does in 2 Thessalonians 2:11(NIV). Yes, the wheat is being sifted from the chaff and sides are being drawn. It is obvious which you are on. Gather your forces and encourage each other. Hopefully you can stand.

        • The “Dark Ages” is a term employed by the poet, Petrarch, who was bemoaning, as he saw it, the degeneration of Latin into the modern Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian. The term had and has nothing to do with religion.

          Moreover, it was Catholic Church during the Middle Ages that saved civilization from descending into chaos due to the inheritance laws of the barbarian tribes in which property was equally shared among sons and resulted in smaller and smaller agrarian fiefdoms with conflict, high taxation, poor infrastructure the norm. The Church was invited to settle disputes and so become the de facto equivalent of the modern European Economic Community.

          • @Peter,

            Murdering witches for 1000 years is not what saved civilization. The Enlightenment did that.

          • Actually it didn’t.

            The Catholic Church during the Middle Ages spent a lot of time trying to wipe out remnants of Grecco-Roman learning. If not for the Crusades and a pipeline open to the East, Europe would not have been able to catch up to and overwhelm the Islamic world by the 13th Century.

            Inheritance laws and the form of laws shared by the US, UK and former commonwealth owes its existence to displaced Vikings living in France, the Normans. The Norman conquest of England left us with our current property/inheritance laws and common law legal system. Their desire to avoid the concerns of the locals and to keep property out of the hands of its former residents was the source of much of our current rule of law.

            Despite the Church’s best efforts, it could never impose a unified presence to Europe and was easily strong-armed by various rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. Avoiding or conflicts with the church gave rise to the modern nation state. It was more of a common enemy or impediment than a creator of such things.

    • And yet, Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Pol Pot, Castro, Ceausescu, Honecker, Khrushchev, Jim Jones, and Tim McVeigh were all atheists, all murdered much more than any religion could ever in less than 100 years

  3. I for one am an Evangelical Christian and am very much in support that there is human influence on global warming; we are not being good stewards of God’s creation.

  4. Do you think God ever wonders how He came into existence? Does God have a first memory? I think there is something rather than nothing because the state of “nothing” is UNSTABLE. Google and download “The Origin of the Universe – Case Closed” for more.

  5. Gesta Dei, Gesta Gallorum … or … Gesta Gallorum, Gesta Dei? … A wise saying from another era in reference to the Catholic state religion of France. “The work of God is the work of France” was supposed to mean that France followed God’s teaching. But the second, idolatrous version came to be the real meaning, “What France does is automatically the work of God.” That is, France’s human and often inhumane goals and deeds were dressed up as the will of God. God had to do what France wanted. The science-denying Christians are doing the same thing, putting themselves up as the agents of God and then willfully denying the truth of their own self-worship.

  6. While scientists like to think they have better answers to life’s questions than religion does, they also struggle to answer the tough questions:

    Why does anything exist? How did time and space evolve out of a void that suddenly erupted with a big bang, when there was nothing there to begin with?
    Why have humans evolved so poorly? Why are we constantly suffering from illness and disease? Since the dawn of man, upwards of a billion people have died from mosquito bites. So why haven’t we evolved to the point of having mosquito-proof skin?
    Is time travel possible? Can we live forever? Are there other universes, other dimensions? Are we alone in the universe, or do other people-inhabited planets exist?
    How does the future get formed? Why does time exist? Where does it come from? Why is the future unknowable?
    No, scientists are not required to place their hand on “The Origin of Species” and swear an oath to the truths of Darwin. Indeed, that book was wrong on many counts, including its erroneous theories about genetics.

    • @Simonsays,

      “OCEAN: A body of water occupying 75% of a world made FOR MAN – who has no gills.” – Ambrose Bierce

      You ask a lot of questions, some of the answers we have already.

      Why have humans not developed mosquito proof skin?
      Because the battle of the species is never ending

      The mosquito is not a threat to any species – even humans.
      It is the Malaria Parasite which you need to investigate. Malaria is what kills, not the mosquito.
      Malaria has evolved to inhabit the mosquito and get passed from person to person by the mosquitos. Malaria has not evolved a method to survive in the air, so it cannot be passed through coughs. But it has evolved the ability to live long enough until the next mosquito is likely to bite and pass it on.

      Sharks have had sharp teeth for millions of years but fish have not evolved armor to protect them from being eaten. Why? Perhaps because there are so many better ways to avoid being eaten. Some fish evolve the ability to puff up, others to school together, others evolve a bad taste which sharks don’t like.

      Similarly humans have had no need to evolve a skin which protects from only one species – such as mosquitos carrying malaria.

      Why does life exist? That one will probably be solved very soon.
      But why did the big bang happen? That one too.

      Others will probably never be answered. We’ll keep searching out of curiosity. But….really. so what if we never know everything? it keeps things interesting.

    • Simplesimon, criticizing Darwin’s work as a way of attacking evolution is silly. Science has advanced quite a bit from his day and developed Evolutionary theory far beyond what Darwin could do. It is akin to criticizing the Wright Brothers about the nature of powered flight in this day and age.

      Science is not bible study. Arguments which work for analyzing the Bible are useless in talking about science.

  7. Lets just put this on the table.

    Nobody has to believe in science. It requires no faith. It is accepted because the evidence is presented and organized in a fashion which is objectively credible.
    It is only supplanted when further evidence is presented which is more credible.

    Your feelings about a scientific idea are irrelevant. It is a question of whether you have a credible evidence to supplant what is already there.

  8. Life once was nasty, brutish and short and nights were dark and the idea of a bliss-filled eternal paradise was like a narcotic to ease the pain.
    Religion was passed down generation after generation for centuries—a tradition inculcated with almost fanatical regimentation of the young.
    It yet survives many centuries after the scientific method knocked the pins out from under Judeo-Christianity which fought kicking and screaming and still does.
    It is funny…the myriad miracles of modern science–quantum physics, the germ theory, stem cell research, space travel, etc., — are gleefully utilized everyday by the zealous creationists and the hierarchy of world religions.
    Perhaps one can still appreciate the positive things that Judeo-Christian practice has wrought–pyschological effects, less murder and war…but let’s get real…and get to the hard work of appreciating the beauty and harmony of nature and how altruism, fairness, peace, cooperation, community, and humanism are beneficial and can be achieved without invoking some watchful transcendent force (over which some 22+ major religions bitterly disagree!).
    Quit wasting time with the rosaries and novenas and chanting and masses and processions snd pilgrimages, etc., etc., and “git ‘er done!”

    • Because its the wrong conflict here.

      Its not science vs. religion, unless one’s religion is the most extreme ridiculous form. Fundamentalism.

      Every mainstream religious belief avoids conflict with science because people generally understand the concept of “separate magisteria”. Science answers its questions, religion answers its own. There is no conflict except to people who seek to cheapen both. People who want their religious beliefs to have the credibility of science but also don’t care a whit about the aspects of science which make it credible.

      Btw there is no such thing as “Judeo-Christian” anything. There is Christianity and there is Judaisam. Practice, beliefs and concepts are rather different.

      As for Judeo-Christian practice bringing less violence and war, that is utter and total fiction. Christians didn’t even stop killing members of different sects out of religious differences until the 1990’s. Almost two thousand years of finding new and interesting ways to kill each other in the name of the Lord.

      It is clearly obvious you would rather trade in strawman arguments, fictional takes on history and a rose-colored view of your own faith.

  9. It’s easy to touch a building and know that it’s there. When we watch a tree grow, we witness how it forms itself. When we travel to another city, we know when we’ve arrived.

    All of these are factual pieces of information we store in our heads as obvious truths.

    @ Larrie But truth also depends on your perspective, and certain truths are sometimes true but not always. We seem to have exceptions to every rule.

    As an example, we now know today that the speed of light can vary.

    Even with our basic understanding of math, 2+2 does not always equal 4. It depends on what type of measurement scale you are using. There are four types of measurement scales – nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. Only in the last two categories does 2+2 = 4.

    When we take medicine to cure an illness, we have faith that it’ll work based on past evidence. When we workout, we have faith that exercise will be beneficial based on past evidence.

    In a similar way, religious people say prayers because they have they’re own kind of evidence that they are effective. Even though it may not be enough to constitute scientific proof, they have enough evidence to satisfy themselves that God, Satan, heaven, hell, and the human soul all exist. For some, it may be a greater leap of faith than taking medicine, but others would argue that medicine is the one requiring more faith.

    • Objectively collected evidence and methodologically sound research does not require perspective. It is what it is. One either accepts it or finds evidence to the contrary. Credible presentation of facts require no belief or ways of perception beyond what is plainly in front of you.

      Truths which “depend on one’s perspective” are accepted based on the same. They lack inherent credibility and require things like faith or belief to be acceptable. You can chose to accept evidence which is specific to your religious belief and faith, but it doesn’t mean anyone else has to.

    • Simon you are a very wise man.

      Larry will never understand this because he thinks science is objective. He doesn`t understand that his belief that science is objective is based on his perspective. He doesn`t understand that one scientist`s theory is another scientist`s bunk.

  10. Quibble: Evolution is a scientific concept. Godless evolution is not.
    Science presents a theory – with a vast amount of substantiating evidence – of biological evolution by which the species we see today originated, and Christians should accept that these finding represent the best understanding we have of the biological processes.
    Science does not, however make any claims whatsoever about the presence or absence of any guiding force behind these processes. It cannot assert that evolution is godless, and it does not presume to do so.
    There is no incompatibility whatsoever with Christianity, properly understood, and science, properly practiced.

    • Major quibble here.

      God has nothing to do with science. Period. You can’t prove his existence using science, you produce evidence of the divine anyone has to take seriously.

      You can chose to say God has a hand in biology and that hand is evolution. But you can’t support it with anything other than faith. For religious belief faith is enough. It compatible because your faith tells you so. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is presuming it is the only correct way to see the situation.

      • Compatibility is the only correct way of seeing the situation. Evolution does not require either that God exists or that God does not exist. Christianity does not require either that evolution occured or that it did not occur.
        Therefore, given evolution, Christianity is not hindered in the slightest. Similarly, given Christianity, evolution is not hindered in the slightest.
        If, given proposition A and proposition B, one’s decision to accept or reject proposition A has no bearing on his ability to accept or reject proposition B, then it should be said that propositions A and B are compatible. This is the case with evolution and Christianity.

        • Its akin to saying Christianity and ice cream are compatible.

          Since neither is affected by the other or even related in any way, they do not conflict. Therefore are compatible.

          • Yes, I’d say that’s accurate.
            Science does not presume to speak to the presence or absence of a deity, nor of the extent, if any, of that deity’s involvement in the mechanisms it studies. Similarly, Christianity does not presume to dictate what one may or may not believe about the physical mechanisms of the universe.
            It is the principle of the separate magisteria – the two deal with fundamentally different subjects.
            And further, just as it would be absurd for anyone to claim that one can be an ice cream eater or a Christian but not both because the two are not compatible, so too must we regard those who claim that one can accept science or Christianity, but not both because they are incompatible.
            They are not incompatible, and therefore it is entirely consistent to hold both.

  11. “She found that nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence…”

    Romans 1:18-20, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

    I would say that by reading the Scriptures, we are told that the number of scientists who know that God exists is closer to 100%. He has made Himself known in His creation.

    http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

  12. Christians, as well as scientists, should be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Christians are confident that we know that outcome due to our faith in the God of the Bible. We should not feel threatened by scientific inquiry – we should encourage it. Study, explore, question. Follow the evidence – with rigor, tenacity. And let what you find speak for itself as you continue to discover the wonder of God’s creation.

  13. If we separate ourselves from animals we can exploit them, abuse them and eat them. Everyone knows that animals were put on the Earth to serve man and do not have feelings and don’t go to heaven. How can we be kin to an ignorant ape? Lonely and abused children often have imaginary friends, and some grow out of them. Every one knows that if you are good and mind, Santa will bring you gifts if not…it’s coal for you.. If you are bad the boogy man will get you. All tactics to make children behave how you want them to. at some point most people realize that these little stories are made up to control you and stop believing. Others let their imaginary friends run their lifes until they die. There is as much proof for god’s existence as Santa or the Easter Bunny. When we die we don’t go up through the clouds to be with Jesus and our loved ones, or go down to hell with the boogy man if you disobeyed. Let’s face it… we rot. When we die nature takes over and we decay. Not a pretty picture, but any meat animal or human will decompose. Are we so afraid that death is so final that we have to make up fictionalized stories to coupe? Our love ones who have past, we have organs removed and chemicals pumped into thier bodies to keep them from decomposing. Why are we so afraid of letting go? The world will continue to spin with out you and you will be missed,

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    […] The demographic group most skeptical of scientific claims, in general, is conservative (“evangelical”) Christians. This is particularly true regarding the scientific evidence of climate change. Whereas 37 percent of the general public expresses doubt that the Earth’s temperature is rising because of “man-made, heat-trapping greenhouse gases,” 58 percent of evangelicals doubt this assertion (Religion New Service, May 1, 2014). […]

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