Friday, February 15, 2008

Trends in Creation/Evolution Belief in America

Back in October 2006, the National Science Teachers Association published a report listing the proportion of people in various countries who believed man has evolved from animals.

Turkey - 25%

United States - 40% (down from 45% twenty years ago)

England - 75%

Japan - 80%

France - 80%

The U.S. results are consistent with trends I’ve noticed in polls since the early 1980’s. At that time 44% agreed with the position that God created mankind around 10,000 years ago. The remainder were theistic evolutionists (man evolved under the direction and influence of God) at 40%, and 9% were naturalistic evolutionists (man has evolved either in a universe with no God, or He was uninvolved in our appearance.)

The number of recent-creationists had risen to 47% by 1993, and in CBS polls in 2004-2005, the number who said God created man in his present form was 51-55% ( CBS specifically commented that the results were similar when a ‘10,000 year’ timeframe question was asked as in the earlier polls. In the CBS polls, theistic evolution managed 27-30% and naturalistic evolution 13-15%.

Allowing for the inherent uncertainties in polling, we can make the following conclusions:

  1. The proportion of recent-creationists is increasing (44% to as high as 55%) over the past generation.
  2. The number of naturalistic evolutionists is also rising, at a more modest rate, from 9% to as high as 15%.
  3. These increases have come at the expense of theistic evolutionism, which has declined over the same time period from 40% to as low as 27%.
  4. All told, the results indicate a sharpening of the creation-evolution conflict with a decline in the proportion of those advocating a compromise position.
  5. Believers in a recent creation of man are now in a position of outright dominance in the general population.

One question not addressed in these polls is the proportion of ‘young-earth’ creationists. That is, some people who believe in a recent creation of man, nonetheless adhere to the traditional evolutionary dating scheme of billions of years for the earth. This may explain why biblical creationism continues to be almost completely excluded from the public sphere.

Piecemeal data and interpolation of other results as well as that given above gives me the following estimation for the proportion of Americans in each category as of 2008:

  1. Atheistic evolutionists 10% (The earth/universe is billions of years old, there is no God, and man has evolved.)
  2. Deistic evolutionists 5% (The earth/universe is billions of years old, God is impersonal, and man has evolved without divine involvement.)
  3. Theistic evolutionists 28% (The earth/universe is billions of years old; God directs the evolution of man and other life.)
  4. Progressive creationists 12% (The earth/universe is billions of years old; God has created man and other life without common ancestors.)
  5. Young earth creationists 45% (The earth is thousands of years old; God has created man and other life without common ancestors.)

Future trends are dependent on many factors, and it would be rash to simply extrapolate the trend of the past generation. Major factors would include:

  1. The presumably higher birthrate of American creationist communities (evangelical Christians/homeschool community, Hispanic and Muslim immigrants, African-Americans, etc.) compared to evolutionists (white liberals, Asian immigrants, secularists, Jews, etc.)
  2. Widespread media attention and creationary outreach efforts such as the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum.
  3. Continued public policy, taxpayer funding and enforced academic orthodoxy for only naturalistic evolutionism.
  4. The rise of homeschooling, pulling students out of evolution-based public and private schools.
  5. The rise of charter schools, school vouchers, and free-market based education, that introduces students to a wider range of the available viewpoints on origins.
  6. The rise of the internet, both as a tool to communicate and rally communities to a common standard (on the one hand), and make information from a wide variety of sources easily available (on the other).
  7. The general collapse of the secular humanist worldview in Western society worldvide (as reflected by societal malaise and low birthrates, and a disinterest in pursuing more than strictly hedonistic personal goals), following the collapse of the Communist worldview in the past generation. Islam is partly exploiting the vacuum, as is Environmentalism (which I do not believe to have staying power as a worldview), but a large gap remains.
  8. The weakening of teaching and application of a distinctively biblical worldview (that is, how the Bible should apply to everyday life and culture) in mainstream American Christianity, to the point of virtual non-existence.

These trends lead me to make the following predictions:

  1. A hardened core of American Christian homeschoolers will provide a backbone for the young-earth creationist position for at least another generation.
  2. General population trends favor the growth of the young-earth and progressive creation positions over the next generation. It remains to be seen if either gains at the expense of the other.
  3. Academic orthodoxy for naturalistic evolution will deteriorate modestly, with competing schools (theistic/New Age evolution, Intelligent Design) operating increasingly within the academic arena. Still, naturalistic evolutionists will hold the reigns of power for the foreseeable future.
  4. Atheistic and deistic evolution will hit a high water mark and decline due to the challenges of collapsed supporting worldviews (Marxism and Secular Humanism), competition on the internet, and poor birthrates. It will continue to garner converts from the other positions through academic channels only to lose people once they complete their education in a controlled environment and are again exposed to the marketplace of ideas.
  5. Theistic evolution will continue to see modest decline, but it will be alleviated by cross-traffic from atheistic evolutionists seeking meaning in life, and creationists who are poorly schooled or grounded in their beliefs by passive parents and church/educational institutions.

No comments: