The State of the Nation

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40732028/ns/technology_and_science-science/

4 in 10 Americans still hold creationist views

If you’re in a room of 100 people, odds are likely about 40 think God created humans about 10,000 years ago, part of a philosophy called creationism, according to a Gallup poll reported Friday (Dec. 17). That number is slightly lower than in years past and down from a high of 47 percent in both 1993 and 1999.

The optimists will say that this is progress, but I just want to point out how long the road really is.

Note that in addition to this group of creationists, another 38 percent of Americans believe that God directed evolution over millions of years. How this supposed process actually worked and what evidence there is of such divine interventions is never really described in detail by these people, which is not at all surprising. I, holding the radical “opinion” that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, think a theory of evolution that involves supernatural guidance is an affront to the actual theory of evolution. Supernatural evolutionists maintain that all of these happenings in the past — the slow and indifferent processes that have led to the extinction of 99% of all species including multiple human species — were designed and coordinated so that we are sitting here today. This is an attack on science, not only because it speculates about the supernatural, but also, by inserting God’s hand into the picture, it destroys the role that an indifferent environment plays in determining “fitness” (a term that is too often misunderstood to be equivalent to traits like strength and intelligence). Supernatural evolution is not only bad science, nonscience, and pseudoscience, but it is based on the lie that we evolved as a specially designed creature.

For the 40 percent who think that the Earth is 10,000 years old, Richard Dawkins points that that these people aren’t just wrong, but so incredibly wrong that it is “proportional” to saying that the distance from New York to San Francisco is about ten yards.

Americans’ views on human origins varied significantly by level of education and religion, the poll found. Those with less education were more likely to hold a creationist view that God created life thousands of years ago, while college graduates were more likely to hold one of the two viewpoints involving evolution.

I know I repeat this point over and over, but there is and always has been a solution to this problem: education. Virtually every poll, every study finds that as you give people the opportunity to receive a good education (e.g., when you increase the percentage of people going to college), the baseline statistics all rise, leading to not only a decline in religiosity, but also declines in crime, poverty, along with gains in health and social harmony. This is especially why it is so important, at a time when we are beginning to realize that America is not leading the world anymore in basic science education, that we resist the attempts by creationists to pressure our public schools and universities to teach their packaged ideas. If creationists really want their ideas in textbooks, they should not take the political shortcut, but try to first get their ideas peer reviewed and published in journals, just like how every other scientist in the world operates.

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Posted on December 20, 2010, in Religion, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. You got statistical proof of that? Most Americans I know believe that God created the universe and the earth, and also believe in some form of evolution. Most Americans I know believe that God did it, but won’t claim to know how. Maybe that’s cuz most Americans I associate with are Catholics; our forefathers posited a theory of evolution as far back as the 4th century. Some fundamentalist Protestants believe in the young earth, but we believe God reveals to us what we need to know, and the geologic proof is that it’s older.

    • Hello David,

      Thanks for reading my blog.

      The statistics are from Gallup. I don’t doubt that the people you meet may believe in God-guided evolution, but that doesn’t change the fact that many in America don’t believe in evolution at all.

      As for the incredible claim that Catholics are the ones who came up with a theory of evolution before the 19th century, I would like to hear more about that.

      • Many in America is not all of America. Most Christians believe in the Big Bang and Evolution, both of which were supposed and proposed by Christians, Catholics to be exact. Fundamentalist Christians do not make up a large portion of America.

        The most notable Church Father in the West to hold evolutionary theory would be St. Augustine. (353-430) The idea of evolution was not a problem to thinking Christians. The true idea of evolution is change over time towards greater perfection. Saint Gregory of Nyssa (331-396) “taught that the Creation was potential – that God imparted to matter its fundamental laws and properties, but that the objects and completed forms of the Universe then developed gradually, under their own steam, out of primordial chaos.”

        But to quote Darwin, a Life in Science on evolution,

        Saint Augustine (353-430) painted an even clearer picture. He taught that the original germs of living things came in two forms, one placed by the Creator in animals and plants, and a second variety scattered throughout the environment, destined to become active only under the right conditions. He said that the Biblical account of the Creation should not be read as literally occupying six days, but six units of time, while the passage `In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ should be interpreted:
        As if this were the seed of the heaven and the earth, although as yet all the matter of heaven and of earth was in confusion; but because it was certain that from this the heaven and the earth would be, therefore the material itself is called by that name.

        Augustine likens the Creation to the growth of a tree from its seed, which has the potential to become a tree, but does so only through a long, slow process, in accordance with the environment in which it finds itself. God created the potential for the heavens and earth, and for life, but the details worked themselves out in accordance with the laws laid down by God, on this picture. It wasn’t necessary for God to create each individual species (let alone each individual living thing) in the process called Special Creation. Instead, the Creator provided the seeds of the Universe and of life, and let them develop in their own time.

        In all but name, except for introducing the hand of God to start off the Universe, Augustine’s theory was a theory of evolution, and one which stands up well alongside modern theories of the evolution of the Universe and the evolution of life on Earth.’ His views were influential throughout the Middle Ages, and followed by such important thinkers as William of Occam (in the fourteenth century) and, most importantly, by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Aquinas simply quoted Augustine’s teaching on the subject of the Creation and the interpretation of Genesis; but as he was one of the highest authorities in the Christian Church at the time, and has been one of the most influential since, this amounted to an official seal of approval for the idea that God had set the Universe in motion and then rested.”

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