A recent Pew Research survey shows that 60% of Americans believe that “humans and other living things have evolved over time” while 33% of Americans reject evolution and believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”. But about half of those who believe in evolution believe it’s “due to natural processes such as natural selection”. Only 32% of Americans express a belief in pure Darwinian evolution, while 24% accept that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”
I tend to disagree with the wording of these surveys because they’re often ambiguous, which could skew the results. In this case, even though I’m a creationist, I don’t believe that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. I think it’s clear that all organisms change over time- but it’s the type of change that really matters, and it’s this distinction that separates creationists from evolutionists.
For instance, depending on how evolution is defined, I could say that I agree that humans and other living things have evolved over time- even though I don’t believe in any form of Darwinian evolution; this is because some people define evolution as “any change” in an organism over time. Therefore, the belief that organisms change over time (which they do) could be considered a belief in evolution. Understanding evolution is much more complex than this survey implies. If I was taking this survey I’d have to consider what the purpose was in order to answer it. If I understood that the survey was attempting to find out how many Americans believed in some form of Darwinian evolution, I’d join the group who believed that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, even though that’s not what I believe. I can’t help but wonder how many people took this survey without understanding the question in light of what they believe. It could also cause evolutionists to misunderstand what creationists really believe.
There’s no question that organisms (including man) have changed since they were created by God in the beginning. All we need to do is consider the various kinds of animals and how they’ve changed over time. All dogs, for example, have descended from the original created kind, which probably resembled the wolf. We can see how remarkably different a Chihuahua is from a Great Dane, a Dachshund from a Boxer, or a Shih Tzu from a Doberman. We can even study the different bear kinds and find that most bears can interbreed. Even though grizzly bears look different from polar bears, they’re still related and can interbreed. The same can be said about any other kind of animal we wish to study. Therefore it’s not surprising that some scientists would claim that these changes are examples of evolution, even though they’re merely examples of natural selection, adaptation and speciation. With all this in mind it’s apparent that someone could call themselves an evolutionist while rejecting the idea that animals and humans all share a common ancestor.
My point is that these survey questions could be worded better to avoid any ambiguity. Regardless, the poll did point out that only half of those who believe in evolution also believe it’s the result of natural processes such as natural selection. But while natural selection is a natural process, it doesn’t lead to any real kind of evolutionary change. Natural selection (as opposed to breeding) is mostly responsible for the different species of bears, for example. But keep in mind that bears haven’t evolved any new traits such as feathers or scales. Bears always give birth to bears without exception. Therefore one doesn’t need to believe in evolution to believe in natural selection and speciation. These are different processes that should be recognized as such.
While I’m not happy with the questions asked in the survey, the Pew study, in fairness, did consider alternative wording. They asked a random group of respondents about the evolution of “humans and other living things”, and then asked another group about the evolution of “animals and other living things”. The results found little difference. Nonetheless I still would have preferred a better worded question.
In fact other polling groups have asked the question differently, and I tend to think that the Gallup polls are worded better. In their 2012 survey, Gallup asked the question: “Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?” They then proceeded to provide three questions: 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.
The views of Americans on evolution are very wide-ranging, so it’s difficult to boil it down to obtain some good results. In 2004 Gallup asked, “Just your opinion, do you think that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is: 1) a scientific theory that has been well-supported by evidence, or, 2) just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or, 3) don’t you know enough about it to say?” And in 2009 they asked, “Do you, personally, believe in the theory of evolution, do you not believe in evolution, or don’t you have any opinion either way?”
Overall I’m glad that most Americans don’t believe in Darwinian evolution, but disappointed that a lot of people do believe in some form of evolution. I think a lot of people are swayed by the portrayal of evolution in the media and by popular figures who tout its belief as imperative for the very survival of our country. No doubt the teaching of evolution in schools and colleges without any criticism or alternative plays a large role in shaping public opinion as well.
The truth of the matter is that believing in evolution is meaningless when it comes to our everyday lives. No one needs to believe in evolution in order to build a computer, airplane or car, and no one needs to believe it in order to be a doctor, teacher, business owner, lawyer, carpenter or even a scientist. The only human beings that require a belief in evolution are those involved in the “evolutionary” sciences, which is only a small minority. Everyone else can go about their day-to-day lives without any impact at all.
However it should come as no surprise that evolutionists are not happy with the results. They lament the fact that only about a third of the American population fully accepts the theory of evolution. One writer says the results are “embarrassing given overwhelming evidence that evolution is real.” These sentiments are similar to those of popular evolutionists like Bill Nye “The Science Guy” who believes it’s imperative that Americans believe in evolution, and that failing to do so “holds everybody back.”
With that said, I’m looking forward to the creation vs. evolution debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on February 4, 2014 and hope it has a tremendous impact on this issue. It should make for some good entertainment, so I encourage you to catch the debate live.
Despite the unbalanced support evolution receives, I think it’s promising that so many people don’t buy into it.