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Survey: U.S. Protestant pastors reject evolution, split on Earth's age
January 10th, 2012
04:18 PM ET

Survey: U.S. Protestant pastors reject evolution, split on Earth's age

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

America’s Protestant pastors overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution and are evenly split on whether the earth is 6,000 years old, according to a survey released Monday by the Southern Baptist Convention.

When asked if “God used evolution to create people," 73% of pastors disagreed - 64% said they strongly disagreed - compared to 12% who said they agree.

Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed.

A movement called Young Earth creationism promotes the 6,000-year-old figure, arguing that it is rooted in the Bible. Scientists say the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

The Southern Baptist Convention survey, which queried 1,000 American Protestant pastors, also found that 74% believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people.

“Recently discussions have pointed to doubts about a literal Adam and Eve, the age of the earth and other origin issues," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a report on LifeWay’s site. “But Protestant pastors are overwhelmingly Creationists and believe in a literal Adam and Eve.”

The phone survey was conducted in May 2011, sampling ministers from randomly selected Protestant churches. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent, LifeWay said.

A 2010 Gallup poll found that 40% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form, versus 54% who said humans developed over millions of years.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Pride in ignorance. The biggest problem with religion.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  2. Prespreacher

    Speaking as Protestant pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA, this is a ridiculously inaccurate article. When they talk of Protestant pastors either in the article or study, it's clear that it's a particular type of Protestant pastor, i.e. Southern Baptist, non-denominational, conservative evangelical...not the numerous mainstream moderate to liberal Protestant Presbyterians, Methodist, Episcopalians, Lutheran pastors who don't have a problem with evolution. Boy, I'm tired of getting thrown in with the ignorant, fundamentalists who have hijacked religion to present only "their truth" which is misguided and filled with bad theology.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Joe

      The Presbyterian church gives me hope for the future of religion. However, it is time to fully accept gay men and women as brothers/sisters in Christ. No more hedging on the issue!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • LALALALA LAND AND I DON'T MEAN LA

      So, got created evolution? It's funny how religious people are constantly revising their position! There's not much left, except to say that god created life two billions years ago and let it roll. Not exactly the watchful, fatherly figure that has a plan for you and I.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  3. Robin Bray

    Here is a clue to the seven. Not one animal or plant product on farms today is found in the same form in nature. Not One. Everyone of them is the result of artificial selection over only a few thousand years. Now imagine what natural selection can do over hundreds of millions of years. Even the Vatican accepts evolution now. Their stand is when did god insert the soul into man, At least the Vatican is trying to not look so ignorant.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  4. mrgmorgan56

    I guess that means 7 out of 10 pastors are idiots.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • LALALALA LAND AND I DON'T MEAN LA

      Ten out of ten are, but three deny it.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  5. Margaret

    And they wonder why America is falling behind. No doubt they get their science from the Flintstones. Yabba Dabba Doo!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  6. mikes

    Evangelists of mythology.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  7. Brian

    Religion is simply a psychological device. It has as much credibility as my pet rock.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  8. jonborg

    Christians need to move on. Here, I'll use your logic. 3,000 + years ago when Genesis was composed, there was no modern science. The authors were using symbols and ideas from their time to convey an idea about the divine. The Bible is not a history or science book (ask any biblical scholar that!). Heck, if if God was directly communicating with them, he would be a jerk to try to explain the process of evolution to people who couldn't comprehend reality outside of Palestine. Why are Christians still debating this?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  9. Jesus

    And religious people wonder why atheists are more intellectual and talk about how stupid they are.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  10. TAK

    Holy crap. Discussing the formation of the universe and the evolution of life with these religious imbeciles is like discussing a point of calculus with someone that flunked second grade arithmetic. (...as the pastor says, "calcu-wha?")

    January 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  11. Art

    Why should these morons let the facts get in the way of their thinking?
    We have absolute mathematical PROOF(using trigonometry) that the earth is billions of years old. Remember when religion insisted that the sun went around the earth? We have seen in just a few decades, evolution right before our eyes. It's scary that these people have such influence.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Joe

      I don't think trigonometry means what you think it does

      January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Margaret

      Isn't Trigonometry one of Sarah Palin's sons? Or a book in the Bible, comes after Deuteromony?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Timmy

      Margaret...THAT was funny. LOL. :)

      January 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  12. Terry

    However, the same pastors found nothing wrong with the fact that most ministers, priests, and sports coaches really like young boys. I guess their God feels it is OK.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  13. DeeCee1000

    Isn't it weird though. You would think that people who believe in a Creator would be much much more interested in what science has discovered.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jim

      They are very interested, when their beliefs are not challenged in the process. When the critical moment arrives and they have to choose to cling to the faith, or discard some of it in the light of new evidence, some stay in the faith and some continue to seek a reality based on evidence. Most Atheists I have met (including myself), chose the path that continuously challenged previously held beliefs.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Barney

      Who was included in the survey? Note who released the info. Most of the rest of us have found that scientists, particularly mathematicians, and theologians are saying the same thing. The problem is that neither of these groups recognize that fact.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Jim

      The three greatest currently unsolved problems in mathematics. How many theologians are working on them?

      1. The Goldbach conjecture.

      2. The Riemann hypothesis.

      3. The conjecture that there exists a Hadamard matrix for every positive multiple of 4.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      We do. True science and Jesus' truth are in harmony. Because you don't read the Bible to match true science discoveries is not our fault. Read the following Christian site with eyes to see how true science matches Jesus' scriptures.

      Amen.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jim, you posted "They are very interested, when their beliefs are not challenged in the process. When the critical moment arrives and they have to choose to cling to the faith, or discard some of it in the light of new evidence, some stay in the faith and some continue to seek a reality based on evidence. Most Atheists I have met (including myself), chose the path that continuously challenged previously held beliefs."

      Answer: Read this site to learn that true science is in harmony with Jesus' truth: http://www.biblestudysite.com/answers12.htm#2

      Jesus' reveals His truth to those that seek.

      Amen.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Wizard

      There are certainly a respectable number who appreciate God through science. For Einstein this was a major motivation in his pursuit of science.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Jim

      @Wizard, Einstein often referred to himself as an Agnostic.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  14. Minnie

    For some thinking with your Christianity, try coming to an Episcopal church. I do not know how this poll was conducted: most Episcopalians do consider themselves Protestant, but I have never met an Episcopal priest who did not "believe in" evolution.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Colin

      Yeah, but you still believe in creation by a benevolent sky-fairy. You just push the magic act back a few billion years. Every bit as silly.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Your churches are evolving. Let's put it THAT way.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  15. Rainy

    How many of you "atheists" were over there on the Kweeer page earlier, where the debate was about the "gaaayyyyesst"city in America? Bet there were more than a few. Most of the people I meet who profess non-belief seem to have a reason to hope that they are right.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • jonborg

      I don't understand your comment at all. I guess I shouldn't expect so much from an uneducated religious person.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      I second that. What is your point?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Huh? I can assure you "Rainy" most gay guys I know are too busy painting their fingernails and worrying about their wigs and hair extensions to be debating science, evolution, quantum physics, cosmology, anthropology or any other pologee. The only cosmo they know is the one on the checkout stand.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  16. NT

    It makes me sick to know that so many people still think that religion is a credible way to describe how the world and it's life forms came to be. It's called higher education and not be ignorant to obvious truths, put your faith into something useful, like yourself. Once you have faith in yourself and not in a fictional deity you'll see how much you were being blinded to what life really has to offer.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  17. Colin

    To get a gauge of just how inane the belief in Adam and Eve is in the 21st Century, here are some areas fundamentalists must ignore, any one of which proves beyond rational argument that, not surprisingly, the World did not start about 6,000 years ago at the behest of the Judeo-Christian god, with one man, one woman and a talking snake.

    First and most obviously is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor wiped them out.

    The fossil record includes the Stromatolites, colonies of prokaryotic bacteria, that range in age going back to about 3 billion years, the Ediacara fossils from South Australia, widely regarded as among the earliest multi-celled organisms, the Cambrian species of the Burgess shale in Canada (circa – 450 million years) the giant scorpions of the Silurian Period, the giant, wingless insects of the Devonian period, the insects, amphibians, reptiles; fishes, clams, crustaceans of the Carboniferous Period, the many precursors to the dinosaurs, the dinosaurs themselves, the subsequent dominant mammals, including the saber tooth tiger, the mammoths of North America and Asia, the fossils of early man in Africa and the Neanderthals of Europe.

    The fossil record shows a consistent and worldwide evolution of life on Earth dating back to about 3,500,000,000 years ago. There are literally millions of fossils that have been recovered, of thousands of different species and they are all located where they would be in the geological record if life evolved slowly over billions of years. None of them can be explained by a 6,000 year old Earth and Noah’s flood. Were they all on the ark? What happened to them when it docked?

    A Tyrannosaurus Rex ate a lot of food – meat- which means its food would itself have to have been fed, like the food of every other carnivore on the ark. A bit of “back of the envelope” math quickly shows that “Noah’s Ark” would actually have to have been an armada of ships bigger than the D Day invasion force, manned by thousands and thousands of people – and this is without including the World’s 300,000 current species of plants, none of which could walk merrily in twos onto the Ark.

    Secondly, there are those little things we call oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels. Their mere existence is another, independent and fatal blow to the creationists. Speak to any geologist who works for Exxon Mobil, Shell or any of the thousands of mining, oil or natural gas related companies that make a living finding fossil fuels. They will tell you these fossil fuels take millions of years to develop from the remains of large forests (in the case of coal) or tiny marine creatures (in the case of oil). That’s why they are called fossil fuels. Have a close look at coal, you can often see the fossilized leaves in it. The geologists know exactly what rocks to look for fossil fuels in, because they know how to date the rocks to millions of years ago. Creationists have no credible explanation for this (nor for why most of it was “given to the Muslims”).

    Thirdly, most of astronomy and cosmology would be wrong if the creationists were right. In short, as Einstein showed, light travels at a set speed. Space is so large that light from distant stars takes many years to reach the Earth. In some cases, this is millions or billions of years. The fact that we can see light from such far away stars means it began its journey billions of years ago. The Universe must be billions of years old. We can currently see galaxies whose light left home 13.7 billion years ago. Indeed, on a clear night, one can see many stars more than 6,000 light years away with the naked eye, shining down like tiny silent witnesses against the nonsense of creationism.

    Fourthly, we have not just carbon dating, but also all other methods used by scientists to date wood, rocks, fossils, and other artifacts. These comprehensively disprove the Bible’s claims. They include uranium-lead dating, potassium-argon dating as well as other non-radioactive methods such as pollen dating, dendrochronology and ice core dating. In order for any particular rock, fossil or other artifact to be aged, generally two or more samples are dated independently by two or more laboratories in order to ensure an accurate result. If results were random, as creationists claim, the two independent results would rarely agree. They generally do. They regularly reveal ages much older than Genesis. Indeed, the Earth is about 750,000 times older than the Bible claims.

    Fifthly, the relatively new field of DNA mapping not only convicts criminals, it shows in undeniable, full detail how we differ from other life forms on the planet. For example, about 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that of chimpanzees, about 97% of human DNA is identical to that of gorillas, and slightly less again of human DNA is identical to the DNA of monkeys. This gradual divergence in DNA can only be rationally explained by the two species diverging from a common ancestor, and coincides perfectly with the fossil record. Indeed, scientists can use the percentage of DNA that two animal share (such as humans and bears, or domestic dogs and wolves) to get an idea of how long ago the last common ancestor of both species lived. It perfectly corroborates the fossil record and is completely independently developed. It acts as yet another fatal blow to the “talking snake” theory.

    Sixthly, the entire field of historical linguistics would have to be rewritten to accommodate the Bible. This discipline studies how languages develop and diverge over time. For example, Spanish and Italian are very similar and have a recent common “ancestor” language, Latin, as most people know. However, Russian is quite different and therefore either did not share a common root, or branched off much earlier in time. No respected linguist anywhere in the World traces languages back to the Tower of Babel, the creationists’ explanation for different languages. Indeed, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, “true” Indians, Chinese, Mongols, Ja.panese, Sub-Saharan Africans and the Celts and other tribes of ancient Europe were speaking thousands of different languages thousands of years before the date creationist say the Tower of Babel occurred – and even well before the date they claim for the Garden of Eden.

    Seventhly, lactose intolerance is also a clear vestige of human evolution. Most mammals only consume milk as infants. After infancy, they no longer produce the enzyme “lactase” that digests the lactose in milk and so become lactose intolerant. Humans are an exception and can drink milk as adults – but not all humans – some humans remain lactose intolerant. So which humans are no longer lactose intolerant? The answer is those who evolved over the past few thousand years raising cows. They evolved slightly to keep producing lactase as adults so as to allow the consumption of milk as adults. This includes most Europeans and some Africans, notably the Tutsi of Rwanda. On the other hand, most Chinese, native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, whose ancestors did not raise cattle, remain lactose intolerant.

    I could go on and elaborate on a number of other disciplines or facts that creationists have to pretend into oblivion to retain their faith, including the Ice Ages, cavemen and early hominids, much of microbiology, paleontology and archeology, continental drift and plate tectonics, even large parts of medical research (medical research on monkeys and mice only works because they share a common ancestor with us and therefore our fundamental cell biology and basic body architecture is identical to theirs).

    In short, and not surprisingly, the World’s most gifted evolutionary biologists, astronomers, cosmologists, geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, historians, modern medical researchers and linguists (and about 2,000 years of accu.mulated knowledge) are right and a handful of Iron Age Middle Eastern goat herders were wrong.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Colin is my hero.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • ML

      Wait a minute. Does all of this mean that the story of Noah's Arc never acutaly occurred??? Heresy!!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Dana

      Thank you

      January 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Margaret

      A creationist explained it to me, the devil invented dinosaurs to create confusion. See they have all the answers. Who needs science. But then a lot of them are mailing lollipops that kids with chicken pox or measles have licked to each other rather than get immunized.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • JL

      You certainly said a lot of "things" with a lot of confidence. Where exactly did this confidence come from? Were you around when the earth was created? How could you possibly confirm it's age? Just because you picked up some tidbits from "scientific" journals, that doesn't exactly make you an expert. Have you ever performed carbon dating on a fossil? Radiometric dating? Do you know the assumptions that need to be made to produce an age? What happens when an unexpected age is calculated? Do you accept it for what it is, or throw that result out? What makes you think this is good science? Have you ever examined a hominid fossil? I'm going to assume you haven't done any of these things, so the truth of the matter is you would prefer to accept man's word over God's, the one person who actually knows how and when the earth was created. Is it by faith that I believe God created the universe? Absolutely. But it is just as much by faith (a dumb faith) that these secular scientists believe the universe was created from nothing.

      Furthermore, try not to confuse speciation, adaptations and natural selection with common ancestry. Creationists believe in the former, but reject common ancestry. Therefore, your argument for lactose intolerance may be somewhat valid, but in no way confirms that the earth is old or that we all came from the same living organism. I would argue that God gave man the ability to produce the chemical that breaks down lactose, and over time certain people groups lost that function because it was not used. It's the same reason that we find fish in caves that don't have eyes. "Evolution" does occur in this sense, when information is lost, but not when information is gained. There is a huge difference that evolutionists rarely point out.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • WASP

      @JL: where did you get your bible? a family member or friend? maybe from your place of worship? i imagine it is in english, or your native tongue. what language does "god" speek? did he hand you your tome of worship personally? i know the answer, nope. you are putting faith in man's word alone as well. man wrote the bible, and starting out there were so many they had to choice what went into the bible and what wasn't going into the bible. if you get vaccinated each year for the common cold, or take aspirin for a headache; your putting faith in science and in the men that made those products. i imiagine you never took out a beaker and flame to test what chemicals where in things you took into your body.................on faith.

      January 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  18. RR

    Well, I don't believe in 100% of pastors, and I suspect that a good many of those in the poll said one thing and think something else entirely. After all, Pastor is another name for "sheepherder", and those who follow them blindly are just that... sheep.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • And Then Came Bronson

      I personally admire the 30% who had the courage to take a call from the Southern Baptist Convention and still said creationism and Young Earth were bunk.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • cls2641

      While in truth it's sad, I have to admit I get a kick out of reading so many apparently "Enlightened" individuals blindly stating how strongly science supports the big bang and evolution. I recommend all of you that are so certain of the validity of scientific explanations of the origin of life (and so convinced that all people of Christian faith are idiots) read "The accidental Universe" – article by Alan Lightman. This isn't an article written by a person of faith. It's an article quoting multiple scientists trying to defend how the big bang and a variety of other "Undisputed facts science has proven" could possibly be accurate. Their solution/defense? Forget about "Universe." We can't defend our existence according to the traditional laws of physics or through traditional scientific theory (they're explanation, not mine). What we have to do is accept that (paraphrased) "There isn't a universe as we always thought. universe implies one. Actually there must be a "Multiverse." ie, there are literally billions of universes all existing...maybe simultaneously, maybe not, maybe in this way, maybe in that way...maybe, maybe...but in the end, what we know is there are billions, maybe even an infinite number of universes...and we can explain life by the fact that with so many billions of universes, it was inevitable that we would find conditions to sustain life in at least one of them. "We understand there's no way we can prove the existence of this multiverse theory, mind you. But we're certain it must exist....I guess because the alternative is we would have to believe in a creator. Hmm...sounds a bit like the scientific solution to this vexing problem is a totall illogical leap of faith...in the existence of an infinite number of supposed, but totaly untestable, unmeasurable, unobservable universes. We just happen to have gotten lucky and lived in the one that sustained life. Seriously? Get off your "religious people are stupid" high horses and do some of your own research into the theories you are so certain are accurate.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  19. Roumen Los Angeles

    And a poll in North Korea found out that 7 out of 10 people there believe that when the Dear Leader was heaven sent, in his first-ever round of golf, he had five hole-in one holes for 38-under par round, and when he died, Manchurian crane spotted in the city of Hamhung circled a statue of Kim Il Sung for hours before dropping its head and taking off toward Pyongyang.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  20. corinausa

    "...A movement called Young Earth creationism promotes the 6,000-year-old figure, arguing that it is rooted in the Bible. Scientists say the earth is about 4.5 billion years old..." here is what is wrong with this phrase...it is as if we said the movement promotes the 100 degree F figure for the boiling point of water, but the scientists say it is 212 F...the scientists don't say anything...they report a fact which has been collected through empirical evidence and calculations. The pastors themselves had their physics labs in high-school, hopefully, and they had plenty chances to observe natural phenomena through experimentation. Denial is a dangerous thing, which in this case is coated by blind faith ...the only problem here is that natural phenomena always occur regardless of what we believe...therefore this whole article is useless...from the point of view of debate. There is no debate:the Earth is 6 billion years old, period!!! Check the carbon dating and it's easy to find out, no big mystery there...let's move on...

    January 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • corinausa

      Correction:4.5 Billion years old!!!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • ML

      No, you're wrong. God deliberately planted dinosaur fossils and the like to fool all you unbelievers into thinking that the earth is more than a few thousand years old...

      January 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      I have no doubt at all that the earth is more than 6000 years old. The dated time (counting the generations) from the first family's expulsion from the Garden to the time of Christ's Birth is roughly 4,000 years. From then until now, we have another 2,000 years. Where things seem to get a little foggy is the time scale PRIOR to the fall and Original Sin. Apostle Paul said in Hebrews ch. 11, that it is "through faith we understand that the WORLDS(notice that)were made.." I cant help but to wonder, if the worlds that were made predated the previous world we now live(all on this sphere we call earth). That could very well account for the billions of years and multi-million year old fossils. Dont know, just guessing....Good day to you.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Missouri Boy, read the following Christian site for answers to your questions. They are doing a great job matching true science with Jesus' truth.

      http://www.biblestudysite.com/answers12.htm#2

      Amen.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Keith

      Missouri Boy, Is it possible that there is a gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2? God is not the author of confusion. In verse 2, there is chaos.
      Gen 1:1 ¶ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

      Gen 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Timmy

      Missouri Boy,
      Paul was not an Apostle. He had no clue about modern scientific discoveries. If he did, why didn't he tell us about Penicillin ?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.