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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. Peter

    This kind of unmitigated stupidity is why I no longer consider myself a Christian.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • zoft2000

      So if suppose Jesus Christ was a phoney and a Charlatan because he made a joke about your theories of physics.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • go4it

      zoft,
      I think Peter is saying that the arguments theists make to support their beliefs are so out there that he now realizes it was all made up and he can no longer believe.
      How about you?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Wizard

      I feel your pain. Today I only loosely follow 'religion' but I am a still a believer in God. Religion is a concept created by mankind to represent God. In being created by Man, religion is often flawed.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Z

      Being Christian does not imply allying one's self with this kind of unmitigated stupidity.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  2. tony

    Creation such a short time ago would be like Harry Potter magicking up a "new" automobile with 80,000 fake miles on the clock, artificially faded paint, worn bearings, carbon deposits and lots of dead bugs (that never actually existed previously) clogging up the radiator grill, and all coming together while doing 70 on the just created freeway. (why would you do that?)

    January 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  3. LALALALA LAND AND I DON'T MEAN LA

    There's no god. It's not a belief, it's an inevitable, rational conclusion. It's just as strong a conclusion as saying that the earth is round, gravity acts down, the earth revolves around the sun, and the earth is billions of years old. If one claims otherwise, he's an uneducated fool.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  4. Kenny

    What lacks sense in all this is that these "religious leaders" lack history knowledge. Roman Empire was Pagan in Jesus time. Roman Empire under Constantinople changed it all to Catholic for political purposes. Martin Luther/Reformers changed Catholic to Protestant beliefs. You don't need a Leader to follow. Don't be the sacrificial lamb for someone else's power trip. Use your heads. It's all a "con game", just like politicians. It is all about controlling the people's minds...then their actions follow.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  5. Aaron

    Failure to recognize science will be the downfall of organized religion. They are not mutual exclusive concepts. There is mystery and beauty (and divine intervention?) in the "Big Bang". The earth and universe are Billions of years old. In the long run, science (and truth) will win out. The only question is if the religious community is smart enough to make room and allowance for the obvious.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • LALALALA LAND AND I DON'T MEAN LA

      How about we stop the religious con game now and be done with it once and for all?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  6. Ambrose Smith

    Those who wrote the Bible thought the Earth was flat. They were wrong about that and science proved them wrong. They are also wrong on the Earth's age, by a long shot.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  7. Dana

    They need to keep the myth going or membership will go down.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  8. Charms

    CNN, why don't you ask ALL religions instead of just Pastors? I smell a set up for religion bashing lol

    January 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • And Then Came Bronson

      CNN didn't do the asking. The Southern Baptist Convention did. And even so, 30% still said they did not believe in Creationism or Young Earth.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  9. JanetMermaid

    And this right here is what's wrong with religion. ALL religion. Anti-science, anti-intellect, anti-logic.

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

    Here's a piece of truth for everyone. Evolution, like plate tectonics, gravity, germ theory, etc. is both a fact AND a theory. It is a fact because, well, it is observable and has even been shown in repeatable lab experiments. It is a theory because science is still working out some of the details of the mechanism involved. Theories ALWAYS remain theories. If it isn't falsifiable, it doesn't qualify as a theory.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Jim

      Another way to say it, the fact of evolution is the observable evidence. Someone earlier mentioned the Influenza vaccine, it changes every year or so because the Influenza strains also change and evolve. The theory of evolution is the model we use to describe why it happens and to try and predict how future strains (in the case of Influenza) will change.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  11. Kevin

    If you own a flat screen TV of any kind then your disbelief in evolution makes you a hypocrite! Tv's for example started out in a Brown box tube, then rabbit ears, black and white went to color, brown box went to silver plastic and metals, then rear projection, then sizes got bigger, then high definition, then led, then plasma, then 3D. EVERYTHING evolves! It is just life!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • isolate

      Uh... Kevin, you just presented a sparkling defense of Intelligent Design, not evolution. :-)

      January 10, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  12. dwerbil

    A full 99% of lower primates reject evangelicals.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  13. dabble53

    If you want to believe literally in the bible (i.e., Adam and Eve were the first quite literally), then you have to explain how Adam and Eve could have only 3 children (you did know they had 3 boys, right?),who got married. Who did the 2 surviving boys marry? – I know, they went out and met the town folk....say what? Where did they all come from? Seems god forgot to mention them in his writings I guess.
    Until this can be adequately explained, I'll just dismiss the totally irrational 80% of protestant pastors.

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

      I've asked that question to many a Christian and I get a blank stare in return. They have no answer. Because one of the following must be true:

      1. We are all the products of incest (which could actually explain a lot, come to think of it)
      2. There were other people on the planet at the same time
      3. They impregnated alien women
      4. It's all a load of horse hockey

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

      And I'll dismiss the remaining 20% for you. There, done with that lot. Now on to the non-protestant religious nuts.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  14. BBCue

    Here's ten more must-see new polls!!!

    10% of dolphins like Chicken of the Sea.
    90% of neanderthals never heard of GEICO.
    95% believe they will eventually have to pay this year's taxes.
    13% believe UFO's have landed on Earth.
    96% of doomsday preachers believe the end will end soon.
    5% of children like mashed green beans in a jar.
    95% of atheists and agnostics do not believe in the Christian God.
    86% of home owners like square rooms instead of round.
    5% of football players prefer using a round ball instead of one football-shaped.
    95% of the world believe in what they cannot see.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  15. SteveinMN

    Oh. Mah. GAWD!!!

    Better the IRANIANS have the bomb than these ignernt HILLBILLIES!!!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  16. PR

    No wonder southern people are so stupid, they listen to ignorant preacher who have no basis of fact from a book that was written by a corrupt church to keep people in line. The Catholic chrch has lied for years, just look at their track record on pedophile priests...why believe the bible...which the printed.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  17. Gawd

    This shows how dumb and brainwashed the are.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  18. Colin

    Ok, a bit of basic biology for all you Bible-cuddlers who say "it couldn't just happen by chance".

    Putting aside the obvious contradiction that theists believe God just happened by chance, no person who accepts evolution believes for a moment that “it all just happened by chance.” The confusion (or, at times, deliberate obfuscation) comes from two vital roles played by chance in evolution.

    The first is the likelihood of survival. A organism that is more suited to its environment is more likely to survive and pass on its genes. A slightly faster lion, taller giraffe or better sighted hawk is more likely than its slower, shorter or more myopic brethren to live long enough to breed and pass on its genes. No rocket science here.

    The second role chance plays is that the very characteristic possessed by the parent that gave it the edge is more likely to be inherited by the child. Once again, no surprise here. One look around you will confirm that children tend to favor their parents.

    In neither case, however, is anything certain. It is not certain that the faster lion will outbreed its less endowed siblings. It might, for example, be killed as a cub by marauding hyenas or die of disease or drought. Nor is it certain that its speed will be passed on to its offspring. Some tall parents have short children, some fast lions, slow cubs. However, the chances of an offspring inheriting the advantageous trait of its parents and passing it on to its children are slightly better than for those that do not have the advantage. A fitter, more prepared athlete is not guaranteed, but certainly more likely to win a given athletic event than his more portly competi.tors.

    So far, easy. But here is the key. The way in which any child will differ from its parents will generally be small (such as eye color, height etc.) but, given enough time and enough generations, and provided some external element is selectively favoring specific traits, the differences will add up. Over thousands of generations, so much cu.mulative change builds up that the great-great-great etc. grandson will be so different from its great-great-great etc. grandfather as to amount to a new species.

    If, for example, a dog breeder only ever allows the fastest male dogs to breed with the fastest female dogs, after many years of such selective breeding the resultant dogs will differ so much in body shape, leg length and, perhaps, lung capacity from their ancestor as to be considered a separate breed. No one set of offspring will differ greatly from its parents, but it will differ a little more from its grandparents, and even a little more from its great-grandparents etc., until we go all the way back to the original dog, which will be quite different in appearance.

    In point of fact, this has happened. They are called Greyhounds and they differ considerably from the original Sighthounds from which they were bred. Likewise, when the trait chosen was ability to smell and track, one result, after many generations, was the Bloodhound, while selective breeding for the ability to herd sheep has resulted in the Collie and German Shepherd (note the name).

    All breeds of dog alive today descended from wolves. In fact, it is likely (but not certain) that they all descended, ultimately, from a small pack of wolves that were domesticated in either the Middle East or Manchuria some 10,000 years ago. In any event, every last one of them, from the Teacup Chihuahua in Paris Hilton’s purse to the Great Danes of European car advertisements, are the cu.mulative result of selective breeding down different paths from the original wolf.

    While there has not yet been enough time for different dog breeds to amount to separate species as opposed to breeds, that is just a matter of degree. Given enough time, and many thousands of years are generally required, the added up effects are so great that breeding and producing viable offspring with the original breed is no longer possible, and thus the new species emerges. The first signs of this can already be seen in dogs. The ability of a Chihuahua to mate with a Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound, absent artificial insemination, is probably approaching the theoretical at this point, regardless of which breed is the female.

    Evolution is, in fact, a work in process, as dog breeders all over the world, along with horse breeders, wheat farmers, rose growers and all other professions that depend on the traits of plants or animals to make their living, selectively breed for desired traits. Even the most cursory of research into any branch of horticulture or animal husbandry quickly reveals that the size, variety, health, longevity and resistance to disease of most of our domesticated plants and animals were the thing of dreams as recently as 100 years ago. Indeed, biotech companies like Monsanto would quickly fall behind the competi.tion if they did not spend millions each year on Darwinian selective breeding programs.

    Sorry guys, no magic talking snakes needed.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Missouri Boy

      Good thing, passin' down them ol' genes. Ah got ah par' o' overalls there were passed down from mah oldah brothers.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  19. travis

    Evolution is debatable but how in the world can anyone think the earth is only 6,000 years old?!?!

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

      Evolution is NOT debatable. Read. Study. Learn. It's the smart thing to do.

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

      Really? You still think it is debatable?

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

      How is evolution debatable? We can debate the details, surely, but not that organisms adapt, diverge, and evolve. It's an observed fact. of nature.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • BakedSETI

      Debatable?

      February 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  20. pensimmon

    What puzzles me is that MEN wrote the bible- God did not write it!!! Maybe God inspired people to write it, and now God inspires scientists to use their God given BRAINS to seek the truth. There is no doubt about it – the earth is millions of years old, and man evolved about 60,000 years ago- do the DNA program with National Geographic- for just $99 you can have a report about your ancient ancestors- out of Africa about 50,000 years ago. Oh and BTW the earth is not flat – science has proved that it is more or less a sphere- can you believe that???

    January 10, 2012 at 10:10 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.