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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 • Evangelical • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. Tom

    No S**T?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  2. HeIsGod

    EVOLUTION IS NOTHING BUT LIES!

    WHY DO WE STILL HAVE APES TODAY IF WE CAME FROM THEM?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Gadflie

      I came from my mother but she is still alive.
      Damn, you ARE an idiot, you know this, don't you?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Jataka

      You're an idiot.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      If American colonists came from Europe, how come there's still Europeans? Colonization must be a lie.
      (also, nimrod, no one argues that humans came from modern apes – humans and apes share a common ancestor who was ape-like)

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

      HeIsGod, my guess is that we can say "Hi" to all their relatives that didn't evolve and are caged in zoos today. LOL.

      Amen.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Observer

      HeIsGod,

      It's a branch of the tree. There isn't just one kind of ape.

      Do some research so you will make more intelligent statements in the future.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      On the other hand, maybe colonization is just a conspiracy the Historians keep alive to keep that funding flowing...

      January 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • MNWriter

      We didn't come from apes. Both came from a common ancestor. Imagine a tree. You can be part of a leaf, a twig, a branch, and a trunk, all at the same time.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • christopher

      I guess you also believe that if you yell something stupid it becomes the truth?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Cindy

      Just because you are so uneducated about how these things work doesn't mean they are lies. Go back to school (not a religious school because they aren't real schools in any kind of science or history sense), but a REAL college and start educating yourself. You sound like an idiot when you say these things. Anyone with a brain knows they already proved evolution, and in fact can show evolution working today. Pick up a copy of National Geographic sometimes. Geez, PLEASE DON'T VOTE until you get an education.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Thank you science for this debate and uncovering all the Peter and Patricia Pans in our society that hide behind your work as they remain spiritually and emotionally stunted in chronologically aged bodies. Thank you for the front line preachers/teachers/priests in society that teach Jesus' spiritual truth to all of us that love maturing spiritually as we live righteous lives.

      Amen.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Well, I think you are a troller, but we did not come from today's apes. You are ignorant.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  3. tony

    Unfortunately, almost no pastors have bothered to learn enough atomic physics to realize that the sunlight that shines in their stain glass windows is already a million years or so old by the time it left the sun 8 minutes earlier.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      God is awesome.

      Amen.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      HeavenSent is awsome and powerful.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  4. Bill Kilpatrick

    To the ancients, the Earth wasn't round or flat. It was shaped like a pita.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  5. RusTnuts

    70% of pastor's don't believe in evolution but 100% believe fvking children is okay????

    January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Z

      That is a far more irrational and mean statement than those you are mocking are regularly chastised for. Shame.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  6. Tam

    Where were they educated

    Sad. I guess they never evolved!

    January 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • think for yourself

      One nation, undereducated

      January 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tam, we call folks spiritually and emotionally stunted without ever taking Jesus' spiritual teachings past a 1st and 2nd grade levels. I think this is too harsh a reality for those that hide behind believing they are apes?

      Amen.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • What?

      "Tam, we call folks spiritually and emotionally stunted without ever taking Jesus' spiritual teachings past a 1st and 2nd grade levels. I think this is too harsh a reality for those that hide behind believing they are apes?"

      It might help if you actually study evolution before posting. Just because you've read the bible doesn't make you mature. Christians from all walks of life claiming jesus's truth have done horrific and childish things. H.S. you missed this life lesson. Emotional maturity is defined as: the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others. It seems you still need to learn that lesson based on your posts on this blog.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • WASP

      @ think for yourself: lmao

      January 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  7. Joe

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  8. cestlavie3

    As a Christian, it makes no difference to me whether God chose to bring humans into existence through the process of macro evolution or through the mechanisms found in the literal interpretation of the Genesis narrative. We simply don't have all the information. All those in the scientific community who espouse the evolutionary model as fact, are simply delusional.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • go4it

      Evolution IS a fact. It's mechanisms are very well understood. There still are some questions about some of the minute details, but they are being worked on. You can stomp around and believe what you want, but that won't change the scientific facts. And I haven't yet seen where religious thinking has ever changed scientific fact.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Delusional? That's actually funny. There is mountains of evidence supporting evolution and NONE that contradicts it.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Carmine Monoxide

      A christian calling someone else delusional – that's a good one!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Observer

      cestlavie3,

      Speaking of delusions, please tell us how you believe in talking serpents and unicorns instead.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Alex

      evolution believers-come back with proven facts , no more fraud ok?

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

      Proven facts? Ok, how about this one, evolution, yes, macro evolution, has been observed in a lab setting.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • cestlavie3

      No. As much as you all desperately want it to be so, it is not. I realize that this frustrates your concept of naturalism, but evolution is only a theory.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Observer

      cestlavie3,

      Evolution is a theory. So is gravity. Both seem to work and obey known observations. The Bible story of creation, however, disputes math and sciences like physics, biology, astronomy, archeology, etc. in addition to logic.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • cestlavie3

      Observer. I see by the last sentence in your paragraph that theology is not your forte.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • MNWriter

      cestlavie,

      You need to read on the scientific definition of the term 'theory'. Your post indicates that you are currently not aware that scientifically, a theory is not a guess, nor a hypothesis. Evolution is both a fact and a theory – the two are not on a continuum.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • cestlavie3

      MN. You're assuming I must use the term according to it's definition within the context of the scientific method. I was not. Assumption can make you look silly at times.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • MNWriter

      cestlavie,
      It is making you look rather foolish, yes. When you use the term 'evolution' or 'theory of evolution', you are using scientific terminology and, as such, are subject to its definitions. If you want to use your own terms, go ahead – but define them first. If you use pre-existing terms in the context of their own discipline, you are subject to their definitions.
      The 'theory of evolution' is a scientific term, and uses the scientific definition of theory. If you wish to use a different definition, use a different term, or you are being deliberately deceptive. Or desperately trying to avoid admitting that you used the scientific term despite not knowing what it really meant, and don't want to concede that, by the correct definition of the scientific term 'theory', evolution is both a theory and a fact, and not "just a theory", a phrase that makes no sense in the context of the scientific method.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      go4it, you posted "Evolution IS a fact. It's mechanisms are very well understood. There still are some questions about some of the minute details, but they are being worked on. You can stomp around and believe what you want, but that won't change the scientific facts. And I haven't yet seen where religious thinking has ever changed scientific fact."

      Question: do those minute details mean that you are defective? LOL.

      Amen.

      January 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  9. Glenc

    I am a Christian, I do not believe in Darwinism. Darwinism is the stupid science they teach children when they don't know math. On top of that Darwin is just bad science. it isn't science at all really, it is just observation and conclusion; and he got most of it wrong. Not because he was stupid, but because it was speculation long before the real science was done. Even the term "species" did not have a scientific definition in 1859. I believe in evolution, but Darwinism as it's driving mechanism, no.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Gadflie

      If by Darwinism, you mean the modern theory of evolution, which is based on Darwin's original theory, I have to disagree with you. It is so accepted in science that there is no competing theory that holds water at all.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Carmine Monoxide

      Your level of ignorance is breathtaking.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Calling biological evolution Darwinism is like calling physics Newtonism. Because it is science, the knowledge is cu.mulative and, you are correct, the average first-year grad student knows more about evolutionary biology than Darwin ever did. But that's because he provided that foundation. Darwin's idea of natural selection as a primary mechanism for evolution is absolutely sound.

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

      Natural selection is a very simple minded theory. The more you dig into science, the more one realizes that most useful theories are much more complex. In my view, much of evolution may be correct (yet incomplete), but it does not necessarily contridict an acceptance of God.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Glenc

      No true. There is the theory of chromosomal drift. Genetics mutate (evolves) in random patterns on predictable periods (when viewed on the billions of years that life has been on the planet). It is what most scientists really believe in. It is the only way you can talk about how long ago humans and apes had a common ancestor, that is something that you can not do with Darwinism. Darwin wrote that big dogs and small dogs were different species, he based "species" on the looks of the animal. Our current definition of species has to do with breeding product, though with genom technology I expect to see yet a new definition in years to come.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • think for yourself

      Glenc, I guess it's ok with you to teach religion to children before they even know how to walk. Better to brainwash them very young, before they can think critically. Most of my friends are religious, each one in a different denomination based on how they were raised as a child. I wonder why that is...

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

      Dr.K, the scientific method requires observation, hypothesis, testing, refining, conclusion. Darwinism has never done any of this. It is observation straight to publication, no one would accept this from a scientific paper. Where are the testing to validate Darwinism? High school students repeat Mendel every year, college student repeat later more complex experiments and if done correctly they are still valid. But Darwin's claims ..... never? It's been 160 years, we could have had millions of generations of fruit flies bred by now, but not. I have never read of an experiment that followed Darwinism that produced a new species.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Glenc

      think for yourself .... don't put words in my mouth. My views on children's education are mine. In my view religious education is a personal choice of the parent and should not be included in public schools. What this has to do with Darwinism or the original post, I have no clue.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  10. polycarp pio

    The other 3 need to get saved!!!!!!!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • jos

      And you need to repent of heresy.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  11. Blinded by the Light

    All of you religious folks that support your religion but don't agree with all of the dogma are just enabling the more fanatic fringes to exist. You should be denouncing these religions just as vehimently as atheists.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Glenc

      I don't agree with 100% my government does in my name, with my tax dollar, but I am not running to Canada any time soon.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • go4it

      Glenc,
      That is not a good analogy.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  12. pishaw

    Did they say anything about the theory of gravity?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Tundrapat

      Ahem – I believe you mean 'intelligent falling'.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • S1N

      Intelligent falling? Good one. It never ceases to amaze me how many people (mostly the religious ones) don't actually know what a scientific theory is. It is NOT a hypothesis. It is a well-tested, reproducible, peer-reviewed explanation for an event, reaction, etc. based on and tested against verifiable, observable, measurable facts.

      I know that was a long list for a single sentence, but some people need to learn when to shut up, ESPECIALLY in matters that are well outside of their realm of expertise. At least OUR body of evidence consists of a LOT more than some old book of questionable validity.

      Darwin's papers are NOT the only evidence. We have the fossil record. We have Mendel's genetics experiments. We have PROVEN the ability for organisms to evolve their genetic makeup over long periods of time due to breeding, environmental adaptation, and other mechanisms. We have vast amounts of scientific research that has been replicated numerous times that all point to the same conclusion. What do you literal creationists have? Some book that was written well AFTER (in some cases CENTURIES after) any of its characters, if they ever lived at all, died.

      Literal creationists, it is time to accept the fact that you lost the battle against evolution a LONG time ago. Is there a God? I don't know, but neither do you, so SHUT UP ALREADY!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  13. ClearAndPresentThinking

    Strange that 70% of those queried apparently deny that God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. They also commit sacrilege in refusing to use the grey matter that God placed between their ears. As a New Testament Christian, I will leave scientist to handle science and leave salvation to the work of the Holy Spirit. The 30% of those queried (i.e., Bible believers) have their work cut out for them as Satan has been working overtime on the 70%.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  14. borysd

    These Religious people can hardly believe in evolution....they would be out of business.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Sdtter

      How's ur monkey business?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • JR

      For most of these ministers, they have invested their lifetime into promoting the idea of God and Creationism, and changing their opinion is to lay their life work to waste. Scientist as with any profession also has this problem, but there is much more of an effort to correct the wrongs of science than there is of religious folks trying to correct the wrongs of religion. Science will evolve with truths while religion stagnates in the ashes of untruths. Why can we not just take the good of both and create new standards for modern times??

      January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  15. Christopher M

    "Scientists say the earth is about 4.5 billion years old."

    That would be because the evidence says it is. But pastors have to pretend they have an infallible source of information. But it's wrong.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • NSync

      you sure can think as an ape.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  16. TRUTH

    Wow. That's all I can say about this article....

    January 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  17. RaveDave

    They say God created the earth in 7 days. This begs the question: What is a day? One spin of the earth. But if the earth wasn't created yet: What is a day?

    Like so many things in the Bible, there are many interpretations.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Marina

      Actually, that question is answered quite clearly in the Bible when it says "day" and "there was evening and morning...the first day"
      The days of the Bible's Creation account signify literal 24-hour periods. Typical of how the Old Testament people of God measured time the expression "the evening and the morning" (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) specifies individual days with the day beginning at evening, or sunset (see Lev. 23:32; Deut. 16:6). There is no justification for saying that this expression meant one literal day in Leviticus, for instance, and thousands or millions of years in Genesis.

      The Hebrew word translated day in Genesis 1 is yom. When yom is accompanied by a definite number, it always means a literal, 24-hour day (e.g. Gen. 7:11; Ex. 16:1)—another indication that the Creation account speaks of literal, twenty-four-hour days.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • JR

      Marina
      Actually, that question is answered quite clearly in the Bible when it says "day" and "there was evening and morning...the first day"

      Marina says a 24 hour day, when did hours finally become something humans cared about? Hold onto what makes you feel secure and happy, while the rest of us do our best to find the truth of how things work. To be a scientist you have to be secure enough to deal with the ever increasing knowledge base, something new to learn every minute, while the Faith believers can think they have all the answers and can enjoy life without worry or thought.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Marina

      I'm going to choose to leave my personal opinion on evolution vs. creationism out on this one since my beliefs have nothing to do with my point above. In my previous response, I didn't say anything about whether or not I believe in creationism or evolution. I was simply stating the facts according to the Bible. In my opinion, if one attests to believe in the Bible God, then one must also believe what the Bible says. If you are saying that the Bible does not indicate if those 7 days were literal 7 days, then you are wrong. According to the Bible, the book Christian's say they place their faith in, the Earth was created in 7 LITERAL days on Creation week. If you are a Bible believing Christian, then there is no getting around this and no changing of the word, even if it fits more easily with science. That was my point. One cannot believe in some parts of the Bible and ignore others.

      January 11, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  18. Rev. Kent

    Oh, for goodness sake, you've got to be kidding! Which denominations did they survey? I'm sorry, but if they had done the survey with Presbyterian (PCUSA), Episcopalian, UCC, ELCA, and most UMC pastors, the results would have been radically different. What outcome did you expect when this survey was done by the research arm of Southern Baptist Convention? With the LifeWay folks doing the survey you would probably come up with a flat earth, three-tiered universe, too! Let's throw-in a couple of questions about global warming/climate change for good measure, too, shall we? Is it any wonder that millennials are opting out of the church? I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm an ordained clergyperson if this is the type of thinking that is being touted by the largest Protestant denomination in the US. God help us all!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • RaveDave

      Well said!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Chad

      There's no god, so you're SOL there rev buddy.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Kritz

      I certainly hope you're correct. This story is way too depressing, if true.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • SolarRain

      I'm not a Christian, but I'll give you an Amen for your post. Makes your job a lot more difficult when people make judgments about Christianity or any other faith based on articles like this one, written only to stir the pot and create headlines. Hang in there Rev. Kent. It's the people like you, in the trenches, that make a true difference in this world.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Prespreacher

      amen! well said!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • JR

      And within each of these faiths are many people, some who want everything in black and white while others just want a community to belong to and socialize with. I read about how the islamist want to turn back the clock, and think how similar the Christians are who also want to turn back the clock. A race to the bottom...

      January 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • S1N

      @SolarRain – Being religious, to include Southern Baptist, does not make someone an idiot. Unfortunately, a very vocal minority in your community (Protestant Christians) is determined to prove otherwise. I have met a number of intelligent, well-spoken Christians who love to discuss their beliefs and reasoning, knowing that I am atheist and have absolutely no interest in changing that fact. Unfortunately, the "Me Christian. You science man bad, not know truth" crowd can scream a LOT louder, even when no one listens.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  19. Mark

    Yeah! And the Earth is the center of the universe too! Idiots!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  20. I Believe everything I am told

    Pretty much explains why these people should not be in control of nuclear weapons.
    Islamic, Jewish, Christian, or Hindu zealots whose belief in their flavor of God(s) overrides other forms of reality.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • SolarRain

      Exactly...don't want these people with their finger on "the button".

      January 10, 2012 at 10:54 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.