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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. darwin

    And I thought that Martin Luther was all about denouncing the conservative dogma of the Catholic church. He's turning over in his grave......

    January 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • cestlavie3

      And this applies how? You really have no clue as to Luther's significance do you?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  2. Rev. Nicholas Simpson

    If you only survey Southern Baptist what do you expect. This is the same denomination that believed that slavery was God Ordained.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Observer

      To be fair to them, the Bible does support slavery.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Blinded by the Light

      Well, it does say that in the bible (but we choose not to believe that part) :-)

      January 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • PopeJon

      Blinded by the Light, funny how you get to pick and choose what you believe in the bible. I hope your not one to defend it as true literal history book....

      January 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  3. Daws

    Things seem to be improving. Before the 2010 poll only about 30% would put their nickel down saying they definitely think evolution is a fact. This 54% gives a +20% bump (I believe the poll was conducted in the late 90's). I think access to information via the internet is having an affect.

    Quibble about the phrasing though, instead of asking if you believe it's 6000 years or not, I'd re-ask the question as "to you believe the earth is closer to 6000 yrs old or millions?" The way they phrased it seems to lend itself to acquiescence bias.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  4. jos

    Oh, CNN, how you do suck. Let me count the ways.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Observer

      Don't do the same for FOX News. We don't have enough time.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • PopeJon

      If it sucks, why are you here? do you normally spend time at places that suck that you are not required to be at? You need to get a life if that's the case....

      January 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  5. Docmtc50

    "...believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people." Righhhht. And THEY were magically created by the six thousand year old man..... Hey. Wait a minute. This survey is from May. Haven't we been through a few raptures since then?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  6. Talak Shah

    How long we and our childeren will be guided by these god Men?

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

      sigh, until such time you have fully evolved from an Ape!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  7. SteveG.

    We have a LONG way to go to achieve scientific literacy here in America. Sadly, many American Christians wrongly perceive the theory of evolution as a threat to their faith. Nonsense. Evolution theory helps us to understand the origin of the species and speaks in no way to the truth or falsity of any non-scientific religious claim. The evidence is overwhelming and to deny it is to appear a simpleton.,

    January 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Merlin

      Although I'm a Christian, I don't deny evolution in certain species, including man. However, I do not believe man evolved from apes, (simply because apes still exist.) Man does, however, evolve (teeth, height, etc. although it is more so adapting to the changing environments/climates.) It would be quite a leap from ape to even "early man". (I do acknowledge the fact Neanderthals and Cro Magnon humans did exist.) Faith in God and Science can co-exist. We are still learning both.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Greg

    Evolution is fact.

    Get over it.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • KL

      Look the proof is that coffee mug, u too smart!

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

      Yes, I'm basing this on what is on the side of a coffe mug....

      Have you been neutered?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  9. contemplative

    Thank you RevKent. I worked in an interfaith bookshop for 11 years and 95% of the clergy I met up with DO believe in evolution and are intelligent, contributing citizens. This is a very skewed poll and anyone who takes it seriously simply wants to pigeonhole people who have a faith tradition.
    It would be easy for anyone to test what I'm saying. Call 20 (or more) pastors in your area, all from mainline denominations, and ask them. Do your own poll.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • PopeJon

      So why did they let evolution to be outlawed in Kansas for 2 years? Why did they let PA almost get away with the same thing by trying to claim creationism is real science? Where are all these mainstream pastors when science is getting bashed left and right by creationists wile evolution is trying to be replaced with creationism?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  10. Truth

    There is still one thing evolutionists can't argue with. The Law of cause and effect. You can't get something from nothing. You can argue all you want about what happend after the earth was formed, which by the way is pure speculation since no one alive was around at that time, but where did everything come from before that. Evolution say's billions of yrs ago there was nothing then all the sudden some gas appeared out of nowhere and exploded causing a chain reaction that resulted in our current state. Sounds just as hokey as a God who always was, creating the known universe by speaking it into existance.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • go4it

      You can get something from nothing. See physicist Laurence Krauss' book and discussion on that very subject. Just google it.

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

      You are are either being intellectually dishonest or deliberately deceptive. Evolution has NOTHING to do with first cause. You are talking about abiogenesis.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      The big bang theory has nothing to do with evolution. You are confusing cosmological physics and biology, perhaps because they are both equally foreign to you.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Erik

      Evolution has nothing at all to do with the origins of the universe; it simply explains why there are so many different species of life on Earth.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • MNWriter

      Truth,
      Scientists also don't fall for the old chestnut of 'nobody was there to witness it'. Human 'witnesses' are about the most undependable source of information available. Even if there were a million witnesses swearing to me up and down on polygraphs that they saw the Earth pop out of nothing, I still would know that the truth of mathematics far outstrips them.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  11. Philojazz

    I find this sentence to be one of the most depressing bits of "news" that I've read in years: "Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% of America's Prostestant pastors agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed." I'm shocked. I knew it was bad out there, but I'm surprised that the level of anti-intellectualism is that high (or that low, if you will). Good luck to us all in this country. With luck, maybe these pastors don't "believe" in voting?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Truth

      I see your "intellect" has evolved into hate and bigotry. Maybe you did evolve from an ape.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Greg

      "Dr", your intelligence doesn't exist.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  12. Dr. C.

    Science does not prove anything all it does is give the probability that the result you obtained was by chance if the null hypothesis it true (there is no difference). Consensus is NOT science, it is groupthink and confirmation bias.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Timmy

      And when you have chest pain radiating down your left arm, be sure and just pray. The null hypothesis is that you are not stupid. We"ll know soon enough.

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

      "Dr", you insult intelligence by being alive.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dr. C.

      Timmy and the lords of the underworld,

      I do not know. I will pray, but I dont know. Neither do you. That's the point. If you know stats, you know their limits. And limits is mostly what they have...

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Wizard

      Precisely!! Science is mostly and exploration of ideas. Very rare is anything actually 'proved'. Even Einstein's greatest work are 'theories' as opposed to 'laws'.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      You seem to be confusing statistics and science. Statistics are a critical tool in the scientific process, but they are not one and the same.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  13. Dzerres

    I just wish these clowns who don't believe in evolution would refuse modern medical procedures and medications which are all based on evolutionary principle. Even the annual flu shot is changed because during the year the flu bug can and does evolve. Drugs are tested on monkeys because they are so close in the DNA to humans. If the earth is only 6,000 years old why have their never been human and dinosaur bones found together? Ever!

    January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Edwin

      Deniers rarely behave consistently - they usually pick and choose what to accept based on convenience, not on logic.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Dr. C.

      You cannot generalize a virus mutating and saying that we were fish frogs. This is not the same thing. There is no proof either way even with all the consensus and stats. There is actuarial estimates and correlations only. But now I guess you will say that correlations are causes. Look at many of the "bones" used to 'prove evolution. Look at the data not the egg head inference. This is what Hilldog was saying....more liberal groupthink. Does not prove God or creationism either. Both involve faith.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      We were fishfrogs? What the heck are you talking about?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  14. judith

    Just goes to show how many totally ignorant preachers there are.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Kevin

      That is a very astute observation for someone who evolved from an ape!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • MNWriter

      Um, I'm pretty sure judith evolved from her parents.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  15. Sarah

    More proof that, indeed, animals are smarter than humans.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Alex

      Ida is that you?

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

      Not to play devil's advocate (so to speak), but how many animal species do you know capable of even discussing evolution?

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

      Edwin,
      Not to nitpick, but can you prove that any given animal species hasn't discussed evolution?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  16. zip

    Time to balance the budget by taxing the largest corporation on earth. The religion corporation.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  17. Chach

    Ha! Hey religious freaks! You know that it's just a theory that water is H2O right? No one has EVER observed 2 hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom. If you abandon only those sciences that you disagree with, then you must abandon all sceince since science ignores religion. Which means, you must abandon all of your reliance on the things that only science could have afforded you. The list is long.......TV, Automobiles, Airplanes, All medicine and health care (pray that you won't get sick and call me in the morning) And so on....... Your arguments against science in favor of a religious explanation for EVERYTHING are hopelessly flawed, ignorant and pathetic. You CAN NOT accept only those things that you like and disregard those that you don't in science or religion. But it takes reason and intellect to see that. Something that religion teaches you to avoid. I wonder why.......

    January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  18. JD

    Science and religion must come together to make any sense at all. Too many strong willed people will not accept that.

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

      Why do atheists that evolved from apes believe science is their domain?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • go4it

      Something is missing in your post. It doesn't make much sense.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  19. Jataka

    Lots of morons out there.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  20. HeIsGod

    No one knows the age of our earth.....only God knows.

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

      Prove that he knows.

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

      Prove that he doesn't.

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

      I'm not making the claim, so I have nothing to prove.

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

      It's about 4.5 billion years old.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • scottm

      prove there's a god.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Well JD, God bailed you out this time. But I'll be watching for the next unfounded claim!!!!!

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

      God's right you know.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Jason

      Though we do know that the Earth definitely isn't 6000 years old.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Edwin

      While nobody alive now can really know the age of the earth for SURE, there are a lot of proxies and estimators that are really accurate. Just like the THEORY of gravity which suggests but does not prove that you will not start floating in the air tomorrow, these proxies are generally extremely good at measuring time. They estimate the earth is more or less 4.5 billion years old.

      It is certainly possible those estimates are wrong, just like it is possible that other scientific theories might be wrong (like the THEORY that bacteria and viruses, not gremlins, cause illness). But they haven't been demonstrated to be wrong yet.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • I'm Smarter Than You

      That's just a fancy way of saying "Hey everyone, I'm ignorant!"

      January 10, 2012 at 11:31 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.