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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. Bobbb

    When asked if “God used evolution to create people," who would question God? Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old. who's years, yours or His? 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. So you are telling us there are believers and non-believers, is this new. You shouldn't argue with God. You should do what God tells you to do.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • pastafarian

      The day your God comes to me and tells me to do something is the day I will believe in hi. Until then, there is absolutely no reason to even think he exists. Period. THINK!!!!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  2. Dan, TX

    It is an insult to God that so many Protestant religious leaders embrace ignorance over fact. Catholics believe in Evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of man. Everyone should reject the Protestant Church and its so-called leaders and if you can still believe in God after the Protestants tell you lies in the name of God, please consider the Catholic Church, where reason and God are compatible.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • pastafarian

      All organized religions need to be rejected. They are evil cults which breed ignorance and compalcency.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • MarkInPDX

      Well, unless you also believe that teaching abstinance works, divorce is a sin, pedophiles should be protected from prosecution, and gay people somehow deserve our pity and prayers rather than acceptance for who they are. Yup. In that case, by all means, join the Catholic church.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • Timmy

      And There's always the little alter boys as a boneus!!!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Pastafarian, MartinPDX, and Timmy. Your comments had nothing to do with what I wrote. Were you trying to make some point other than insulting religion? Did it ever occur to you that people believe in religion because evolution favored populations whose brains were able to easily believe in God and religion because it provided group cohesion and led to a strong fitness advantage? People could be born religious or at least susceptible to believing in the supernatural. So if you think people who believe in God or religion are bad, then I suppose you also believe all Gays are Gay because they want to be, not because they were born that way. Shame on you.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:00 am |
  3. Dr. C. Does not talk like that

    I never claimed anything thanks for being a jerk. You are not talking to me.....

    January 11, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  4. pastafarian

    Religion breeds ignorance. It's so difficult to believe how people blindly follow something with absolutely no support. Just sad.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • EuphoriCrest

      I hope you are not including His Noodliness, the FSM, in your condemnation of all religions. R'amen!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • pastafarian

      I too have been touched by His Noodly Appendage. R'amen brother.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • Mr. Hat

      Ya know the bible does mention scientific facts. For instance, in Isaiah 40:22, it mentions the "circle of the earth" which is saying that the earth is round. This was not theorized until Aristotle, who was not alive until about 400 years after Isaiah was written.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • pastafarian

      Mr. Hat: A circle is not a sphere, but nice try. If the bible has anything in it consistent with scientific fact, I will reming you that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • Mr. Hat

      But they are very similar. My point is, religion does not breed ignorance like you say. True there are some stupid religious people in the world but that does not mean all religious people are stupid.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  5. Dr. C.

    Time to go hump my bible... it feels so good wrapped around my testies!

    January 11, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  6. EuphoriCrest

    And if the bible said to pluck out your eyes, 7 out of 10 pastors would be blind.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Revjim

      The bible does say to pluck out your eye, and if your arm offends you tear it off and cast it into the sea. I'll bet 7 out of 10 pastors don't have one arm and an eye patch. BTW, is it any wonder why young people are so turned off to organized religion.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  7. TR in ATL

    Evaluating the "factual" evidence of evolution is pretty scary. I beg you to really study the books on evolution. Here are a few of the wild stories that you call factual! "Where did the proteins come from that created the early atmosphere suitable for life?" Believe it or not, several authoritative books suggest that they could have come from another planet or solar system! Ha, real credible evidence! How about this one... "early life started in the oceans, then animals grew legs and emerged onto land... then further developed animals went back into the water and became whales" Again, check the authoritative books on evolution. I'm not making this stuff up. So, really, let's talk about these established facts. Who made them up? Why are so many people so eager to accept them? There's absolutely no proof. The text books read like "it's speculated that the ...", "it's possible that this lead to ....". No proof at all. Please at least admit that evolutionary scientists don't have an f-ing clue if evolution is real. It's definitely not provable. It's all speculation built around some scientific theories. But really, all it adds up to is theoretical nonsense. Finally, let's call out evolution for what it is... it's YOUR RELIGION! It's your belief system. It's your FAITH. Like it or not, it's not science. It's not repeatable. It's pure speculation. My bet is still on the GOD of the universe, the Creator of all things, who came to this earth in human form (fact), was killed on a cross (fact) and whose body came back to life and was seen by thousands of people (fact). That's my FAITH. And I'm very confident my GOD is real. He can be real to you too. Start by studying Him, learning what He said in the Bible, and come to your own conclusions.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Gadflie

      Ok kid, you say it isn't provable? That there is no real evidence? How about this? If I could show you a complete record of ever single evolutionary step between two different species (different by the most stringent scientific standard, they cannot interbreed and produce fertile offspring), would you then admit that evolution is indeed a fact? If not, why not?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • JimmySD

      FACT
      Elvis was also resurrected. Thousands of people witnessed seeing him after he died.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • veritas

      The churches rely on morons like you to buy into their stories to make them rich. How else are thy going to bribe families of molested kids?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • pastafarian

      Your ignorance on the subject of evolution and even basic science is blindingly painful. Please turn off your computer.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Dr.K.

      You're right, you're (mostly) not making that up. That is truly what the fossil record, geologic stratigraphy, and physics-based dating evidence indicate. But, it is the evidence that differentiates it from "making it up." Visit a museum sometime – examples of the fossils are right there for you to see. As for the physics of radiometric dating, use your microwave sometime – the physics hold true.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Dan, TX

      TR your straw man argument is laughable. Proteins from space? Wow, never ever heard that one before and I have read a lot of aritcles on origin of life research. It is clear that some organic molecules may have landed on earth from space, since we know for a fact that organic molecules do exist in space and can come to earth in meteorites. But there are other sources of organic molecules arising on earth.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • James

      The textbooks read that way because they are intellectually honest, unlike the Book you hold so dear. The fact is, most of us Americans who reject your version of religion HAVE read the bible and were raised in a somewhat religious environment, and rejected it based not so much on what was written, but because we listened to the likes of you, and saw how you picked and chose the parts you liked, repressed the parts you didn't, and ignored all the parts the contradict all the other parts. I'll take a textbook over that any day.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • bob

      No, sea dwelling creatures are not said to have gone onto land and then returned to the sea. Evolution is like a tree with branches. Sea dwelling creatures split at some point and developed into higher intelligence sea creatures and another branch took to land. Like someone pointed out, your lack of scientific understanding is sad.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • moodude

      There in one tortured paragraph is the essence of what is wrong with the country today.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • TR in ATL

      @gadflie – how do 2 species 'separate'? think about it. There's gradual variations, then magically one subgroup moves away with all the changes? That group is 'different' by 1 trait? Then they start deviating further from the other group. What does group A do? Spawn an extra arm? Grow a foot taller? Increase in speed by 10 mph? It makes no sense. Then they supposedly get to a point where they can't interbreed? That's PRECISELY why evolution fails! What is that "genetic distance" beyond which species can't interbreed???? There's no "genetic barrier quotient" that precludes two similar species from breeding. Two species CAN'T INTERBREED (and produce fertile offspring)!!!! That's the beauty of an anti-evolution argument and you stepped right into it.

      @JimmySD, @veritas, @pastafarian ... real good arguments!

      @Dr. K. – fossils are here for all of us to see. We all have the exact same evidence. The issues come in our presuppositions. You're supposing that radiometric dating is accurate. That all processes have acted uniformly for billions of years. But the evolution texts claim that the atmosphere has changed many times, that the temperature levels have changed dramatically many times, that oxygen levels have changed dramatically. Why have all these factors changed so dramatically but somehow our dating techniques are perfectly uniform? It's all assumed so our precious models all fit together. When fossils are discovered in sediment that doesn't match the supposed timeline, then a new concept is created that allow for older sediment to wrap around newer sediment. That's the only way it could have happened! Maybe the dating techniques aren't as clear as you hoped. Maybe it's due to that catastrophic flood that GOD mentioned in the Bible! That would have the effect of messing up the sediment pretty widely. Oh wait, that's exactly what we find all over the globe. Anyway, thanks for your comments... got to get to bed.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  8. Bobbb

    According to my life's experiences – there better be a God. I should have been dead 8 or 9 times by now. I have asked for and recieved numerous miracles in the name of Jesus Christ and most often recieved a positive answer immediately. I have saved 6 lives myself. I should quit now before I run out of internet.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • pastafarian

      *yawn*

      January 11, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • D

      Are you a Denver Broncos Fan? Must be all that praying that is helping your boy Tebow win games while he lets little children die of disease in Africa. Get a clue

      January 11, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Bobbb, I totally respect your belief in the supernatural. The topic of this article is the arrogance of some religious leaders to tell people to ignore reality in favor of supernatural. God could not have saved your life and you could not have saved anyone else's life without physical action. If you turn on the TV and see a highlight of the Notre Dame game on ESPN just when you turn on the TV, some would call that a miracle – what are the odds that ND would be highlighted at just that moment when you turned on the TV? It must be God's hand and so many people will see miracles in their daily lives. Skeptics might argue it is just a coincidence, but we know better. But facts, like evolution, can't be denied and maintain a viable religion.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • bob

      And what of those that begged and pleaded and received nothing ? Are you better than they are or are they just worse sinners than you ?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  9. JimmySD

    Creationism
    Because desert goat herders living in tents 3,000 years ago knew more about the cosmos and biology than modern day scientists.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • TR in ATL

      No one claims that goat herders knew more than modern scientists. I do believe the GOD of the universe, the Creator of all things, knows more than your scientists can ever fathom. He knows every law that He built into science, every ant and fly and dinosaur that ever lived. I don't understand how, but I'm not trying to understand GOD. He promises everlasting life in heaven, and the Bible is the only place where He explains how to get it. By not reading the Bible, you're making decisions that you have no idea what the consequences are. Take a few weeks and investigate the Bible. Read the book of John. GOD will reward you with an incredible peace. Your life will be changed forever.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • pastafarian

      TR: God didn't promise you sh.it. The bible is not the word of god, but the word of primitive and uneducated men written to control the masses through fear and guilt. Open your eyes!!!

      USE YOUR BRAIN AND ASK YOURSELF SOME SIMPLE, COMMON SENSE QUESTIONS!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • James

      TR, what about the other 3 gospels that don't agree with John. Should we ignore them?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  10. The REAL Dr. C.

    Okay, this is really weird. L8tr.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Gadflie

      Run away oh ignorant one.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      I will. I'm more educated than everyone here.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Gadflie

      LOL! Show your evidence. Your arguments obviously don't show this fictional education level you claim.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      Can't post photos of my master's degrees here. Sorry.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Gadflie

      Masters in what exactly?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Dr.K.

      Wouldn't a real Dr. be posting his Doctoral or Medical degrees instead of Master's degrees?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  11. Chach

    If Fleming had solely relied on prayer to "reveal" the bacteria destroying properties of pennicilin to him, he definitely and positively would have come up empty and who knows where medicine would be today. In fact, if not for the stifling effect religion has had on science over the millenia, we would almost certianly have cured cancer 200 years ago or sooner, landed on the moon sometime around George Washington's time. Of course, it's just a theory.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  12. The REAL Dr. C.

    Seriously. STOP COPYING ME!!

    CAUSAL.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  13. Dr. C.

    CASUAL MECHANISM.

    Trans Species mechanism. Causal Trans Species Mechanism. Causal. Trans.

    Mechanism.

    TRANS.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Gadflie

      Again, are you pretending that there need be a different mechanism for trans species evolution than the obvious one for evolution as a whole?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      Evolution is not observable. Period.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Gadflie

      Sorry kid, it has been observed in repeatable experiments in a lab setting. Oooh, sucks to be you.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      You're wrong. Period.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Gadflie

      LOL! Sorry, the fact that you don't have much of a grasp on reality isn't actually evidence kid.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Evolution is as solid a fact as gravity. I'm not sure where God created gravity in the bible, but even though we don't really know what causes gravity to, well, exist, we know what it does. We know what causes evolution, and we know how evolution works. It is a fact. We can't explain everything about every aspect of gravity, we can't explain everything about every aspect of evolutionary history, but we do know they exist in fact. Those are things we know by science, which is a way we can know things. Faith is another reason that you can believe something to be true, but it is a different thing than science. That is why I think the believers and non-believers talk past each other and not to each other, because neither group will accept that the other believe system is valid. Sure, scientists can't do an experiment to prove that a rose is beautiful, we just know it is beautiful. We (scientist or not) have faith that we think it is beautiful for some reason. Whether you want to invoke God to explain things like that or not is up to people's own abilities and needs. I can't prove to you that a rose is beautiful, but I don't have to. But science doesn't work on faith, you have demonstrate things that are based on reason. They could be wrong, but at least the reason why a wrong belief was held is based in reproducible true fact. Misinterpretation in facts happens all the time. But the overwhelming mountain of evidence for evolution makes it impossible for a rational person to believe an alternative mechanism, unrelated to evolutionary principles, exists.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  14. Jose

    This just in....7 out of 10 pastors completely uneducated..LOL

    January 11, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Kevin

      Apes most certainly have a strange sense of humor.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  15. Larry L

    Religion will always reject science. A logical thought process and hard evidence is too great a challenge for mythology to withstand.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Chach

      So true. Science applies to eveyone and everything, there's no way around it. Gravity, physics and anatomy are the same for us all. Religion can't say that, which is one of it's many flaws. Somehow, they all think they're the only ones with the truth and all the others have it wrong. So sad.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  16. The REAL Dr. C.

    This is funny someone said what makes you think you need a casual mechanism..lol! Come one now, even the people that hate me have to love that one.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Gadflie

      Actually, I stated that you can't show that there is a need for a separate trans species mechanism for evolution. As in different for the easily observable inter species evolution.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  17. Dr. C.

    Seriously folks. I believe in God. Jesus is LORD and HE is our savior. God created everything, without a doubt. You can't prove me wrong. God is on my side. Not yours. The Bible is perfect in every way. There are no mistakes in it. Those that say the Bible has mistakes are liars that gather information from hateful Atheist websites that produce lies. Nothing more.

    Trans species mechanism for evolution. Give me it.

    http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/1065.html

    I went to a GOOD public school. Everyone I have ever met is a stupid retard.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      Please use another handle.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  18. Dr. C.

    So there is NO causal mechanism = you lost. Everything needs a causal mechanism. Haha, amateur hour.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Gadflie

      Are you saying that there is no causal mechanism for evolution at all? Are you really that ignorant or just that desperate?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      I am saying I do not know it, what is it then? I am merely asking. I see you dont know either, or else you would say it. In fact there isnt one. Its a THEORY...actually MANY theories

      January 11, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      I know what I am talking about. You don't. None of you do.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Observer

      Even accepting the theory that everything has a cause, it does not in any way prove that God of the Bible exists.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Gadflie

      Ever hear of natural selection? LOL! Poor kid.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      Natural selection is why you ended up in a crappy public school and dropped out of community college because you couldn't hack it.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  19. xThunderx

    Religion is garbage, seriously the earth is 6,000 years old? How come there are still people believing that? We should completely stop teaching kids about creation at schools, that inherently limits their brain in terms o out of the box thinking. The simplest and idiotic answer to an existence is creation! Just because we are bound to a limited life style that things need to be built by people, that does not impose the same ignorant limitation on the universe. Therefore, please stop teaching kids about creation and we will definitely have better a engineers, scientists, and inventors who can think outside of the box.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • zoft2000

      Move to Russia, goodby amigo !

      January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  20. Dr. C.

    I made no claims for supporting creationism. I only opposed evolution and pointed out its weaknesses.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Gadflie

      You have pointed out no such thing. For example, you have yet to show that there is actually a need for a trans species mechanism for evolution.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      I have pointed out facts. It's not my fault that so many public schooled inbreds frequent CNN.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Helvetica

      It's been proven over and over again that Jesus was a myth. I'm not talking about virgin birth or any such hooey. I mean that there never was anyone called Jesus that did the things he supposedly did. He a composite made up bit of mythology.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Boffo97

      Sorry, but every credible historian knows that Jesus the person actually existed.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:05 am |
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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.