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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. student

    If man evolved from primates, why are there still primates?

    January 11, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Mighty7

      Because the primates here on earth are a BRANCH from an original common ancestor. That is why Chimpanzees's genes are 98% identical to humans.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Adam

      Not sure if trolling, or just incredibly stupid.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • Chris

      Thanks, Adam, that gave me a much-needed laugh today! :)

      January 11, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Sean

      This is when you only read bible to find answers in science... I continue to drop my jaws today... that's why China and India are both catching up.... when you use pastors for your scientific knowledge.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Heywood Jablome

      If Americans came from Europe, why are there still Europeans?

      January 11, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Believer

      good question. it would make more sense if original tigers travelled up mountains to become snow tigers, that all the original tigers died, because the snow tigers are better.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • pastafarian

      I hope this student person is a bored troll and not really asking that question. Todays primates evolved from a common ancestor – each with genetic variation giving selective advantage in the environment in which they live. *sigh*

      January 11, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • Harry

      If I descended from my grandparents, then how come my cousins still exist?

      January 11, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Jason

      Evolution is the process in which species adapt to their environments and as a result, develop its own traits, if the ancestral species or group is still capable of surviving and reproducing in their own environment(s), then they won't disappear. There's a lot more to evolution, I suggest you to read about the actual theory instead of just repeating the words of the "no science" crew who really have no clue towards what the theory of evolution is really implying.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • tallulah13

      Student of what?

      January 11, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • angryoldguy

      Humans did not evolve FROM PRIMATES! The theory is that humans AND primates HAVE A COMMON ANCESTOR, from which BOTH EVOLVED! Please, get it straight if you are going to attack it. To attack something that you do not understand is the same problem that non-religious people have when they attack religion. Best to try to have a sound understanding of a subject so you know how to attack it, before you attack it.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  2. adrifter

    I once visited a historic lighthouse in Canada and there was a room furnished as in the 1840s for tourists to look at. I asked the guide why the chairs were so small, almost like children's chairs. I was told the average height of a man back then was about 5' 5". Since then people have gotten taller with better diet. That's evolution in action, folks.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • pastafarian

      That's a blatant lie! Those chairs were put there by Satan to test people's faith in God! Duh!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Mr. Hat

      Or society is changing...

      January 11, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  3. heyheyhey

    ZOIKES! Well if they knew how bacteria mutate ummmmmmm, idiots. They need a bioligy class big time! or do they shun biology cause it will make them sound stupid

    January 11, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  4. pastafarian

    People: If you want to at least send a message to the politicians that we will not stand for their religious BS in our government, get out and VOTE! Do not allow religious nutcases from the GOP or the Teabagger party to get elected to or remain in office. We can fix up the DNC mess later ;)

    January 11, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • susan

      True. True Christians are no part of the world and would never do as these false Christians are doing. Jesus said that his followers would be no part of the world. The Bible actually calls Satan the God of this system of things, and the ruler of this world. Any religion that tries to influence this world's politics is just as much a part of Satan's system. Early Christians were known to remain seperate from the political realm. Today's Christendom bears no resembelance to true Christianity.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • pastafarian

      I'm sorry Susan. With all due respect, you lost me at "Jesus said..." and "the Bible actually calls..." These are the simple words of primitive, uneducated men – not God. I refer to myself as agnostic. There may or may not be a higher being or creator. But the things written in old religious books is just plain mythology and creative tales.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  5. Really CNN?

    Why is there so much corruption in America? Dude/// just post my replies, please with cherry on top of your monkey brain. LOL

    January 11, 2012 at 12:52 am |
  6. adrifter

    Some people will believe written down myths from 2,500 years ago, but not believe the discoveries of science. That amazes and shocks me, and kind of makes me sad. What hope does the human race have when there are so many idiots running around? I read The Bible. How anyone can take it literally is beyond belief. For example, the other night I read the Exodus verse about God seeking to kill Moses. God wanted to kill Moses and couldn't get it done?? Really?? God the all powerful?? Does that makes any sense at all? There is so much obvious nonsense in The Bible it boggles the mind.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  7. tony

    It's so sad. Feels like the "Dark Ages" are going to come back in the not too distant future.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  8. Kevin

    There is literally more debate among physicists about how gravity works than there is among biologists about how evolution works. Evolution is a FACT. Biologist Stephen J. Gould had a wonderful definition of fhte word fact that read, "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." That's where were are in evolutionary biology right now. There's no room for questioning the foundation of the theory because it has been so well tested.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • pastafarian

      Well said! Thank you!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Dr.K.

      I second that.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  9. Argh!

    Idiots. These people are freaking idiots. They do not even know what science is. I have no doubt they have no idea of how to take a scientific survey... random my buttocks.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  10. Ted

    I would really like to see a regional breakdown of this survey. Given alone I feel like it doesn't mean very much. I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't mainly prevalent in the South.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Dr.K.

      Sadly, you might be surprised. It is more prevalent in areas with poorer primary education, and that does correlate with much of the South, but it is prevalent most everywhere. Visit the National Center for Science Education website sometime.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  11. kyle

    7 out of 10 pastors are retarded. I seriously wonder how they picked these pastors. It claims it's a random sampling but I highly doubt it.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  12. Appalled

    No theory in the history of science is more well supported from multiple scientific disciplines than evolution. It is time we put educated people in the pulpit.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  13. DupontGuy

    Does it really matter. Maybe God created us and the process took a billion earth years which to God is the blink of an eye. As God watched the process evolve from His thought to primordial ooze to reptile to sapien and beyond, he declared at the end that it was good. What matters is that we are here. Now what do we do.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Dr.K.

      The end? It was all just an elaborate plan to lead to this moment in time? I'd like to think I'm not that vain.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  14. susan

    Creationists..those who beileve the Earth is 6000 years old, or that it was created in 7 literal days are not interpreting the Bible correctly. Each of the 6 "creative days" were not meant to be literal. Also..."In the Beginning God created the heaven and the Earth" wasn't 6000 years ago. The creative days, when God began to ready the earth for mankind, began after the Earth was already in existance for possibly millions of years. It's man's wrong interpretations that make the Bible look foolish. Not the Bible itself. How sad that even a percentage of Pastors are bowing to popular theory. If life were the product of mindless chance, our existance would, of necessity, be without purpose, and there would be no dependable future for which we could plan. If anyone would study the Bible objectively without the influence of the business of religion, they would find solid reasons to take the Bible seriously. Briefly: The Bible itself says it is from God; Bible prophecy explains the meaning of world conditions; The Bible enables us to understand the purpose of life; It is filled with prophecies reflecting detailed knowledge of the future; It's contents are scientifically sound on matters that human researchers discovered only at a later date; Its internal harmony is significant (Written by some 40 men over a period of 1,610 years..To appreciate the extent to which the various portions of the Bible are harmoniously intertwined, you must read and study it personally.) You are not going to learn these things through a paid clergy. Try listening to Jehovah's Witnesses...just once.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • veritas

      Don't be a sucker, go to school and take some science classes. Rid yourself of the ignorance the church brought on you.

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

      What a bunch of rationalized bull.s.h.i.t! Seriously.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • jake3_14

      "If life were the product of mindless chance, our existance would, of necessity, be without purpose, and there would be no dependable future for which we could plan."

      Sounds like reality. Where do you live?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • pastafarian

      "If life were the product of mindless chance, our existance would, of necessity, be without purpose, and there would be no dependable future for which we could plan."

      This is a ridiculous statement lacking any validity or logic whatsoever. Use your head!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • ryan trevino

      OH stfu with your JW BS. Every year you people come out and say the world is ending because of this that or the other thing, and every year you go back inside after baying at the moon and say "hey, maybe next year right?" . First WWI, then WWII, then Y2K, or Cold War, or Mayan prophecy, or... see a trend? The world is never ending, it will go on without you, god is not coming back to rapture you, you're stuck with THIS life, so live it well. There are more than 144,000 JW's in the world, so MOST of YOU won't be going to heaven either, according to YOUR OWN B LLSH T. The Bible has some facts that actually happened, but it is mostly stories, allegories to explain things. You are welcome to see evolution as an affront to your religion, but it is not... only to those who take the Bible FAR too literally. A book that says it was written by god? Good one. Like a liar telling you he is not lying right?–which lie to believe... I am all for Jesus' message which is love your neighbor as yourself and love God. That's pretty much it. The rest of the book, was filler (IMHO). Those that won't move ahead, will be left behind. I am fine with people denying evolution, it let's me know who the crazy stupid motherf ckers are since we can't put a sign on their forehead, or a Watchtower in their pocket. So thank you, for making yourselves known as the crazy, stupid, illiterate SOBs you truly are. I thank GOD for that.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • adrifter

      You write very convincinglly. An amazing feat considering you are talking nonsense. Whenever The Bible is challenged by fact, it is 'reinterpreted' to adjust to the facts. Doesn't sound like the unchanging word of a god to me.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  15. Your Neighbor

    Ignorance is bliss among America's Protestant pastors.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  16. Ryan

    Evolution happens every single day, commonly found in bacteria resistance to antibiotics, proven fact! Evolution is real. Evolution only occurs in nature when its required for a species to adapt to survive. Humans are ontop of the food chain and have no environmental need to evolve any further, even though we still are.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  17. clearfog

    It is not just evolution that the religious fundamentalists reject, it is all science; it is the scientific method itself that is rejected. If you ask scientists to think of an experiment that would tend to prove that god exists, they would propose any number of them. For example, if a minister were to pray that a ton of gold would spontaneously materialize, and it were to do so, I would start to rethink my position. Of course, there could be other explanations – an advanced civilization with a bizarre sense of humor. But it would be evidence. Ask ministers to think of an experiment that would tend to prove that god does not exist. They will refuse, say it is impossible, or say that to do so would be evil.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  18. spoo

    these statistics show that it is very popular among high school dropouts to become cheap church pastors.....and I mean it

    January 11, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  19. marco60

    Most of these Pastors probably flunked high school math and science. Then they went to bible college because they were too dumb to get into community college.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  20. Chris

    The religious based systems of this world are going to fight for their relevance despite growing evidence that they are irrelevant because of one reason: $. If all of the sudden some indisputable truth came out of nowhere decimating any argument that people of faith could muster, lots of them would be unemployed and broke. Oh wait...

    January 11, 2012 at 12:33 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.