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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. Concerned

    Let me rephrase the question. Why did some monkeys evolve into men and women while others did not?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Will

      Ok, tell us your theory then? A virgin Mary helped create it all? Remember, abstinence only works 99% of the time.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Adam

      We share a common ancestor we did not evolve from chimps, gorillas etc.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • NCBluebird

      For the same reason that some birds evolved into hawks and others evolved into blue jays. What's your point?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Brad

      Most cases of evolution happen due tos tresses on a species. Lets say an area becomes cold and snow is a regular thing now. Animails born with bigger feet will survive better because they can walk on top of the snow. This allows that animal to pass on that trait, so more and more of the animals with that trait survive. That is the general theory though. I believe in evolution, but only to a degree, it is, after all, only a theory.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Concerned

      @NCBluebird – my point is the point you just made for me by your answer.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Greg

      Humans did not evolve from monkeys, humans evolved from an earlier form of human. Monkeys today evolved from an earlier form of monkey. At some point in the far distant past, there was likely a common ancestor. I recommend you learn about evolution...

      January 11, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  2. Will

    This just in, 7 out of 10 Protestant pastors are retarded.
    Remember, religion is a forced, learned behavior and it can be unlearned.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Elaine Cantalupo

      True, but it is a great way to make money for the family coffers. Name most evangelical leaders and you'll find they have passed their family's religion business down to their sons and daughters. Pimping for Jesus is a lucrative business and like politics, it doesn't have to pertain to facts or truth, just to how much money one can make off of it. Seeing how so many of these pimps live in mansion, have vast wealth, their own airplanes and fleets of cars, servants, colleges they've named for themselves and television shows where they claim to get you into heaven if you just sent them some money. No one has to join any of these greedy, fraudulent religions to live the life they believe their God wants for them. Give you money to the poorest among you as God commands, treat your neighbor like your brother, and work for the good of man, that's what the God of the Bible wants. Does anyone believe if God were alive he would be contributing money to corrupt politicians and hawking religious products on TV?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Patrick

      And 3 out of 10 are in denial. Fighting indoctrination can be a difficult thing.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  3. CommonSense

    In news today 7 out of 10 pastors are idiots. In other news, water is wet. Why is it wet? Because Jesus says so!!!!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  4. alan

    This is scarier than Iran with nukes....wow.....

    January 11, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  5. Doc Vestibule

    Dr. Greg Graffin's PHD thesis," Monism, atheism, and the naturalist worldview: Perspectives from evolutionary biology" found that 72% of the world's biologists believe that religion is a social adaptation. They find compatibility between creationism and modern scientific understanding by expressing religion in evolutionary biological terms.
    We are selfish creatures by nature, yet our survival depends on cooperation. In order to balance these two conflicting instincts, mankind has had to develop rules that allow room for both.
    These rules are not the same for all communities – hence we've had so many different types of religion and government throughout history.
    Religion binds communities together by giving a common frame of reference. Shared fears (like divine retribution), hopes (like going to heaven) and rituals allow the instinct for self preservation to extend beyond one's self and immediate family.
    Evolutionary biology is crucial for understanding the many social inst.itutions of the human species, of which religion is only one.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Also, supersti.tion is a survival instinct. Hard to fight it since it is probably hardwired and can only be trumped by intellect.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  6. mac

    And thus another example of why there really is no hope ,people are stupid.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • DocdeWitt

      So what, 10 out of ten evolutionary biologists reject God!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Docdewit
      According to the study I cited earlier, the exact numbers are : 83.89% are irreligious; 87.92% reject life after death; and 77.85% affirm philosophical naturalism as their world-view.
      Only 1.3% traditionally theistic world-view; an additional 3.3% blend theism with naturalism, resulting in the lowest frequency of theistic belief ever reported among a group of scientists, 4.6%.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • zoft2000

      "@DocdewitAccording to the study I cited earlier, the exact numbers are : 83.89% are irreligious; 87.92% reject life after death; and 77.85% affirm philosophical naturalism as their world-view.
      ==================
      Yes and 95% of people who visit a hospital for a long period bring the Bible with them not some far-out book about evolution. Listen when I have a tooth ache, I go to a dentist. Back ache I go to a chiropractor. If I need glasses I go to an eye doctor. So when I need to satisfy my Soul(because I'm not an Animal) I go to expert that has studied and experienced these things. I'm certainly not going to go to an Evolutionist or an Atheist, because although what they tell me might be factual, it is not going to satisfy my Soul.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  7. iowa mary

    THey have to pretend evolution isnt real, otherwise their jobs seem unnecessary and they make a nice living bilking the masses. Evolution is science, creationism is myth. If only they accepted evolution with God in the background, they would be more believable.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • believer

      Evolution is not science, it's theory. A scientific guess. It hasn't been proven yet, and never will. You may always believe you're nothing more than a hairless monkey, but many of us understand that we're so much more than that.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @believer
      A theory is what one or more hypotheses become once they have been verified and accepted to be true. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. Unfortunately, even some scientists often use the term "theory" in a more colloquial sense, when they really mean to say "hypothesis."
      In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  8. zoft2000

    "First and most obviously is the fossil record. The fossil record is much, much more than just dinosaurs. Indeed, dinosaurs only get the press because of their size, but they make up less than 1% of the entire fossil record. Life had been evolving on Earth for over 3 thousand million years before dinosaurs evolved and has gone on evolving for 65 million years after the Chicxulub meteor wiped them out. "

    About all this evolution stuff, can you explain where are we evolving to ? At least religion has an answer, but science is silent about this. Another question is why are we evolving in the first place. If a creature is able to adapt to it's environment pefectly why does it need to evolve in the first place.

    As far as DNA, If I bake an apple pie doesn't it have 90% of the ingredients of cherry pie. Except for the fruits one might say the 2 are related. Yet an apple pie is not a cherry pie, they are 2 different things. All this evolution stuff is over-thinking by a bunch of crazed scientist eager to make a name for themselves and to catapult themselves above humanity.

    Ok so the earth is not 6000 years old maybe god was speaking about this "present world" as he sees it . Gods idea of space and time is not the same way we perceive it. There is no space or time when it comes to god. Everything happens at the same time !

    Plato the famous Greek philosopher mentioned this about God. Now that makes sense this present world being 6000 years old is not too far fectched. Dinosoaurs as far as we know were horrifying creatures who lived millions of years ago, but who is to say they were not intelligent ? Maybe they were smarter than we are, how do we know since we are just going by fossils ?

    Who really knows what happened on this earth or how many Worlds existed here before this one. It's like the owner of an apartment building. The tenants change regularly, but the building remains the same. Of course sometimes there needs to be some renovation work done.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Dan

      You really need to understand the first crucial thing about evolution, which you clearly do not, and as such, it is impossible for you to "get it".
      Secondly, you already have a pre-conceived notion of how/why everything "is", so I would say it might be a waste of time and words to explain it, as you have already closed your mind off to it because of mythology.
      If you want to learn, you will, but first you need to understand evolution is not a destination, but a process. There is no "end state" to evolution, it is constant, though usually in such small steps as to be nearly invisible.
      You ask "what are we evolving into?", which proves my statement correct.
      The skeletal record of man shows that we are in fact still evolving, that especially in the last 200 years, our basic skeletal structure has been changing.
      If in fact you really want to know about evolution instead of coming up with Unicorns and Magic Pixie dust as reasons for things, then do some research. Go slowly, and compare what multiple people say.
      If on the other hand you'd rather remain ignorant, keep believing those wild fairy tales.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      " can you explain where are we evolving to ?"
      Evolution is not a linear process with a specific end result. Humans are not "Monkey 2.0" moving towards a more perfect monkeydom.
      "If a creature is able to adapt to it's environment pefectly why does it need to evolve in the first place."
      Creatures adapt to their environments gradually, through many generations of subtle variation – many of which fail, or convey no serious benefit. Environments change with time – as do the creatures that inhabit them.

      As for the pie metaphor – think of it in a sense of scientific classification.
      Cherry or apple would be the species
      Genus: Pie Family: Pastry Order: Dessert Class: Meal etc.
      Just as humans and chimpanzees are both in the family Hominidae but we are genus Hom.o and chimps are Pan.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Dan

      Why do you say "Dinosoaurs as far as we know were horrifying creatures who lived millions of years ago"???
      What makes them "horrifying"??
      The fact that a few of them were very large animals?
      In reality they were no different than animals today, hunting and foraging for food, mating and reproducing.
      Does the fact some of them were carnivorous as many animals today are bother you?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • zoft2000

      "You really need to understand the first crucial thing about evolution, which you clearly do not, and as such, it is impossible for you to "get it".

      There goes that "intelligence" thing again. Do you need to be intelligent to understand evolution ?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Timmy

      "Everything happens at the same time !"
      Obviously, you have never examined that little self made construct. If something "happens", either it can't "happen" (all) at the "same" time, (because the beginning of the "happening" isn't at the same time as the "end" of the happening, OR, is is impossible to speak about it at all, and "mean" anything. Your little construct of "magic" time is a nice fast and loose way to try to get around the problems here, but as usual you have provided NOTHING in the way of proof for your little fantasy. All you have done is shift the "time" frame. Your little solution is full of holes, both scientific, and logical. Hint : how LONG does it take for "everything to happen", (at the same time) ?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Alyssa

      "About all this evolution stuff, can you explain where are we evolving to ? At least religion has an answer"

      It doesn't have an answer, only an unfounded guess.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • zoft2000

      "Secondly, you already have a pre-conceived notion of how/why everything "is", so I would say it might be a waste of time and words to explain it, as you have already closed your mind off to it because of mythology."

      Yes we me it's simple what is going on in this world there is a battle between Good and Evil for the souls of men and it started way back with Adam and Eve. We can build rockets that will take us to Mars, cure cancer, lasers that can pierse into spce, robots that cn cook our meals, but we will never get away from that basic fact of good and evil this will never change no matter how hard we try.

      The thing about this world is that there is a creature called Satan that is there to deceive us. That is why we need faith. There are false preachers and fake scientist that contribute to the problem and of course there is man himself with all his contradictions.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Timmy

      And BTW, your little construct negates the Christian necessity for "salvation". If "everything happens at the same time" , then why send Jesus to die, as god would have experienced Jesus as already dead, and the sacrifice is already done. What nonsense. Anything to save to ancient book for the scrap heap where it belongs.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • zoft2000

      "And BTW, your little construct negates the Christian necessity for "salvation". If "everything happens at the same time"

      There is nothing magic about this your own Science has an explanation about Time and Space. Giant telescopes orbiting the earth are recording events that happened billions of years ago in the Universe. They are recording these event now even though they happened then, so how do you explain that ?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • zoft2000

      Yes to me it's simple what is going on in this world. There is a battle between Good and Evil for the souls of men and it started way back with Adam and Eve. We can build rockets that will take us to Mars, cure cancer, lasers that can pierce into space, robots that can cook our meals, but we will never get away from that basic fact of good and evil. This will never change no matter how hard we try as long as we are here.

      The thing about this world is that there is a creature called Satan that is there to deceive us. That is why we need faith. There are false preachers and fake scientist that contribute to the problem and of course there is man himself with all his contradictions.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Dangle66

      The goal of evolution is survival of the species. Species evolve to adapt to their environmental changes. So there is no "what are we evolving to" for science to answer. Also, there are many organisms that have been extremely successful without much evolutionary changes... look at sharks. They've remained largely unchanged for thousands of years because they've evolved to a very successful organism for their environment.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  9. bull

    This is one of the reasons why Christianity is no better than Islam or other religions. Both deny or ignore these simple facts. Humans have evolved fast in the past 2000 years and should have long passed that stage. It's pathetic that those 'believers' still have their mind set back to 2000 years ago while many of them enjoy the achievements by modern science and technology. On this perspective, I have more respect to Amish people than those hypocrites ...

    January 11, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  10. Ian

    What bothers me the most is this... in no way, shape, or form should the Bible ever be taken word-for-word, literally or even as "The Word of God". There are hundreds of contradictions within the Bible and the fact that so many parts are written by those who were in power at the time, most over several generations from when they supposedly occurred, means that the Bible is a book of mythology. Yes it has wonderful morals and ethical boundaries to follow, but that's all. The real danger is from those who refuse to accept other's points of view, on both sides of the argument.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • zoft2000

      We can say the same about History. I watch the history chanell and have read more that one encyclopedia and more than one history book and they all have their discrepancies. The authors have their own spin on things based on their research. All these books were written by man not a fact findinding all knowing computer, it is up to us to accept it or reject it.

      The Bible is not a manual about the history of man and god, it is a book written to draw man to god it is as the say a "Living Word". Most people that read it and understand it, come away with their own interpretations and their own perceptions.

      Good or bad, mythology or truth, the Bible is the only book in history that can claim to have influenced and changed so many peoples lives...

      January 11, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Dangle66

      You know there are over 30 THOUSAND sects of Christianity... even Christians cannot agree on what "the" bible says.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  11. JayDeeT

    No surprise here. I bet most of these morons come from rural southern areas where the earth is still flat, the sun revolves around the earth, and snow falls on blue spruce trees in Bethlehem!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  12. Tom

    Creativity, ambition, fear, pain, pleasure, doubt, resolve, hope, curiosity, anger, tears, love: All ingredients of the big bang. Why? Because as even the kindergarten kid knows: EVERYTHING that exists came from the big bang. It sure was ONE EXTRAORDINARY explosion!!!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  13. Woody

    A person can believe what ever they want denial of what is real will not change reality it is just a shame that ministers like fantasy so much ! But I do agree that reality is sometimes too gruesome to comprehend !

    January 11, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  14. Curt

    At somewhere around the age of 12 I figured out that these so-called minsters must be stupid or liars to say such things. I finally settled on liars because they seemed smart to con other people out of money to support them.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  15. Andy

    Poll says 9 out of 10 pastors believe the sun orbits the earth. Guess how many believe the world is flat?

    January 11, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Barney Fife

      Citation please.

      February 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  16. Neuron2003

    At least 3/10 pastors can integrate science and religion. The other 7/10 seem to hide their head in the sand every time more data come out supporting evolution.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Jared

      Evolution is a very broad term. My question would be macro or micro. Do I believe that mankind sprung up out of the cosmic goo? No, I don't see how everything, especially life can come from nothing without assistance. Do I see the ability for species to adapt? Sure. Technology is simply a form of adaptation even though it isn't a physical change.

      However, we are so irreducibly complex. Remove even one of the 150 or so triggers that it takes to form a blood clot properly and all of humanity and probably the animal kingdom would either bleed out or suffer total clotting. It would take too many generations to form this ability in order for a species to survive.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @JareD
      Irreducible Complexity has been debunked.
      It's originator, Professor Behe, was decimated in court when asked to defend himself.
      He used the clotting/immune system as an example of ID, but on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough."

      January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Thinker

      The problem with that argument is that while yes NOW removing any of those 150 different parts would be a problem, this wouldn't be so log ago. As these 150 factors evolved they opened up new avenues for life to take. As creatures evolved to take advantage of these, they in turn became dependant on them. Simmilar parallels can be drawn to modern technology. If you suddenly remove, say, electricity from our world, the result would be the death of most of the world's population. We were not dependant on electricity 150 years ago, but we are now.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @Jared,

      Mike Behe's attempt to "prove" the existance of God with molecular biology failed. The blood clotting cascade makes this clear. Behe never bothered to become an expert, nor did he even bother to stay current with the available reserach. For a good overview, I suggest reading "The Evolution of Vertebrate Blood Clotting"

      http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/DI/clot/Clotting.html

      January 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Dangle66

      It is true that many organisms are rreducible complex IN THEIR CURRENT STATE, however, what Behe and his proponents fail to understand is that it is absolutely possible for an rreducible complex organism to have evolved to that state. In evolution, something which is at first merely advantageous can later become necessary. Natural selection can lead to complex biochemical systems being built up from simpler systems, or to existing functional systems being recombined as a new system with a different function. For example, one of the clotting factors that Behe listed as a part of the clotting cascade was later found to be absent in whales, demonstrating that it is not essential for a clotting system

      January 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  17. Mediaprof

    Always consider the source and funder of any survey. Do they have a vested interest in a specific outcome? LifeWay sells a large selection of books promoting creationism over evolution, so perhaps the survey is a little biased.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  18. Johnny

    I reject 7 out of 10 pastors.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • DocdeWitt

      I hear you brother! Good one.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  19. angryAmerican

    I considered atheism, but there weren’t enough holidays

    January 11, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Wrong, we get ALL the holidays. We are free to celebrate any holiday from any religion. If it seems like a worthy holiday then I'm all for it. We also get to enjoy them fully without having to deal with all that tedious religious foofoorah.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  20. Joe Dokes

    OMG, I never realized pastors could be this stupid as a group. And they are supposed to be leaders of their flock? Forget the whole issue of evolution for a moment... what rational mind could actually believe the earth is 6,000 years old? Sad.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:54 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.