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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. JohnQuest

    And These people want to educate our Children

    January 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  2. MT

    Regarding religion: That which can be proposed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Regarding evolution and the age of the Earth: If you wish to dispute the evidence, discuss contrary research (hint: the bible doesn't qualify).

    January 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Rick W.

      Christians dont need to refute any evidence that scientists come up with since the scientists will do it, they keep changing their evidence to fit the current theory. Kind of like the whole carbon dating thing. I'd rather just sit back with peace in my heart while science continues to try to prove there is not a God. It's called faith.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  3. larry

    Worst kind of nut is a religious nut. In 1968 we were pinned down and the fool next to me starts praying. I told him to stop praying and start shooting. I was tempted to shoot him myself just to shut him up.

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

      Should have blew his brains out.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Dan

      Don't you think that considering shooting your fellow combatant qualifies you as a "nut" ?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Mike

      I always heard there aren't any atheists in foxholes. I guess we just found one, and his first instinct? Shoot one of the guys who is pinned down with him because his prayers are so offensive. Sound pretty well balanced to me. I guess Larry is right, us religious nuts are the worst kind....

      January 11, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Really Mike?
      I think pinned down and being shot at is a pretty good excuse to suggest that someone should stop praying and actually start shooting back.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  4. FelipeBR

    and soon another religious baboon will run USA

    January 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  5. jesus

    lol @ the idiots.... unreal

    January 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  6. Simple Math

    Therefore the principles of human evolution from an insane species require a virgin birth of Adam and Eve for the establishment of a moral and just human government (Isaiah 9:6).

    January 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  7. Bus2

    To be a Creationist, you have to be ignorant wth regards to biology.

    To be a Young Earth Creationist, you have to be ignorant with regards to biology, geology, cosmology, anthropology, archeology, chemistry, and physics. You pretty much have to have failed ALL of your grade school science courses...

    January 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • ch

      really so are you ready to discuss Gnomes? How about the millions of DNA differences between humans and apes? How about the fossil record? You pick what ever you feel most comfortable with

      January 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • MarkinFL

      What? There are genetic differences between humans and apes? Who'da guessed?

      Also do the Gnomes in question have anything to do with travel?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Bus2

      Gnomes? Sure, and let's talk about ghosts and goblins and fairies and unicorns while we're at it...

      And you're right, humans and apes have millions of genetic differences. HOWEVER, the human genome has over 3 BILLION base-pairs, over 96% of which are shared with modern apes.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • ch

      @Bus2
      So there are over 120 million differences yeah thats close

      January 11, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • MarkinFL

      ch, what is your fascination with apes? We happen to share a common ancestor and we have followed another evolutionary path which obviously led to genetic divergence. OK, what's your point?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  8. Will

    Such willful ignorance is appalling. Religion turns people into mindless automatons.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  9. bird

    So, if these crackpots are right (which they obviously are not), how do they justify the incestuous past of humans? If the Bible is correct, there was only Adam & Eve, so all people must be from an incestuous pairing, right? Please Pastor, explain that to me. Leviticus 20:11-23

    January 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • GiveItUp

      Or to quote my wise child.... If GOD created everything, did he create himself?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • ch

      Leviticus 20:11-23

      Speaks of incest after the fall of man, do you forget we where made perfect until we decided to sin against God. I know you will reject this but the answer is not as hard as you want to make it

      January 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • John

      ch, speak for yourself. I WAS born perfect, and nothing that I do is a sin. I will know one when I see it, and will avoid that. Have I made some mistakes, sure-but nothing qualifying me for eternal damnation so that I needed any bailing out.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • ch

      @John
      Wow I never met a person who always listened to there parents, never sneaked a snack and later said not me. Didn't tell a lie at one time or another in there life. You say this is you??? Really???? Need I go on?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Umm, didn't the fall of man happen BEFORE Adam and Eve had children? Isn't that WHY they were kicked out?

      Point is that back then doing your mom and sister wasn't just acceptable, it would have been the only option. Of course that then follows with all the genetic drift stuff that apparently has NOTHING to do with evolution and really doesn't happen anyway. Or something like that.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • John

      ch, of course I did those things! So what? They earned me eternal damnation? Forget it!

      You will be pleased to know, though, that now at age 60 I would only lie to protect another person, and where there was nothing else at stake. Now be care about condemning me for that, lest you be judged yourself for a tolerance weaker than god's.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • ch

      @MarkinFL
      I think you are missing something there is no time given from creation to the fall, if you read God's word in Genesis 3 you will see that God tells the women that now your childbirth will be painful. If they had not had children yet how would she know the difference so logically you would believe they had already had children

      January 11, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • ch

      @John

      "ch, of course I did those things! So what? They earned me eternal damnation? Forget it! "

      It is not up to me for Heaven is God's, Jesus is the one who stated that unless a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven, so your argument is not with me but with Him. If it where up to me I would let you in but alas it is not

      January 11, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  10. Krh

    This is why America is becoming a more secular country.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  11. GiveItUp

    Don't waste energy trying to explain irrefutable facts to religious folks. They lost the ability to see or understand anything beyond their immediate sight when they were children.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  12. N2it

    When the 3 out of 10 can better theorize what and where we evolved from, I might listen. Simply because why are we not still evolving. What is the purpose of the "birthing" process. I am sure that women would prefer to look at a rock and have a baby evolve from one than go through labor pains.....by the way...as the bible predicts and God promised. The 7 doctors out of the ten need to get with the 3 and have a discussion/debate..otherwise the scale may move the other way with the lack of members in church and the secular crowd is ready to believe any and everything.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • MarkinFL

      What are you even talking about? With thought processes as muddled as yours I'm not even sure if you know what you believe.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • GiveItUp

      We are evolving. Within our lifetime the average height has increased in humans tremendously. New species are found every year. Easy to overlook if you don't want to see it.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • MarkinFL

      As far as I can tell your main problem with evolution is that you think it is supposed to be the same sort of magic you imagine a creator would employ.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • tehmeh

      What makes you think we're not still evolving?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • heliocracy

      Bwahahahaha this is your argument against evolution? The poster below is correct, I've found that most people who disagree with Evolution have very little understanding of it. Species evolve over millions of years, in very small, incremental ways. I can't tell you the number of times I've read, "there's no way a gorilla gave birth to a human." In fact, I agree completely with that statement. But it's far from a reason that evolution can't be true...because that's not at all how evolution works.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • John

      Do you not realize that every 'freak' of nature is a random experiment of sorts in DNA? Most do not work but some do. When they contribute to survival, that 'freak" goes on to produce more like itself, until voila!-a new species ascending. But obviously you have never wondered why nature produces so much diversity, and why newer species replace extinct ones. Unlike you, I have observed this many times, in both micro and macro terms. Simply put, that' s how it works. Whether a god set it in motion or not, I'm not gonna worry about.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Mick

      @ N2it – The Bible predicted that women will have labor pains? Isn't that a little like predicting the sky will be blue?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  13. John Jacobson

    Another instance of the dumbing down of American culture

    January 11, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  14. MPLS70

    In other news, 74% of Protestant clergy sampled in this study are morons.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  15. Progeny

    So 70% of pastors are literate. I thought that would be much higher!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  16. Warren

    It just goes to show how much US religious teachers/pastors are a voice for ignorance these days. As long as truely ignorant people like that are given the ability to "educate" their followers, the US has no chance of becoming a better nation. In fact they are doing their best to make it a worse nation. I worry when people who lack basic education and simple common sense are likely to be elected to a position where they control the launch codes for Nuclear weapons. All it takes is electing someone who believes its their religious duty to start Armageddon because that will presage the 2nd coming. I am glad I live north of the border in Canada. We have the same deeply stupid and ignorant religious sheep up here and the same self-righteous money grabbing religious leaders but they have a lot less force and a lot less importance (except maybe in Alberta where the current PM comes from). I worry for the world. That said I know many religious people who are not idiots and are fine upstanding people IMHO, but they are not brainwashed by some religious nutjob. In my opinion being strongly religious should bar you from holding public office :P

    January 11, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Wes

      So true. We were taught as young Christians that "Jesus" would show us the way to truth. Apparently, the opposite of this is true. Conclusion: "Jesus" was a mythical character from the bronze age promoted by ceremony and tradition via social pressures. Christians indeed are instead suppressed from finding truth and convinced that squaring circles is the right thing to do.

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

      There may indeed have been a Jesus...the Romans make reference to him. But he was no more the son of God than the homeless guy who claims to be the same thing while begging for handouts on the street corner.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  17. J

    There are over 50 dating methods which show a young age of the Earth, such as the rate of erosion, the amount of salt in the ocean, comets, the amount of supernova remnants, the amount of helium in the atmosphere, etc. Here is a ist of 101 evidences:

    creation.com/age-of-the-earth

    January 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • wayne317

      If you want to convince us, you'd have to link us to peer reviewed journals. Not a creation website. C'mon on man seriously.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Primewonk

      And yet, not a single one of your evidences is based on actual science. In fact, real science refutes every single one of your claims.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I saw a video showing the beginning of the universe and video is barely a 100 years old. So How can the earth be more than a 100 years old?!?!? Put THAT in your pipe and smoket it! Proof!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • GiveItUp

      According to the date on my milk carton, the world has only existed for 2 months.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • TheLorax

      So dinosaurs are a hoax? Dangit!!! ;)

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

      Don't worry, they were real. But the Irish ate them all during the great potato famine.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @J,

      Every creationist's effort to discredit the geological science has failed under honest examination. Why not pick one that you think is the best, and I will show you why it was wrong.

      January 11, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  18. Do Not Disassemble

    If you believe in Adam & Eve,
    then all of mankind is from incest.
    Guess the clergy wont talk about that.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Twice, actually!
      Don't forget that global flood.
      Only 500 year old Noah and wife along with his two sons and their wives survived to repopulate the species.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Incest is best! A game the whole family can play. Eve was a busy little beaver.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  19. Dia

    Evolution is a nice theory. Practically if all living things are the result of evolution where are the intermediates? Can we see any sign of this evolution going on (maybe involution in some evoluated species :)? Or it just happened at one moment, noone knows when and stopped? For me evolutionism is a nice bedstory for kids.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Do Not Disassemble

      *** For me evolutionism is a nice bedstory for kids.

      So is creationism.
      Thanks for playing.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      As opposed to the bible, which is pure fiction not really suitable for bedtime...

      January 11, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • God

      Wake up ! Evolution is based on fact. The Bible is based on fiction.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • wayne317

      Evolution is a nice theory. Practically if all living things are the result of evolution where are the intermediates?

      You are an intermediate from your parents to your children. See how that works? Now string that along for a few million years. Every living thing is an intermediate silly!

      "Can we see any sign of this evolution going on (maybe involution in some evoluated species ? "

      Look up ring species

      " For me evolutionism is a nice bedstory for kids."

      Yes because the "evolutionsim you just described does not exist. It's a stawman argument a logical fallacy.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Adam

      Dia, you could probably find a good example of an intermediate just by looking in the mirror.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      A fine example of an intermediate species is Tiktaalik.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Primewonk

      Why is it that the folks who come onto message boards and denigrate science are the same ones who are ignorant about science?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • LaTuya83

      What about that fairy tale you read every night, about a virgin that gets pregnant, and some homeless looking dude that walks on water. Get a clue, moron Religion = Fairytales

      January 11, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • GiveItUp

      I'm taking up a collection to buy Dia a 'Book of Animals' so they will realize that are are a few more species than cats, dogs and horseys roaming the planet. Anyone? Anyone?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Michael M.

      Uhh.... what "intermediates"?

      Evolution doesn't have a beginning or end. It's a continuum of progression, and yeah, you can see it.

      Ever wonder why some people are lactose intolerant? Because they don't have a well-known point mutation (a single nucleotide change) in their lactase gene. The mutation allows humans who have it to drink milk past childhood. It's so beneficial, it actually happened again (in a slightly different way) in Africa where cows are kept; so that's two populations of humans who can drink milk as an adult, while everybody else has to avoid dairy or take pills.

      The caucasian version of lactose tolerance appeared roughly 10,000 years ago.

      So, if you enjoyed cereal or a skim-milk mocha latte this morning as you were going to work, you are a product of a very recent evolutionary change.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • John

      Well Dia, evolution hasn't stopped, and it never will. For large animals (e.g. Humans), evolution occurs so gradually that you don't notice it in a single lifetime. But for smaller lifeforms (e.g. bacteria and viruses), we see examples of it all the time. As examples, drug-resistent Staph infections, H1N1 flu, the list goes on.

      As to the question of where are the intermediaries, if you would care to take a Sunday off church and visit a good science museum, you'll see the fossil remains of quite a few of them!!!

      PS - We still don't fully understand how evolution works. We just know enough to state factually that the creation story in the Bible is not literally true. And this doesn't mean I don't believe in God, I just believe in a God who mixed up his chemistry set and caused a "Big Bang" a lot more than 6,000 years ago.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Lilly

      Evolution is an ongoing process, and it is occurring even as I write this. Most people don't even understand the mechanism of evolution. Simply put if you survive long enough to breed your biological information gets passed to the next generation. Ever wonder why antibiotics don't work so well any more...hmmmmm...evolution. Bacteria that survive a dosing even if it's just a few will reproduce to create bugs that are resistant and each successive generation will be more resistant/will change from the previous generation.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  20. Micah

    What amazes me most about this is that people don't realize that modern medicine and pharmaceuticals come from our understanding of genetics and ultimately evolution. If you believe in creationism, you should go to a witch doctor for your medicine too. In the 1950s and 1960s it was much easier to not believe in evolution, but science has come a long way in the past half century. Our understanding of genetics has greatly expanded to the point where we can do gene therapy to treat diseases. We can do this because we understand genetic mutations, genetic markers, and we have the entire genome of various species including humans. Genetics shows us how we evolved in a way that was not possible just a few decades ago. And then of course there is chemistry, which provides us guidelines for proper carbon dating and other dating methods. Fundamentalist Christian leaders will continue to lose their flocks as the fastest growing religious group in America is non-believers, atheists, agnostics, and humanists.

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

      Here's some questions: if life evolved over millions of years; where did the matter come from? Big Bang? What caused the Big Bang? Do explosions create things or destroy them? How do we account for the innumerable & different plant and animal species? They ALL came from one cell? If water is the source of life, where did the water come from?

      Evolutionists demand that Christians give an account for their faith & I agree that Christians should do that (but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you with gentleness and reverence. – 1 Peter 3:15) but as a Christian I ask for the same from evolutionists. Where did all the matter come from that life supposedly evolved from? Please give a defense for your position.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • MarkinFL

      So, besides the fact that there are pretty good answers to most of your questions and there is way to little space or time to explain it all here and I am not the one to do it. Besides that. How does the fact that scientific inquiry has not given a neat easy to understand explanation to the entire history of the universe give ANY reason to believe in fairies? At least there is actual evidence of the physical processes involved and physical record of some of the past processes. Please show one iota of provable evidence of ANY actual god like creature or other supernatural being.
      Making stuff up out of thin air is no replacement for scientific inquiry.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • RHL

      @MarkinFL, really the only question to be answered is: 'Where did the matter come from?' There had to be a starting point. Does science really say 'it was just there'? Every person who I have talked with that has a scientific background demands evidence. The answer to 'where did the matter come from?' is: God. He created it; because He is Who He is. All powerful, all knowing & ever present. 'By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.' – Hebrews 11:3

      January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @RHL

      Analysis of the hydrogen isotope ratios of Earth's oceans, and oldest crustal rock we know that the bulk of the Earth's volatiles were from chondrites, with minor contributions from the solar nebula, and cometary material.

      January 11, 2012 at 6:11 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.