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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. Ginger

    IF we evolved from apes. Why are there still apes?

    January 11, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • JPR

      Man did not evolve from apes. Apes and man evolved along similiar lines. Your argument is like saying you evolved from your second cousin.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Stephen

      mmmmmmm.....because we didn't?

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

      Hmmm... even the "missing link" people have a better understanding of evolutionary theory than that. Your question SHOULD be: If apes and humans have a shared common ancestor from which they evolved why haven't we found evidence of such a species, which would demonstrate similarities to both?
      Then evolutionists could actually point you to some useful articles and findings that demonstrate some of the resent archeological finds that do bridge some of the gaps.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Bob

      There are STILL apes, and half a dozen or so are running for president on the GOP ticket.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • tstockt

      if i came from my great great grandfather, then why are my cousins still here? your argument is tired and ignorant.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • JMB

      Are you really that stupid ?? The fact that ANYONE does not follow and trust in evolution just shows how weak and frail religion has made people.. You'd rather believe there is an invisible man that lives in the sky that trust that man came from apes. Truly unbelievable.. shame on you for showing your stupidity...

      January 11, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Sir Lexington

      HANDS DOWN THE MOST STUPID POST OF THEM ALL

      January 11, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Portland tony

      Look at this way.....all dogs evolved from a common ancestor....yet the great Dane barely resembles a Pekingese.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • MJH

      If we evolved from Europeans, why are the still Europeans?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Will

      Humans did not evolve from apes. Apes and humans evolved from a common primate ancestor.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • goalie

      Because we didn't evolve from apes – apes and humans had a common ancestor – millions of years ago. This is basic, basic science – that's the problem – even the basics of evolution theory seem to escape many people.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • John

      I think you need to evolve. The theory of evolution does not claim we evolved from apes, rather apes and humans evolved differently from a common evolutionary ancestor!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • SixDegrees

      For the same reason that there are still Catholics, despite the recent emergence of Protestants.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • dash_bannon

      Great question. Go back in time, about 6 million years ago, and you'll find that humans and modern apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutangs, bonobos) had a common ancestor. Six million years is a long time. If you were to look at our ancient ancestor you might think it looked chimp-like but it could walk upright like we do.

      At first that can sound pretty far fetched until you consider how living things can change in a short span of time. Look at dogs for example. A Chihuaha and a Great Dane are both dogs. If you traced their lineage far enough, you'd see that they have a common wolf-like ancestor.

      All life on Earth shares a common thread: DNA. All life evolved from simpler life forms. Consider Legos. By themselves Lego pieces are just blocks, but when you connect them they can make all kinds of shapes. The same is true of our DNA. It took millions of years of those bits of DNA floating in the oceans to form life. We're the byproduct of those building blocks, as is all life on Earth.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Dash – evolution doesn't proceed from the simple toward the complex; it is directionless. There are many examples of more complex organisms evolving into a simpler form; this is very common among parasites. All that matters is whether a feature gives rise to differential reproductive success; more complicated or simpler, it will tend to rise in frequency if it gives rise to greater success.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Manley

      We didn't evolve from apes. Humans are apes. We share a common ancestor with other hominoids. Was anyone awake in biology or anthropology class?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Rick W.

      Potland... thats not evolution. They are all still dogs. Its from breeding and cross breeding that dogs have different traits and appearance. Not Evolution. An Evolutionist would say the Great Dane evolved from a rat or a fish or something like that.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  2. Sir Lexington

    People people people....

    How could man from the bronze age possibly know about the age of the Earth or the creation of man. They believed in things because they had no science and no way to find out the truth. After modern science came into being and through countless people's work, we know now that the Earth is more than 4000 years old and that the Earth is not the center of the Universe. The existence of God will never be proven or disproven, but there was no way that man back then got it right. We cant even get things right now, with science, because (and this is where the cynical part of me comes out) the evil hearts of men. They crave for power and control over others. Its sad, but thats the way things are.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • 007

      Thank you, someone with common sense!!!

      January 11, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  3. LibLutheran

    Sounds right, only maybe they should have surveyed pastors other than Southern Baptists.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  4. Ziggy

    Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. Albert Einstein
    Bigotry will not not be condoned. George Washington

    January 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Ceri

      Sounds good to me. Science is just the study of how God put things together.

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

      " It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. " Al Einstein

      January 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  5. Rparker

    What response did you expect from this population? A total waste!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • BethTX

      Do they also still believe that the Earth is flat. Morons.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  6. dud

    Science is man made. Everyone makes it seem like science proofs it is fact when all they continue to do is proof themselves wrong time and again. Perfect example was in college science class our book stated the sun was X million miles away and during class they said to change it to half the number in the book because they proved it incorrect. They were only off half, but now we are supposed to believe them. I love how people use science as stating fact when nothing they have "proven" is actually proven.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Anders

      Whereas, with religion, the mistakes never get fixed.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      The great thing about science is that it keeps improving, particularly as our technology improves and as our understanding improves! BTW, religion is 100% man made too!

      January 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Ike

      That's the beauty of science. Science never states that it is correct because we are always learning, As science progresses, it learns from it's mistakes and corrects them. It evolves to become something greater. Religion on the other hand never changes... even when science proves it wrong. It sticks to it's outdated and ridiculous fairy tales because it's written in a book that was written 2 thousand years ago by people that claim to hear god.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • DarkVader

      You're aptly described Dud. You're comment is a lie. There has been no significant reduction is the known distance from the earth to the sun for well over a hundred years. Any such adjustment would have to have been as a result of a misprint in the book. Nitwit.

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

      " Everyone makes it seem like science proofs it is fact when all they continue to do is proof themselves wrong time and again. Perfect example was in college science class our book stated the sun was X million miles away and during class they said to change it to half the number in the book because they proved it incorrect. "

      You must be really (really really really) old. The earth – sun distance has been worked out for quite a while. Christiaan Huygens got pretty close back in 1659..

      January 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • humanbean

      dud, you are a big liar. You never went to college. Anyone who doesn't know the difference between "proof" and prove was never accepted in the first place. I cannot believe that the rest of these people even took the time to respond to your ignorant post.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Lawrence

      That was an error in the book itself not science. There is an average distance which takes the closet and farthest and divides by two. This is due to the elliptical orbit the Earth makes around the Sun. Bad editors make data in books wrong. It has always been in t he 90,000,000 miles which is 91 to 94 million miles. Stop gripping about one college text book in a low level class.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      Cute story about the college text book. But it is a total lie. The average distance between the Earth and Sun has been fairly stable in the science literature since the late 1600s.

      So that makes me wonder why do you need to lie to support your "true" religion. I think it defeats your purpose.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  7. Roscoe

    As Mary Rosarii says in her book "This is your Conscience Speaking", "We are offending our God. society is polluted; television is polluted; media is polluted; schools and even some Churches are polluted. Mankind’s arrogance and intelligence is squeezing God out of every day life. "

    January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Anders

      More accurately, as we gain better understanding of the world around us, we have less need to invoke a fictional deity to explain any aspect of it.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Jen

      Anders, wonderful post. I'll remember that.

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

      "Mankind's intelligence is squeezing God out of our every day life". Really ?? – about time !!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • rick

      If it is man's arrogance that is squeezing "god" out of our everyday life, what is the alternative? Humble and stupid?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  8. PraiseTheLard

    I guess they also reject the idea that Protestantism evolved from Catholicism...

    January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  9. and...

    As long as they keep their flocks ignorant, they retain the power.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Ceri

      I'd love to know what power you are referring to. I am a protestant pastor and I have no power in my church whatsoever. Everything is decided by the people. I can't even decide to have the grass mowed!

      Oh, and BTW, my sermon last Sunday was about how stupid it is to insist on a literal understanding of the creation stories in Genesis. I'm amazed at the results of this survey as I personally have yet to meet a pastor who said they weren't comfortable with evolution.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Blastus

      Check out the entry by "Ceri". A 'pastor' nonetheless. Ceri has completely undermined the Gospel, and ignored the basic principle of authority of Scriptures. "Pastor", you have made a mockery of God's Word, and to accept evolution (or "be comfortable" with it) is to deny a literal Adam and Eve, which denies Christ's ancestry, and makes all of the Bible potentially imagery and metaphor, with no true and defensible Gospel. I pray your church members will see the truth, and treat your church as though it were on fire, running away and not looking back, and running toward the truth of God's Word. Either that, or properly rebuke you Biblically.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Yo!

      "I pray your church members will see the truth, and treat your church as though it were on fire, running away and not looking back, and running toward the truth of God's Word. Either that, or properly rebuke you Biblically."

      LOL! Wow the stupidity of christians is amazing. You do know that the scribes, changed the text and embellished on some of the stories right? LOL!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  10. Kristin

    Sad. Why on earth is so much stock put on a book written in the middle ages, before all of the wondrous discoveries made by scientists over the years, and still ongoing to this day?! Cmon and get it together!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • DarkVader

      The "book" was written a bit before the middle ages. Quite a bit.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  11. michael

    obviously the bible was written by man. sounds like the fox guarding the hen house.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  12. garc

    And the more intelligent Christians wonder why folks are leaving the church? To my mind, Americans have no right to talk smack about how "medieval" other religions are when apparently, as a group, so many Americans have actual provable facts right in front of us–as opposed to belief in the unseen–and look at the facts, say, "Nope, I don't see them," and reject them.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  13. Joe The Plumber

    Evolution is not a theory – it is a science. Show me the sciencific evidence to support creationism. What bozos!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • ch

      evolution is still just a theory, never has been proven

      January 11, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • and...

      EXACTLY! Evolution is a theory and it is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • bnb42

      CH:
      Gravity is still a theory too.... (never been proven)

      Now be a good creationist and let the earth spin you off the planet........

      January 11, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • DarkVader

      Gosh CH. A theory? Like the theory that provides for computers, television and most other electronics? I wouldn't buy anything that is supposed to operate on theory, would you?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Tim

      ch – Einsteins stuff is still a theory, and some of it may be wrong in the sense that it is either inaccurate or imprecise, that however did not stop him from being useful in making the very practical and viable atomic bomb.

      Just because something is not yet 'proven' does not mean it isn't true.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Blastus

      Operation science is not the same as historical science. The latter has presuppositions that can never be proven, just as creation-based theories do. Uniformitarianism is merely a belief system that cannot be proven. We need the eyewitness account of someone who was there when it all started. I believe I have that account, you do not. So we will each view the same data (present facts) and interepret them according to our worldviews. There is so, so much written on this, but unless you have an open mind, it is meaningless.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Primewonk

      In science we don't prove things, we explain things. Proofs are for maths and ethanol. In science, a theory is as high as it gets. Theeories never get "promoted" to fact or law. Theories exist to explain sets of facts and laws.

      This is why evolution, like gravity, is both fact and theory. The fact is, evolution happens. We see it every day. We make predictions based on it. The theory is in the mechanisms by which it happens.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  14. ReligionIs4Dolts

    NAW, evolution doesn't exist. Them fossils were planted deep in them rocks just to trick us. Also when scientists say they're seeing supernovas explode from billions of light years away, that's just a trick that god planned ahead in the creation. Yep, god just planted the image of a supernova only a mere 6,000 light years away so that it would arrive here by now and yet look like it was billions of light years away. This god really doesn't want all that many of us in heaven if he's always trying to trip us up! JERK!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Blastus

      ...PRECISELY! So, all is relative, and if I disagree with you, and need you to be eliminated, there are really no absolutes telling me that is wrong. Your absolutes, if you have any, don't count then. Do you have any moral authority besides yourself, that is, is there any thing of higher authority than you? If so, who or what? And if not, then my way is just as good as yours, and Hitler was justified in his actions, according to his own relativism. Kinda stunk for his victims, but hey, no god, no rule, no authority, good luck, I hope you are the fittest to survive and reproduce in kind.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Yo!

      "Your absolutes, if you have any, don't count then. Do you have any moral authority besides yourself, that is, is there any thing of higher authority than you?"

      The Bible has been used for centuries by christians as a weapon of control. To read it literally is to believe in a three-tiered universe, to condone slavery, to treat women as inferior creatures, to believe that sickness is caused by God's punishment and that mental disease and epilepsy are caused by demonic possession. Yeah, you christians really have the hold on morality. NOT!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  15. HK Phooey

    What do Protestant pastors believe about carbon dating?

    January 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • ch

      and what do you believe about carbon dating

      January 11, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Blastus

      If you have an open and tolerant mind, check out carbon dating at answersingenesis.org. Billions of years is just as faith-based as 6000 years, the battle is between worldviews, and data interpretation. I doubt there is much room on this forum, judging by other comments, for reasonable discussion, I hope you might be an exception. But most are simply intolerant of my intolerance, that is, I have to be tolerant of aberrant and anti-Biblical living, but nobody has to be tolerant of my Christian beliefs and viewpoints. No worries though. Check out AIG, I hope it helps you find answers.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Blastus – Using AIG as a source in discussing the science of evolution is as inane as using NARTH in a discussion on the science of se xual orientation. Sure, you can, but it just shows your profound ignorance.

      Here's the main reason NOT to use AIG – right on their website the state, " By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record."

      January 11, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • rick

      pastors are in favor of carbon dating, as long as they are dating other carbons

      January 11, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • HK Phooey

      AiG makes assumptions/interpretations that demand intelligence is left out of the matter. Everything we believe we know through science is an assumption, some based on factual test results to confirm, others we're still studying. That also applies to religion, it's a chosen assumption or interpretation of perceived facts. We all just try and find a way to navigate our world...assuming one path or the other is correct. Open-mindedness comes from accepting that other options are possible, AiG is obviously not open-minded.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  16. tim timmeh

    atheists need a hug, its okayy, Jesus loves you all

    January 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • +++++

      I'm still going to make him use a condom..

      January 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • DarkVader

      Pastors and science aren't very compatible.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • M. Barrett

      Hugs....not real sure why we would need one, however I am not apposed to the idea. While this is no forum to have a serious conversation regarding the complete insanity that is your belief system, I would be remiss not to point out that while most contend that they have a belief and personal relationship with god, not unlike your self, the truth remains that even you do not truly believe that, or else this would dictate and saturate your life. This is clearly not the case. There is not a "god", scripture is not divinely inspired, however if there was such a creator I would imagine, like me he would expect you to use your brain, god would not want you to have to dumb your self down to believe. But in my experience this is commonly the norm. Which is shocking to me, i mean you can only become stronger in ones beliefs by questioning it, challenging it. This is how you strengthen your beliefs. But alas I no this has not effect, but one thing remains true. Rational arguments do not usually work on religious people, if they did, there would be no religious people. I do not write in anger , just an attempt to have a logical conversation. Have a great day. Continue to give hugs, just not to atheist, be an equal opportunity huger, unlike your god.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  17. BNB42

    Facts? You can prove anything that is even remotely true with facts.....

    There are no facts in religion... (Which is why religion should go away)

    January 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  18. Possum

    Wow. One has to wonder if such folks are even capable of comprehending anything outside of the literal interpretation they take of the bible. They might as well go back to growing long beards, wearing sheets and stoning the women.
    If the bible were taught as the authoritative source of History and Science, students brought up to adulthood under such a curriculum and thorough brain-numbing, would be socially and intellectually neutered thus perfectly primed to be obedient slaves.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  19. Chiara

    OK, then if you believe the adam and eve stuff, you must also admit that we're all the products of incest.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Actually Adam could be said to be autos&xual since Eve was part of him. Hmmmm,,,,,Adam f'ed himself?! Yikes!

      January 11, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Rob

      So true.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Vupra

      From an article at prometheussociety(dot)org:

      "The sequence of events probably took place something like this. About five million years ago a translocation like that described above occurred in a pithecine male who was the controller of a harem of females. Rather than having 48 chromosomes, which was normal for his species, he had 47. When he mated with members of his harem, who possessed the usual number of chromosomes, half of his offspring would have had 48 chromosomes and half would have had 47. If some of those with 47 chromosomes mated among themselves, or were back-bred to their father, one quarter of their offspring would have had 48 chromosomes, one half would have had 47, and one quarter would have had 46. Those with 46 were the prototype of the new genus Homo. But at this stage they were not yet a new species. At most they can be thought of as a new chromosomal race., probably with great phenotypic difference from their fellows, but still not yet a new species. That had to wait for the appearance of one of the chromosome inversions discussed above. This inversion also probably occurred in a male with a harem and was transmitted in much the same way as the translocation. In this case, however, crosses between individuals with the inversion and those without produced only a few offspring, while matings between inverted chromosomes continued to be fertile, as did those without the inversion. This was the first step in breeding isolation. Suddenly, almost overnight, a new species came into existence."

      So incest is shown to be quite likely in the case of our pithecine ancestors.
      This does not give any credence to the Genesis story, however. For a supernatural being to get angry because we have evolved into a more complex version of the previous genetic paradigm, is to show that the supernatural being did not create us or desire us to be moral in the first place.
      By being moral, we "sin" against the imaginary "god" of Genesis.
      That is not anything to feel guilty about.

      I did not choose to be a human, and I am not responsible for the original changes in DNA or the antics of two imaginary people in an old fable called Genesis. I do not "sin" and there is no such thing as "sin" anyway.
      The whole thing's a bad joke.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  20. ReligionIs4Dolts

    "God" should have also done more to keep us human animals from smelling like wet dogs (at least some of us do, like that guy I used to work with, who stunk from the time he came in and it only got worse throughout the day)!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:40 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.