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. Rufoscoe

    I call BS. It's a religious stance. That many educated people can be that naive. The Catholic Church when presented with evidence that the heavens do change put Galileo under house arrest and waited 100 years to apologize. The big problem with organized religion is that they claim to have answers to the big questions, and for these answers they claim absolute obedience. Sorta puts 'em in a spot to admit they are wrong, so they close ranks and leave it to future generations to settle. Religion is not concerned with the quality of life everlasting, they are concerned with maintaining their quality of life here on earth.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  2. Christian

    Those who believe in a 6,000 Earth Not only reject evolution they also reject all other disciplines in science such as geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry – disciplines that are grounded on the atomic theory and the principles of radioactivity that attests to a 4.5 Billion of years for the age of the Earth. Out of this very atomic theory came all sorts of technologies such as Laser, computers, cell phones and Medical technology. I find it hypocritical that those who support Creation Science reject the idea for a Long history of Earth ( that is based on so much overwhelming evidence) yet they are using the very technologies that came out of that same modern science. How sad and how hypocritical !

    Pastors should focus on the spiritual message of the Genesis story and NOT its literal interpretation. If a literal interpretation is adopted lots of major problems will arise. Such as the creation of the Sun. According to Genesis the Sun is created on the Fourth day. If the Sun was not around during the first three days – how was it possible to have "day"?
    How then were the first three days measured? It is safer to Stick to the spiritual message of Genesis.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Matt

      god made computers too, dont you read the bible? jeez

      January 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • fred

      but how to descide on what is spiritual and what is for direct use. This is big question god should answer. No answer is big deal.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  3. trent1280

    How absurd. No wonder we lag behind so many other nations in science education, in numeracy, and in basic competence in math. With religious 'leaders' like these dunces, we will remain far behind where we belong.

    Evolution is not a 'theory'. It is a fact. The fossil records, the DNA and mitochondrial evidence, the observable truths of natural selection - all of this has proven for generations that evolution explains the transformation and survival of species. It explains the very fact of speciation.

    Evolution is a fact. Those who deny it are as ridiculous and ignorant as those who deny the Holocaust.

    What an embarrassment to our great nation are these anti-scientific primitives. According to them, dinosaurs never existed, penguins magically appeared on the Ark, and snake-handling is a pretty good idea.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Marcus

      Fact? Um, right... That is why it's called the "Theory of Evolution"

      January 11, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • trent1280

      Marcus reveals his ignorance.

      Darwin's 'Origin of Species' was published, together with other breakthrough findings, in consequence of extraordinary insights and empirical evidence. He offered an hypothesis. In the many years since, other scientists have entered a vast range of further evidence to substantiate Darwin's observations.

      Marcus simply doesn't understand our use of the word 'theory' in the practice of science.

      Readers better-informed, and less illiterate, than Marcus will almost certainly have read about 'Darwin's Finches' [news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/07/060714-evolution.html] and will have seen that, in the Galapagos Islands, we are actually able to observe evolution at work in REAL TIME.

      The AIDS virus, and other highly-adaptive life forms, are also evolving in REAL TIME, thus make them uncommonly difficult to combat. Has Marcus ever heard that many bacteria are no longer responding to certain antibiotics?

      It represents evolution in action. Right now. It is not a theory, Marcus. It is a fact. The proofs are available to anyone with eyes and half a brain.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Jeebus

      But see, Marcus is not using his "God" given brain. Marcus would rather put on his religious thinking cap and goggles.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • marcus

      Ah, you are right, I am ignorant. I didn't realize you were talking about micro-evolution. Nobody disputes that changes take place between species. Yes, that is fact. However, whatever changes take place, a finch is still a finch. It started a bird and ended up a bird. There is no evidence for changing from one species to another. That is why macro-evolution is a theory. There are no species currently turning into another species, therefore you cannot take it as a fact.

      You believe that it happened, just like these pastors believe that God created everything instead of evolving. It takes just as much faith to believe that there was an intelligent designer as it does to believe that we evolved from a monkey. Nobody saw God create man and nobody has seen one species evolve into another. So we choose to believe one or the other based on what we can see now. I choose to believe that we and everything around us were designed because I can see the design everywhere. I however, (and according to this article 40% of all Americans) do not see any evidence of this evolutionary "fact".

      January 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  4. Abinadi

    This whole discussion is stupid. God was not going to explain modern science to Moses and the Israelites. They wouldn't have understood it. Instead, he gave us a brain and wants us to figure it out for ourselves. I think Moses may have known a little more than what he said; he was well taught in the science of the time, but he only gave the Israelites what they could grasp. All modern science has been inspired by him and he is behind that science. Religion is about keeping the commandments, treating each other kindly, and putting our trust and faith in him when we have problems, which experience tells me always works. I know that Christ died for my sins and lives today and that he will guide me to have a successful and happy life!

    January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Abinadi

      (I mean that God was behind all modern science, not Moses.)

      January 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • fred

      In general how would you gain trust?

      January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      What the heck was God thinking?

      January 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      See? I'm thinking "God", the Israelite "God" should have appeared to the Hindu people! THEY had the brains to calculate in millions, billions, even trillions of years! Darnnit, it looks like we'll never really know now since God stopped writing in the bible 2000 yrs ago.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • TruthSeeker

      And exactly how do you KNOW that Jesus dies for you? Please do tell.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  5. Bill Kilpatrick

    It's unfortunate that Christians – particularly Protestants – feel that they have to accept, as infallible, bronze-age astronomy and geography in order to accept, as true, a set of moral beliefs that come out of the iron age.

    The astronomy of Genesis is untenable. It divides the universe into up (Heaven) and down (Earth), which is like dividing a beach into a single grain of sand and everything else. Earth is created by having the waters move over so the dry land can appear. "Heaven" is a space between upper waters and lower waters, which is why it rains when God "opens the windows of Heaven." God creates a day before creating a sun, which is bigger than the moon, but by the time we get to "he created the stars also," it's obvious that the author of Genesis is speaking from a very human, very rustic point of view.

    Did God create fish and fowl on the same day? The idea must have seemed intuitive to the author of Genesis, since fish swim in the lower waters while fowl fly "in the midst of Heaven," up near those "upper waters." If so, an omnipotent God created birds before creating worms. I guess the birds were on a diet.

    This is a dumb dilemma. There's no need to assume the scientific or technological views of the Bible generation in order to draw inspiration from their moral teachings. Anybody who pushes the dilemma must be prepared to either drop these ancient beliefs or give up on science. Having enjoyed the benefits of electricity and penicillin, I'll pass on the bad science.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  6. Matt

    I suppose it isn't that shocking, but what is, is that 40% of Americans think that as well... ?!?!??

    January 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Grog Says

      *** Matt

      Regardless of their race, two individuals can not create 7 billion DIVERSE people in only 6000 years

      Boink, Boink, Boink.....Wanna bet (chuckle)

      January 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  7. RYanzzzz

    Yeah, obviously the entire diverse population of Earth was spawned from two white people.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • james

      No body said they were white, black , red, yellow or green.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Matt

      Regardless of their race, two individuals can not create 7 billion DIVERSE people in only 6000 years

      January 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  8. scientificpoetry

    Seven out of ten don't believe in evolution. Then seven out of ten are spectacularly stupid.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  9. Bill

    74% believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people – simple genetics would tell you this is wrong. Also for the offspring of the first people to procreate there would have to be incest – so is that condoned? Insanity.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      If Adam and Eve were literal people, were they really done in by a talking snake who tempted them with smart fruit? Did their eldest son kill their second son, then marry his sister and move away?

      Where are the dinosaurs? The Bible doesn't mention them at all.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Capiers

      It's funny how folks overlook the incestuous part of an Adam and Eve creating human beings

      January 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • robert

      If all of the other arguments have been tried, you think that these idiots will believe 'simple' genetics over 'simple' evolution, or simple physics? They are not even smart enough to be simple minded.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  10. Johnny V

    Science is the DEBIL! ....THE DEBIL!!!

    January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  11. Dave A

    So they wanna teach CREATIONISM in the public schools.? Fine! I wanna teach EVOLUTION in bible studies!!

    January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Notice how religion uses politics – oppressively – in order to force others to cram their minds into those tiny little boxes. They want to convince everyone that they would never have pushed Galileo around, to get him to sign off on the Fred Flintstone view that it's the sun that revolves around the Earth.

      But sure enough, they put their money into politicians who, in turn, make laws forcing science teachers to teach religion to a captive student audience. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  12. ladybear

    The Bible doesn't mention the Americas, or Asia, so maybe that means we aren't really here.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  13. seamus

    Wow. News at eleven. People who make their living taking money from gullible dupes by telling them that an invisible man in the sky wants to torture them for infinity fail to comprehend and believe in science.
    And we wonder why America is on the decline.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • james

      God is real -

      January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Matt

      Pancakes kill children-

      January 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • james

      If they eat bad ones.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Matt

      Alright, I wont try as hard this time.

      Shoe is good

      January 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      This is the canary in the coal mine as far as America is concerned. If you look at people who are better versed in scientific discoveries and thinking, the fundamentalist approach drops off precipitously. The only way a guy in a suit can convince modern men and women that the earth is flat is if those modern people are unversed and ignorant. Idiocies like this are telltale evidence that Americans are uncomfortable with science, because it's harder than XBox and it hurts their heads.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • G O D

      *** james

      God is real –

      No i am not.
      You made me up.

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

      My nose makes it's own bubbles..

      January 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Mike

    Evolution is only a THEORY.

    But themes again, so is gravity...

    January 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |

      there is THE LAW OF GRAVITY and there is the THEORY OF EVOLOUTION

      January 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Brad

      A theory still has a basis in fact and direct observation. The bible is a collection of stories, that's not even close to a theory.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Robert

      Relativity is also a theory, but has been proven time and time again. (yes, I know something recently happened at CERN, but that has a long way to go for verification)

      January 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • sharoom

      No no no Todd Lewis. The current understanding of gravitation falls under the theory of relativity. Newton's classical law of gravity is an approximation and is only accurate for most situations we are directly familiar with.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • 4sanity

      Yes evolution is a THEORY not a theory ! THEORY in the grandest sense. It is consistent with all observable facts, provides a mechanism that explains and underlies all of modern biology, can be experimented on, demonstrated in a lab and applied in a predictive way to produce specific products used by millions of non-believers. It's like saying I don't believe in television because I reject the RELATIVITY (because its just a THEORY).

      January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • TruthSeeker

      Umm Todd, it's known as gravitational theory. Theory and fact are not mutually exclusive, e.g. the atomic theory, the theory of relativity, or tectonic plate theory, are all theories, but they are also facts.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • 4sanity

      Yes evolution is a THEORY not a theory ! THEORY in the grandest sense. It is consistent with all observable facts, provides a mechanism that explains and underlies all of modern biology, can be experimented on, demonstrated in a lab and applied in a predictive way to produce specific products used by millions of non-believers. It's like saying I don't believe in television because I reject the existence of RELATIVITY (because its just a THEORY).

      January 11, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  15. Capiers

    The simple fact is science allows for change via research, science evolves. We can't know the truths until we understand what controls them, the physical world. Science is pure the Bible is simply what man wrote down based on their perception of the physical world or voices in their heads. The bible is really never challenged so what is written will not evolve to any real truth.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      I don't know. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes to believe that . . .

      Jesus walked on water, sometime after turning water into wine. In fact, he morphs into bread and wine every week.
      Adam and Eve were cheated by a talking snake while Balaam was set straight by a talking donkey.
      Joshua made the sun "stand still" in the sky.
      Jesus cured diseases by casting demons out of morons.
      In the absence of Jesus, you could get healed – of paralysis – by being the first to enter a pool disturbed by an angel.

      It's all beginning to become so crystal clear.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  16. Tom

    Nine out of ten paranoid schizophrenics hear voices. It doesn't mean someone is really talking to them.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • james

      If 4000 people hear the voices at the same time they are not crazy – but the devil will make you doubt anything.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      If 4,000 people hear voices at the same time, you either have a case of mass hysteria or radio. Given that radio wasn't invented, mass hysteria sounds more like it.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • TruthSeeker

      Yeah I would go with mass histeria, otherwise, lets just say whoever wrote those stories made them all up. Now the world makes sense again.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  17. Robita

    How do people who think the world is 6000 ever survive into adulthood?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  18. truth

    What do you expect when 8 out o 10 of these idiots believe it is gods will for them to have intercourse with little boys.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Dave A


      January 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Brian

      Your joke falls empty. That joke is normally reserved for the Catholic Church, which accepts evolution. Also, this poll was done for Protestant in the US, and I'm assuming evangelicals.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Rich

      Ironic that your screen name is truth, yet you spew lies.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Be careful. God loves you when you believe the unbelievable but he gets mighty angry when you don't. Those who believe are saved and those who exercise any reasonable doubt are "damned." Personally, I'm not sure how anyone can worship a god they imagine to be so cruel and capricious. I find such a storyline just as rustic and ridiculous as any Greek or Roman myth. At least in the case of the sword and sandal generation, they had the excuse of living during the infancy of the species.

      Anybody who poisons their own mind, forcing it to accept the unacceptable while turning away from clear and obvious facts, is without any excuse whatsoever. Such people act like victims of abuse, if not literal, physical, abuse then a cult-like mind control.

      These are the people who come at you, not with facts or reason, but with incoherent shouts of "liar" and "devil." When they can't argue with you, they'll simply dismiss you as an agent of the devil, someone who spews lies.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  19. Samuel

    In the past religious leaders rejected the idea that the earth revolved around the sun...it didn't really change reality.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  20. FSM

    I am happy to see that more than 7 out of 10 posters are as disgusted by religion as I am.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • fred

      Disgust we must.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Grog Says

      Grog like religion.
      Grog plays whackamole with morons.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:52 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.