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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. Tex71

    This survey was of Southern Baptists, not all Protestants, much less Christians in general. Someone once said the main difference between Presbyterians and Baptists is that Presbyterians can read; apparently this is not far from the truth. Many Christians look to Jesus for spiritual truth and to science for truth about the material world. Science is based on observation and reason; if these are not to be trusted, what basis have you for trusting anyone's arguments, including your pastor's and those of the people who wrote the Bible?

    January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  2. Charles Darwin

    Ignorance is no excuse for spreading fables as fact. Religion has pulled the wool over the eyes of otherwise seemingly intelligent people. It's a 'damn' shame.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  3. Steve

    This is just mind-bogglingly sad. There is no hope whatsoever for this country.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  4. pbrisen

    It's funny how so many people that reject religion are constantly drawn to the belief blog on CNN.

    Isn't there an atheist blog where you can all go and whine about how mean old religion is keeping you down.

    Cry me a river.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Des

      The river of blood that religions have shed, and all the persecution of reasonable people that religions have done, over many centuries, is reason enough to swat down religious idiocy here and wherever else it rears its ugly head.

      Consider yourself swatted, prbrisen. You deserve it.

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

      Sure there are atheist blogs and we visit them, too; same as Christians often visit them. We come to sites like this for a couple of reasons: 1) it's fun to watch Fundies make fools of themselves; 2) this is a BELIEF blog NOT a Christian one and if you read what they say about it, they even on occasion talk about atheist stories; and 3) many of us like having a dialog with Christians, particularly the ones who can defend their position without 'crying a river." Hope that helps.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • God

      Are you suggesting belief in fact and truth shouldn't be posted here ??

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Jim

      That has a lot to do with the notion that people with a scientific view and education see religion as a handicap to the advancement of mankind.

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

      All fair points, MartinT, but there is one fatal flaw to your argument: the number of non-believers who seem to be here for an honest dialogue are few and far between compared to those who are just here to flame.

      Even you, while claiming to seek dialogue, refer to believers as "Fundies" and mention wanting to make them look foolish. Those don't seem like the words of someone seeking a sincere dialogue.....

      January 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      They (the atheists) like to argue about it. If they really do not believe in God then about the only thing they CAN do about Him is argue. It's kind of like if you do not believe in Unicorns how much time do you want to spend arguing about that? Or .. UFO's and Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle .. most of us do not believe those things and have very little time to spend debating it. But when it is important to us THEN we make time. So it must be important to THEM to argue that God does not exist (etc.) But WHO are they trying to convince? I don't give a hoot if they ARE an Atheist (Capital A) because it'
      s not my life. It should not matter to them if I am Christian, Shaman, or Witch Doctor ... but obviously it does matter. Maybe they DO believe there are aliens in Area 51; then again maybe THEY are the aliens.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  5. K3Citizen

    This survey pretty much turned me into an atheist. If the people who lead the churches are too ignorant of what God could do then they have no business teaching anybody anything.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Nooooo ... you did not become an atheist over a dumb CNN blog or the posts on it. That's just Bee Ess (and that's consistent with atheist).

      January 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  6. CreatedbyGod

    IF, as evolutionists claim, the earth is billions of years old, and mankind has evolved from a lower and simpler form of life, then why has mankind gone from writing upon stones to laser printers in just the past 3,500 years? When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, they were written upon stone. It is abundantly clear that the Egyptians carved messages into stone (hieroglyphics). So why is it that mankind has only discovered better inventions in the past few thousand years? If mankind had evolved, as evolutionists claim, then why didn't man discover ink a million years ago? Think about it. This is an astonishing thought–There were NO planes, cars, computers, refrigerators, electricity, lights, gas, powered-equipment, telephones, recording devices, CD players, MP3 players, electric razors, televisions, record players, movie cameras, or a million other modern technological inventions–just a mere 170 years ago. Civilization has advanced from utter primitiveness to incredible mind-boggling achievements in just a little over 100 years. So why didn't mankind discover any of this stuff 100,000,000 years ago, or 100,000 years ago for that matter?

    January 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Mike

      Industrial Revolution. jees.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Uhhh, your argument is self-defeating! Man has had to wake up and learn on his own (in other words, our knowledge has evolved over time). For too many centuries religion has tried to KEEP man from learning anything new so as not to contradict the religious dogma that kept those idiots in power. Read more about western civilization (Galileo, the Renaissance, etc.). Science took centuries to develop once man started rejecting ancient, keep-your-head-buried-in-the-sand religiion.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • CreatedbyGod

      Look at the ignorance of doctors over the past few centuries. Sanitary practices, such as washing hands, were laughed at by doctors, while thousands of patients continued to die. It was unimaginable to doctors back then, that washing one's hands somehow was related to a patient's health in the operating room. Can you believe that? Evolutionists today are just as ignorant of the truth of God's Word, and of common sense itself. It's hard to imagine that millions of people were dying from a simple lack of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) just a couple hundred years ago. If evolution is true, then it took man billions of years to learn all these kindergarten lessons. And ironically, man has only learned these lessons in the past couple hundred years. You've got to be kidding me! Don't tell me that it took mankind BILLIONS of years to learn to wash his hands to prevent disease! The truth is that mankind has taken baby-steps since 4,000 B.C., and it did take him nearly 6,000 years to learn to wash his hands. This is just another undeniable PROOF that evolution is a lie. If mankind had evolved over millions of years, then men would have discovered these inventions a very long time ago.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Southern Idiot

      Yeah! If science wasn't just one big illusion, then why didn't we discover Snuggies until a few years ago??? THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      You have no understanding of temporal logic, retard! Evolution takes TIME! Learning takes TIME! Just because something is possible today absolutely has no bearing on whether it SHOULD HAVE BEEN possible thousands or billions of years ago. Jeezus! Get a brain dolt!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Spencer

      Because it wasn't until, I think, about 6,000 years ago, that human started agricultural socities, forming more tightly woven communities, resulting in increasing exchange of ideas, which is the necessary predicate to technological change.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Posts by CreatedbyGod present fallacies of selective attention and the ignoratio elenchi fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/

      January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • NJBob

      You're not making any sense. Are you smoking something?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Jeepers

      Your arguments..........is this really how your brain works or are you joking?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Jim

      Advances in communication are the main reason.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Roscoe

      Passing information from one generation to the next? How about the printing press?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      Let me recommned some reading;
      Black, Jeremy, Anthony Green, Tessa Rickards (illustrator)
      2003 "Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia" Austin: University of Texas Press.

      Blenkinsopp, Joseph
      1992 The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible The Anchor Bible Reference Library New York: ABRL/Doubleday

      Dalley, Stephanie
      2000 Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Revised Oxford: Oxford University Press

      Marshack, Alexander
      1991 The Roots of Civilization Singapore: Palace Press and Alabama:
      Books International

      Schmandt-Besserat, Denise
      1992 Before Writing Volume I: From counting to cuneiform Austin: University of Texas Press

      Smith, Mark S.
      2002 “The Early History of God 2nd ed.” Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing

      In a few words, reading and writing were "secret knowledge" and held tightly by a very few people. Religious and secular power was absolute, and also invested in a tiny fraction of the people. (Rather like wealth in the US today). The notion of testing the logical implications of theory, and modifying or rejecting the theory based on the results was only discovered in the 1500s. And finally, scientists have had to waste time struggling against religious fundamentalists. In fact, we still need to; witness the attempts to kill medical research using pluripotent stem cells.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  7. Jim

    If memory serves me correctly this isn't the first time they refused to accept common knowledge. The world being flat and the center of the universe are a couple of the other big ones they refused to believe for centuries.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • God

      It isn't flat ??? :0

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Bill C

      Nonsense. The scientific data debunking evolution is nearly overwhelming. The fact that you choose to ignore it to hold on to your secular beliefs doesn't make it true.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bill C
      Can you provide an example of a scientific, peer-reviewed thesis paper that debunks evolution?
      Note: Answers in Genesis is a series of rationalizations, not scientific theories.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • MartinT

      @Bill, I hope you are being sarcastic, if not could you share some of this Scientific Data you speak of? If you are being sarcatstic, it is well done!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Jim L.

      Why "accept common knowledge" if it's not been proven to be true? Remember that the theory of evolution is still a THEORY. While I personally think there's room for creation and parts of evolution, even Darwin himself saw no fossil evidence for the origin of species. He assumed it would be found eventually, but it never has. The world being a sphere instead of flat is something that was proven.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Jim

      @BillC -The evidence debunking evolution? Are you for real, or just high?

      January 11, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  8. adam.baumgarten@macquarie.com

    This just in. 73% of pastors are complete idiots, whereas as only 40% of the public are idiots.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Bill C

      Nonsense. The scientific data debunking evolution is nearly overwhelming. The fact that you choose to ignore it to hold on to your secular beliefs doesn't make it true.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by Bill C is a gross case of a fallacy of selective attention.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu

      January 11, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  9. Patrick

    That's okay. 99.99% of evolved animals on this planet reject the supernatural, so that's fair.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  10. Steve

    When will we realize that thruth is truth and is not determined by the majority. This is an important fact because more and more people are being "lead" by pastors that have lost their way in recognizing and truth, and proclaiming it to their flocks

    January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • God

      "When will we realize that thruth is truth and is not determined by the majority" - Is this the truth ?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  11. 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 Bible is a bad myth, a bad joke, and demonstrably false. The "god" of the Bible is a myth.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  12. Ozarkhomesteader

    How exactly were these ministers selected? I'd believe it if the research were conducted by an objective organization, like Pew.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  13. Elliot

    I just don't understand why people wont' believe in Jesus our lord and the good book. It tells us about Adam and Eve and therefore it must be true, my pastor is the best man I have ever met he would never make up stories. I mean I've even been to this museum that shows it to be true, creation is true, there is a museum. People used to saddle up on dinosaurs and ride them around like horses, God made it good for us like that. I heard the dinosaur bones were put there by Satan to test our faith, things happen like that he works in crazy ways.

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

      I know this is satire, but the repulsive thing is, an awful lot of people actually believe everything you just wrote.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • God

      Thanks Elliot !

      January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Vupra

      I think Elliot is a poe-troll.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  14. BillyD1953

    Reality is oblivious to their silly beliefs.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  15. Jeepers

    If you believe in the basic concept of genetics, then you believe in the basic concept of evolution. If you understand math and science at all, evolution makes sense. What makes people toss that information aside and choose to believe verbatim something that was written 2000 years ago by people who didn't understand a fraction of what we understand now bewilders me. Even if you want to believe there's a God in the sky watching everything you do and making sure Tebow's team wins because Tebow makes a spectacle of his prayer time out on the field, there are certain things you have to work really, really hard to ignore or make up new information for. For instance, dinosaur bones. Can't explain that? Solution: build museums with depictions of Adam and Eve riding them in the Garden of Eden. I'm just not capable of that kind of denial of reality and never really have been. (I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church and lots of things did not make sense in my Sunday school classes.)

    January 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • MartinT

      Well put my friend. I, too, kind of grew up around Southern Baptists as my former father-in-law is a minister; so I feel you. I really have a hard time wrapping my head around the notion that there are people alive today who can't understand or accept that evolution is a reality. It's been proven time and again that the earth is at least four billion years old, I think the real hard part of it for these people is that they don't or can't understand vast amounts of time and how small variations over great time spans can make significant changes. They just imagine that these changes occur overnight. Sheesh.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Bill C

      Scripture makes it clear that at the end of our lives we will all be held accountable by our maker. Unfortunately, you are not going to fare very well.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bill C
      And Egpytian hieroglyphs make it clear that you'll face judgement by Ma'at who will weigh your heart against a shu feather.
      Norse mythology says that you need to die in battle to make it to Valhalla.
      Your set of myths is but one of countless others that have existed throughout human history.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Jeepers

      Oh Bill, your hokus pokus nonsense talk doesn't scare me any more. I grew up and started using my brain. I also don't believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny any more.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  16. CreatedbyGod

    If, as evolutionists claim, all of mankind evolved from the SAME primitive life-source, then how did we end up with 7,000 different languages? The Bible teaches that God created all the different languages at Babel... "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech ... Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth" (Genesis 11:7,9). It is far more reasonable to accept the Biblical claim that God created all of mankind's different languages; than it is to believe that some space-dust from a massive chaotic explosion somehow became life, and then took on intelligence, and then from the same evolutionary process ended up with 7,000 different languages. That makes no sense at all.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      If you haven't noticed, language has continued to evolve since Babel! For examples, Latin has died out, Ebonics has been born, and plain old English (Ivorics) continues to change, particularly as technology evolves.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • cougarblu

      Hmmm...have you ever noticed the difference between southern US dialect vs, say, how someone speaks in North Dakota? That drift occurred over a mere 200 years.
      Oh wait...you're right. It makes ever so much more sense that god had PMS and was upset that people built a tall building, so she destroyed their civilization and created myriad languages. /sarcasm

      January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Vupra

      Having multiple languages is easily explained by local groups who developed personal and local differences from others in the noises they made to communicate. Why is this a problem for you? Isolation can do it all by itself. No god needed.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • MartinT

      Let me get this straight: You have NO problem with the story of Babel and the fact that Noah's family is the genetic stock for ALL modern man. You REALLY think that Noah could fit two of EVERY species of animal on the planet on one boat. And yet, you have some issue with why there are over 7,000 languages. REALLY? And yet again, somehow, when all these people left the Tower of Babel, they suddenly lost the memory of the God of that small region. Seems to me that a story as fundamental to mankind as Noah and the Tower of Babel would have been remembered and written down by at least ONE other society, somewhere. But, we find no record among those 7,000 languages of a world wide flood, or the story of the Tower of Babel. How do you explain why ancient civilizations like Egypt and those in China have DIFFERENT creation stories?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • God

      "It is far more reasonable to accept the Biblical claim that God created all of mankind's different languages" - Man's stupidity continues to amaze me !!

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

      Seriously...that is probably one of the worst arguments I've ever heard. But here's a question in the same vein. If Christianity is really the "one true religion," then why have there been so many thousands of gods and religions people have come up with over time? Religion and language have a way of developing wherever people are. People need to communicate and they need answers to questions. If they don't know the answers, they make them up. That's what humans do.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Read up on Noam Chomsky's theory of generative grammar.
      The phsyiological mechanisms for speech are an evolutionary adaptation, but the specific dialects will vary based on environmental factors.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  17. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Also please explain how Neanderthals existed up until about 30,000 years ago (according to the fossil record, which btw does not have contemporaneous examples of modern human fossils right beside the Neanderthal ones) and then suddenly the Neanderthals disappeared. Please explain why it has recently been discovered that all races of mankind other than sub-Saharan Africans share a significant portion of their DNA with Neanderthals.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  18. JustPlainJoe

    If this report were that inner city schools had children who were ignorant of science, history and math, we would need national programs to remedy the situation. Yet this level of ignorance is tolerated as a religious difference. Perhaps we should see this like cigarette advertisement? Run ads on TV to correct the damage these people do to society in general.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  19. zip

    The biggest industry on earth is religion. And nothing is a greater source of human tragedy.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  20. Jerry

    This is sad. And they wonder why so many are turning away from religion. I believe in God, but am not so arogant as to tell a supreme being how to do things. What is really sad is that these same people talk about how backward Muslims are...

    January 11, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Pappy

      What is even more arrogant is telling a "supreme being" the way he said he did things isn't the way he actually did them.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:26 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.