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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. nnylf

    I am a Christian that has a theological degree and I have to say the biggest beef I have with the Christian education and thier thought process on Evolution is that they have such a closed mind. Wheaton College is one of the only Christian higher education establishiments that embraces the idea of evolution... I believe in evolution and always will. How could you not?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Brian

      Notre Dame and Boston College don't count?

      January 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      My question is how do you believe in evolution? It is as you say.....a leap of faith at best:)

      January 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • JacklynD

      I went to Catholic schools – Dominican nuns and we were taught evolution. God created the universe and the billions of years of evolution, etc.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Erisian

      Ew! I want to know if crazyvermont believes the earth revolves around the sun! This "theory" is accepted as the equivalent of evolution in the scientific community but has also been dismissed by the church as heretical.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  2. mike from iowa

    this is why we can't have evangalists in politics, they belong in the stone ages, which is where they want to keep society.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  3. Atheists pretend they understand science!

    It is just a facade of theirs. In reality they have no clue.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Tony

      It must feel good to pretend they understand everything scientific.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Frank

      Looks at these pathetic posts by them, not one here has a clue about evolution and yet wax eloquent on the topic as if evolution is a given.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Mirjam

      it's all related, as you and I are:

      http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-evolution-timeline-interactive

      January 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Frank

      Only 73% of the Pastors agreed, the rest 27% are not yet educated on what the real facts are around Evolution?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Well, I find it ironic that those who are most opposed to evolution have never given it a try.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  4. Erisian

    How many believe Galileo's heretical argument that the earth is round?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • sharoom

      OMG, BURN THE WITCH!

      January 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Philosopher

      Ooh, Erisian. Wrong teaching. Galileo defended heliocentrism. Every educated person from the time of the ancient Greeks has known that the earth is spherical. (If you're going to astound us with your brilliance, you may want to begin by getting the facts right.)

      January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Philosopher, heliocentrism is not the idea that the Earth is round. It's the idea that the sun revolves around the Earth.

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

      I'm joking, of course. Heliocentrism is the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  5. LinCA

    "Evolution" is a scientific theory.
    "Creationism" or "intelligent design" are not theories. They are unsupported hypotheses.

    If you are interested in learning more about the difference, a nice introduction can be found here:
    http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistry101/a/lawtheory.htm

    January 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      Have researched this for years and I find it fascinating you and many others claim this is a scientific theory, There are absolute holes in "this theory" that science can never explain

      January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • LinCA

      @crazyvermont

      You said, "Have researched this for years and I find it fascinating you and many others claim this is a scientific theory, There are absolute holes in "this theory" that science can never explain"
      Whether there are "holes" in this theory, or not, is largely irrelevant. Just because we don't know the entire story, doesn't mean that what we do know is of less value. A theory supported by evidence, is infinitely more valuable than a fairy tale that happens to fit your delusion.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      A theory isn't a fact, but it's not a lack of facts, either. It's a paradigm, a model, that explains the facts. Evolution is the best explanation for the data, certainly a better one than the idea that some guy in a cloud spoke into his iPhone and the "Heavens and the Earth" were zapped into existence.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  6. Brett

    Religion is dying. Goodbye, you won't be missed.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  7. Fuyuko

    This does not suprise me.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  8. Oh please

    This is depressing, especially the young-earth creationists. Did they put their fingers in their ears and shout "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" during every science class they took?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  9. m

    This is why the country has as much damage as it does in 2012. Just look at the idiots preaching the end of the world last May. When it didn't happen based "bad math". Religion is the root of all stupidity. The amount of money and time wasted could change the world for the better. Yet, supposedly intelligent people listen to someone tell them the world is only 6000 years old when Chinese history is nearly that old on it's own.

    Until religion goes away, this country and this planet will always be limited in it's potential.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  10. John

    I'd be curious to know who the polling organization counted as "Protestant pastors". This is not reflective at all of those with whom I'm familiar in Lutheran, Episcopal, UCC, Presbyterian and other liberal protestant denominations.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      some people drive a DENALI, but you appear to drive in DENIAL

      January 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Baptists ran the poll. Does that tell you anything?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  11. db

    Ironic. People will believe in human evolution, even though there is no definitive proof (no "missing link" has ever been found), yet the same people will dismiss religion because it cannot be proven.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Oh please

      There is PLENTY of proof. Creationists cling to the idea that a missing link is half human, half ape and that indicates a stunning lack of understanding the theory. But I guess if you understood the theory you'd have to admit it was correct and we can't have that.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • JacklynD

      Do you need a neon sign? Dinosaurs, saber toothed tigers, cave drawings, human remains? What part of it eludes you?

      January 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Erisian

      Only a fool is certain.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      right, and can you PROVE the earth goes around the sun? Until it's proven, you'll prefer to believe what your fairy tales and evil corrupt leaders claim that god tells them.

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

      NO MISSING LINK HAS BEEN FOUND. This is a fact.

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

      You're really missing the point.
      Evolution is based on real facts, real science. It's called a "theory" because it's the best explanation so far that doesn't contradict the facts.
      Religion, on the other hand, is not even a "theory"; it is make-believe stuff from books written and re-written long ago that have little or no basis in fact.

      Using your logic, I can say we were created by my invisible pink unicorn, and you can't 'prove" I'm wrong; therefore, I must be right.
      The problem is no one can prove a negative (i.e., prove there isn't a god). The burden of proof is on the believers, and guess what? No proof.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Mirjam

      http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-evolution-timeline-interactive

      January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Alinnc

      There is ample fossil evidence of evolving species leading up to humans. There is also clear evidence that the earth is way over 6,000 years old, including fossils of humans dated well over 6,000 years ago. Of course, I'm sure you don't agree with the science behind any of this.

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

      db, your assertion is absolutely false. So-called "missing links" have been found. In fact, more of them have been found than there are ignorant people that refute that any have been found. I take it, if shown one of these missing links, you'd become a "god of the gaps" type, who rather than acknowledging the intermediate similarities, you'd posit that there are now twice as many links to be filled; one before, and one after the newly presented specimen. Steady progression can be VERY clearly seen in many lines of speciation. They can be seen in fossils. They can be seen in DNA. Evolution can and has been observed directly, albeit in smaller increments than monkey-to-human. Evolution can even be controlled by us as evidenced by the vast array of dog breeds. You know that a wolf and a chihuahua are the same species? You can't see that type of change, achieved after only approx. 200 years and tell me that it's impossible to believe that humans descended from apes. Read a book.....besides the Bible, and besides that Intelligent Design drivel which is simply rebranded Creationism.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Alinnc

      By the way, I have a family portrait of the Jones family, dated 1,800,365 BC clearly showing the missing link. Greatgrandma looks kind of like Cheetah, grannie's a little less hairy and more erect, mom could use a razor, but the baby's a real cute little girl.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • ADB

      Nooneknows: The Flying Spaghetti Monster is not amused... S/He takes a dim view of pink unicorns usurping His/er prerogatives.

      But face it, you are arguing with people who are wilfully ignorant and arrogantly proud to be so. These are also the same extremist, right-wing churches from whence come attacks on a woman's right to choose supported by the absurdist notion that a zygote is a person; who deny global climate change because it's not found in their badly corrupted and vulgar translations of the works of historical Christianity; who still assert a 'Manifest Destiny' in subjugating 'lesser races'; and are the enfolding bosom that protects their most corrupt politicians, the Ku Klux Klan, and other ministries of hate. Their behavior is doubly dangerous because it's predicated on one hand holding the literalist sacred text and the other holding the sacred firearm of choice, and offering to use one in defense of the other. They are the enervating dark side of the United States of America.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      I think people who dismiss evolution, on the basis of a "missing link" missing, are – perhaps – the missing link they complain they can't find. Evolution doesn't have to identify the "missing link." It's a theory. Theories are models, paradigms that best explain the data. Where, after all these years, data pops up to confirm any links at all, that's a good thing, but no scientific theory has to fill every gap. Evolution has earned its place, as the dominant explanation, because of the vast amount of data supporting it. Honestly, I don't see any evidence – anywhere – that supports Genesis.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Eye Of The Sun

      *** db

      NO MISSING LINK HAS BEEN FOUND. This is a fact.

      You wont find that link.
      Our DNA has been tampered with.
      We went directly to what we are now.
      We are either being "helped",
      or we are being "manipulated".
      Take your pick.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  12. Tom Adams

    What would you expect from mostly uneducated preachers. Most evangelical preachers either didn't go to college or went to a school that doesn't understand science and prefers to believe in fables written by uneducated men in tents when no one knew anything about the world.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  13. Erik

    What can be said about this other than ~face palm~. Seriously, these people get to vote like the rest of us... that's terrifying.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  14. john

    Evolution and christianity are not mutually exclusive. God could have "set the ball in motion".

    January 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      haha, ya god went out of his way to hide himself from us, then delivered his 'word' through mysticism, and set it up so a choic between flying in clouds and burning for all eternity rests on believing in 'him'. what a dork

      January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Brett

      Everyone knows Jesus had a pet dinosaur.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Grog Says

      Man is speck in big universe.
      Man no understand universe.
      Man create god to understand universe.
      Universe no care,
      It just does what it does.

      Grog have headache.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  15. Emperor Vadik, CA

    4 out of 7 pastors abuse kids...

    ...and that Christian God seems to forgive them that...

    ...because they keep doing it over and over and over and over...

    January 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  16. Mr. Bretz

    I can't say I am surprised but sadden by such a stupid response.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  17. Philosopher

    Odd. Most of these posts are pure invective. I didn't encounter many arguments proving that it is unreasonable to hold things by faith. Odd, too, that most posters (likely) hold what they hold about science by virtue of believing what others (scientists) have said, not empirically (I.e., through the scientific method itself).

    January 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • mike from iowa

      ya, like i don't believe in gravity, i firmly believe the hammer is going to float the next time i drop it. I'm not try number 4 million six hundred sevety-two thousand three hundred and twelve, but i won't quit believeing, because A) I'm a Christian, and B) I'd be to dumbstruck to admit I'd be wrong about believing that my whole life and that I wasted my whole life believing it and looking like an idiot.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      If you want to exercise faith in a bronze-age story, because you don't have any alternative, by all means, exercise away. But the moment the data starts showing you a better way, it would be blind faith and unreasonable denial to not confront that data head-on. If you want to believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old, you should have been born before they started finding dinosaur bones.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  18. Andrew

    Christians are so unbelievably ignorant. It is a wonder anyone hires them – how can they be trusted to stay within the plane of reality throughout the day?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  19. JacklynD

    I am not split on the idea that the churches in this country should no longer be tax exempt. Politics and religion and school policies are crossing paths too many ways and too many times. How much money have we spent prosecuting and investigating pedophiles and defending our lives in courts from fundamentalist extremism?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Brett

      I agree with your statement. Churches are businesses selling an invisible product.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  20. tobias

    so now we know that 7 out of 10 pastors are stupid.

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

      I'm gonna go 10 out of 10...

      January 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Polemos

      It's shameful that you would use that word to describe someone whose opinion differs from your own. For instance, I'm willing to accept the idea that adaptation occurs within certain biological forms, because we have some evidence in support of it. However, we have absolutely no evidence that human beings evolved from entirely different species. To the extent Evolutionary Theory has anything to say about the biological history of man, it is all supposition. There simply is no directly observable proof that can substantiate that claim.

      What's "stupid" is to appeal to a segment of the scientific community in an attempt to overawe those who remain skeptical of some of the claims put forward by those who fully embrace Evolutionary Theory.

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

      Tobias: In fairness, don't over generalize. Say instead that 7 of 10 of the Southern Baptist Convention pastors have demonstrated fundamental ignorance, and that the remaining 30% are suspect because they're still hanging around with the nitwits...

      January 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Polemos, where did you get the gill slits you had during your early development in the womb? Why do you have the beginnings of a tail? Why do you have toenails if you don't need them to walk upright? Why do you have some ability to flare your nostrils and why are they turned downward?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:50 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.