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. Dana

    If only, now, they knew what Evolution was. It looks like CNN's religion blog doesn't either.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  2. nooneknows

    sigh... here comes the idiocracy

    January 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  3. Rob

    They preach you listen and become dillusional as they are. Why not read a little more and form your own ideas and believe in what you think is right.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  4. RMV

    Only in religious vocations can people of utter mediocrity rise to leadership levels. In any other profession these people would be fired for espousing such utter nonsense.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  5. zeigfeldf

    Pfffft. Shocker.

    The first rule for the truly religious is not to think too hard (or at all). It's forbidden.

    The second, perhaps a corollary to the first, is not to ask questions. (Children, in all innocence, ask shocking questions, and are hushed.) There are no answers.

    The third is to ignore or deny what you can see with your own eyes.

    Okay, maybe it's just one rule, but the common theme is IGNORANCE.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  6. Brett

    What do you think Jesus' named his pet dinosaur?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  7. Anyone who thinks...

    ...that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that there is no evidence for the evolution of our species and that Adam and Eve were literal people should be quarantined lest they spread their crazy to others. Let us isolate them in a Dark Ages-style theme park (since that appears to be what most of them wish for) where they can create all the scientific stagnation that they want with their silly beliefs and holy books, while the rest of us enjoy the benefits of things like modern medicine, space exploration, and rational thought.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      find it fascinating that truly intelligent people as you put it don't even have an adequate answer for origin of life from dead chemicals:) Also am fascinated that evolutionist want me to believe it took millions of years to evolve from an ape when bacteria can multiply in as little as twelve minutes. You need to be a bit more creative with your explanations

      January 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Science...

      ...will be the first to admit that not all is known, and that it seeks more definitive answers supported by evidence. This is the pursuit of science. Religion says "we already HAVE all the answers to the origin of our species and the universe...here, it's in this here Holy Book of Mythology!...oh, and the church needs a new roof so could you please put some money on this plate." crazyvermont, if you actually live in Vermont, your state (which has a high rate of irreligiosity relative to other states) doesn't deserve to have you floating around. They should ship you to Kansas to work at the Creationist Museum. If you don't understand the differences between bacteria and complex mammals, you should take a 10th grade biology class. In addition, if you think that the opposition to evolution DOES "have an answer" for the origin of our species, and that answer is Adam and Eve, then you need to be quarantined as well. Off to Dark Ages Land you go! Enjoy your myths and loin cloth.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • alan

      The creation of Adam and Eve may well be a literal...their direct offspring were Cain and Able...it may also be that God did create the first two humans and others but the biblical history only focused on Adam and Eve to provide the reference for creation and the subsequent fall of man through sin or from doing wrong, if you prefer.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      crazyvermont wrote, "I find it fascinating that truly intelligent people as you put it don't even have an adequate answer for origin of life from dead chemicals."

      First, the theory of evolution which you are so desperate to deny makes no reference to the orgin of life. Charles Darwin even referred to the issue as "rubbish."

      Second, there is no material difference between "live" and "dead" chemicals. The carbon in your body will behave exactly like carbon whether you are alive or dead. We have known this since the synthesis of urea by Wöhler in 1828.

      For a short outline of the origin of life on Earth, see my "Short Outline if the Origin of Life"

      January 11, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  8. Vincent

    4.8 Billion year wouldn't be sufficient time to evolve mankind by random chemical processes.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • guy

      Where do you get that information from? What mathematical model are you referring to? Are you maybe just repeating what someone said without any real understanding of natural selection – which, by the way, has been pretty well proven in the laboratory.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Uncle Fudd

      You base that conclusion on you in ability to conceive of large numbers?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Philosopher

      Anyone here ever heard of Anthony Flew? He is (at least) very smart, and arguably brilliant. He was an atheist for years, and eventually came to be a theist because of the calculated improbability of this having been produced randomly.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Tom

      But a skyfairy(that had to be created and that creator created, and that creator created, and so on and so and so on...) can do it with a twinkle of it's nose on a whim?...ROFL " I don't know" is the acceptable and intelligent answer when a gap in knowledge occurs...filling it in with religious lies and obfuscation is at the heart of christianity...the religion couldn't exist without the lies of faith,,,it would poof out of existence, never to be missed.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      4 billion years isn't long enough for evolution but six days is enough for God? And why six if God is God? Couldn't he have just snapped his proverbial hands? Why would God need six days if he has a microwave?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      Vincent, the age of the Earth is actually 4.5 billion years. The earliest known evidence of life is ~3.8 billion years old;

      Dalrymple, G. Brent
      2004 "Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and its Cosmic Surroundings" Stanford University Press

      Rosing, Minik T. and Robert Frei
      2004 "U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of >3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis" Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 217 237-244

      January 11, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @ "Philosopher" wrote, "He is (at least) very smart, and arguably brilliant."

      At the time that the late Antony Flew supposedly "found god" he was suffering from advanced senility. He could not even recall having written much of his so-called conversion book. And the "god" he referred to was more the god of Spinoza, than that of Luther. I recommend reading Mark Oppenheimer's November 4, 2007 article on Flew's "conversion."

      "The Turning of an Atheist"

      Odd that a "philosopher" would not know the limitations of Flew's conversion, or even that he was long dead.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  9. RobinMO

    Another example of religion's toxic effect on intelligence.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  10. Uncle Fudd

    To be against the fruits of science discovered by God's gift of reason is to reject God and his gifts. These "ministers" who reject the process of evolution of the species are no more "Christian" than my cat.

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

      Excellent point. It is unChristian to reject God's gifts... And they include the findings (findings, I say) of science.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  11. JasonFrmTampa

    TAX Church organizations making over $250,000 a year. Selling religion is a big business.These million dollar making businesses should pay up.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    January 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • JacklynD

      Really? Tell that to the little abused 4 year old child or the victims of genocide throughout the centuries. Or the losing football team.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Uncle Fudd

      It changes the one who prays, but it doesn't change the truth.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Helena Troy

      You pray for me; I'll think for you...

      January 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  13. Jon S

    Anything based on the bible is, by definition fallacious, since the bible is a book, not fact. So the entirety of christianity that doesn't believe in evolution is just deluded.

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

      Jon S, the Bible is Jesus' truth about life and the hereafter. If you ever read it, you'd know His truth. Christians know that true science and Jesus' truth are in perfect harmony.


      January 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom

      Correct...it's nothing but a piece of fiction from antiquity...useless..even in its day. And, I have read it, HeavenSent...it was hilarious

      January 11, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  14. Lardeau

    Another really interesting one is ' Which came first - the chicken or the egg ? '. Too deep for me !!!! Do we all spring from Trilobites - the FIRST living things in the Planet ??? WHO or WHAT brought the Trilobites here in the first place. It is ludicrous to think that ALL life came from Trilobites. There was a creator of life somewhere in the cosmos that brought everything here. Must have been GOD. Then when everything was rollin' good through evolution HE gave the Planet HIS best shot .. the pure People strain .. NOT evolved from apes. Masters of all the other life here when GOT brought multiple Adams here .. all made up nice and ready to procreate. DEEP DEEP stuff !!!!!

    January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Uncle Fudd

      Some call it Deep Stuff, others Deep Feces. It's such a pitth when people reach adulthood physically but cling to the thought processes of toddlers.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • myself

      The egg came first. Dinosaurs laid eggs and birds came later.

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

      myself, God said differently.

      Genesis 1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl [that] may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

      Genesis 1:21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.

      Genesis 1:22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

      To be fruitful and multiply means they were created complete.


      January 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  15. Big Easy in New Orleans

    When the proof is staring them right in the face, they just are too stupid to realize what is actually fact vs. faith.

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

      Incidentally, what is the proof?

      January 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Uncle Fudd

      Macro evolution is an observed process.

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

      And Microevolution is all around us.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Polemos

      @Uncle Fudd: Any evidence of speciation beyond crickets and frogs? In particular, the human species.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  16. Rufoscoe

    Hooo boy. This is Belief Blog – a blog about belief, yeah? I don't hear much from the believers, on a subject that they are deeply vested in. On the other hand, go to the CNN article on the 'God Particle'. A science article no less. You cannot get a word in edgewise for all the religious clap trap in that articles posts. I guess with a 75% favorable vote in the leadership and 40% in those led, they feel OK leaving their castle unguarded and storming the bastions of hard science, well "Have fun storming the castle!"

    January 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  17. Erick

    7 in 10 pastors are idiots.

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

      Given that deep and profound logic, so are 70 percent (that's 7 of 10) liberals, democrats, republicans, people posting in many of these diatribes.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  18. Pat

    Of course they do, accepting it wouldn't make them any money and it also wouldn't provide a place for ignorant people to congregate every week.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  19. J R Brown

    As an atheist, it's hard for me to disparage one group for their beliefs over another...one group thinks the earth is 6000 years old while another thinks is millions and millions of year old. Neither has anything more than conjecture to back up their position...there certainly weren't witnesses to the "beginnings" of man or the earth. Scientists sometimes forget that theories are not facts, no matter how solid they appear. At one time, scientists thought the world was flat...remember?

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

      And yet there is evidence of trees older than 6000 years.... scientific theory is not based on conjecture... but evidence... saying that no one was there to see the creation discounts the evidence to the contrary... I don't believe you're an atheist... to say that no one was there flies in the face of the evidence... and you may as well say that we shouldn't convict murderers based on evidence

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

      Scientists have landed on Mars. I have yet to witness anyone rising from the dead.

      January 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • To Eternity

      Uh, I wouldn't call those people who believe the earth was flat "scientists."

      And as for "no evidence" as to the Earth's age. Do you dispute the science behind carbon dating? Is that a sham? Seems to suggest to that atoms are fake since I can't SEE them.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  20. Peter

    They would have denied the world is round if they didn't see the satellite images from above. They should just accept what God is capable of doing. Instead, they cloud their judgement by reading the bible literally.

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

      Peter, apparently, you've never read Isaiah 40:22

      "It is he that sitteth upon the CIRCLE OF THE EARTH."

      How did Isaiah know in 700 B.C. the earth is round?


      January 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Helena Troy

      In reply to "HeavenSent": a circle is a two-dimensional shape, while the earth is a sphere. I can't see that the verse you provide proves that Isaiah understood the the earth to be a sphere...

      January 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Helena, you can babble semantics all day long, Fact, the scientists of the time went to find out if God's word was true and they've been proving His truth to this day.


      January 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      HeavenSent, the "circle" you speak of is the Hebrew word chuwg, which refers to the arch or vault of the sky.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 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.