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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 • Evangelical • Science

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soundoff (6,504 Responses)
  1. Tim

    The reason that so many people are confused around this issue is due to the 6,000 years old misconception. If you read "Earth's Earliest Ages" by Pember he shows how the bible is not 6,000 years old but potentially the millions of years that scienctists believe. The key to this mis information is actually found in the very beginning of the bible and the gap of time between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2.

    January 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • OMG

      LMAO – the excuses Christians come up with is hysterical.

      January 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tim

      For the invisible things of Him, both His eternal power and divine characteristics, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being perceived by the things made, so that they would be without excuse; Because though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or thank Him, but rather became vain in their reasonings, and their heart, lacking understanding, was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:20-22

      January 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • jason

      GOOD Science cannot, DOES NOT, ask or answer questions about Faith, Religion and/or God. These things cannot be measured. Likewise, individuals with STRONG Faith need not be shaken or afraid of what Science discovers. Adding a 3rd element (discipline) really shakes things up! If we look at Logic/Persuasion/Valid Argumentation, we know not to formulate any premise based on anything highly Subjective. Things like Religion, Art and Morals are what a group of individuals say they are. NO MORE and NO LESS.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • momoya

      I don't think that's the cause of much confusion, Tim. On the whole, christians are very adept at rationalizing their preferences as tolerable within the matrix of their belief. Most can adopt any point of view whatsoever, scientific or not, peaceful or violent, merciful or vengeful, whatever.. and fit it just fine into their particular style of belief.

      January 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Genesis 1: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

      You are reading things into your bible that are not there. Plus you ignore the fact that the earth was not created before any stars.

      By the way, it's BILLIONS of years, not millions. You missed it by an order of magnitude.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  2. Bumper

    momoya,

    YOU are very boring and don't know anything about theology or the sciences!! I bet you are at home now sipping on a diet soda, eating a box of chocolates and watching soap operas. Also, contradiction is your middle name. Just a few days ago, you called me a nice person to hang out with, and now I'm boring.

    At least I've attempted to sail my ship in the midst of great critique, but I speak the truth. Nobody ever wants to hear the truth.

    January 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Tonus

      @ Bumper: Have you written any books? You seem like a very articulate individual who has a plethora of opinions & lots to say. If you haven't written any books maybe you should because you pretty much almost wrote one on this blog spot alone & you're just wasting time. If you're looking for everybody on here to agree with everything you say then you're preaching to a wall. This planet is inhabited predominantly by humans & every single individual is different with different backrounds, beliefs, thoughts, physical appearance, etc. It's not about what we believe or don't believe; it's how we behave & treat others. You're just arguing with everyone (in your mind you're just simply speaking your mind) & assuming way too much & repeating nonsense (i.e. diagnosing female behavior, descrediting everything not said by you, talking about Darwin over & over again (the guy lived hundreds of years ago & you're basing your information on him which means your basing your sceientific analysis on old research, etc.)). I could go on & on, but unlike you I'm just going to post one comment & get on with my life because I have one. Maybe you should find your own.......unless CNN.com is your life. Then have a merry time! Peace.

      January 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • momoya

      You remember incorrectly and pride your opinions over genuine, honest inquiry, but you articulate those facts a bit more eloquently than expected for one of your belief. but overall.... yawn.

      January 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  3. Bumper (in Spirit and Truth)

    DaveC,

    Once again, Nope. Nice try though.

    January 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  4. Bumper (in Spirit and Truth)

    Ladonna,

    Oh boy, Oh, man, what you describe in your posting is not described by sociology or evolution, but spiritual warfare. Some people allow themselves to succomb to the weaker and corrosive power of el diablo.

    January 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  5. Bumper (in Spirit and Truth)

    My refutation of Dawin's theory is not Ad hominem. I've discredited his theory by dismantling the corner stone of Natural selection, and not Darwin himself.

    Many of you atheists out there are suffering from 'mind projection fallacy".

    January 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      By attempting to dismantle natural selection, you've done nothing but expose your own ignorance of basic scientific principles

      Also, when someone asks for scientifically backed evidence to support your claims, pointing them to your blog really isn't what they're looking for. But then you'd actually have to understand what science is about to know that.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • nepawoods

      The cornerstone of natural selection is that some individuals have traits that make it more likely they'll reproduce than others. I'd like to se how you've dismantled that.

      January 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • momoya

      that's a good joke, Nepa!!

      January 23, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bumper
      Natural Selection is only 1 of the 5 laws in the theory of evolution.
      1) Evolution as such.
      This is the understanding that the world is not constant, nor recently created, nor cycling, but is changing; and that the types of enti.ties that live on it also change.
      2) Common descent
      This is the understanding that every group of living enti.ties that we know of on this planet descended from a common ancestor.
      3) Multiplication of species
      This is the understanding that species either split into or bud off other species, often through the geographical isolation of a founder species.
      4) Gradualism
      This is the understanding that changes take place through the gradual change of population rather than the sudden production of new individuals.
      5) Natural selection
      This is the understanding that individuals in every generation are different from one another, or, at least some of them are. In every generation some individuals survive and reproduce better than others. Their genes multiply.

      So how exactly have you disproven these laws?

      January 24, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  6. relians

    70% of pastors disregard evolution, however 100% of them lie and abuse children. "threatening a kid with a non-existent hell is child abuse"

    January 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  7. Bumper

    momoya,

    Your gender is not important. You've used a lot of inductive evidential logic in forming your arguments. This tends to be more of a female characteristic. Also, when flirting allegations were leveled against you, the response I got was that of a "protected" individual as opposed to "protector". Your family cares about you and perhaps there was a hint of Darwinian sociology going on there. Anyway, there was a typo in my last posting big deal. It does not change my point. You really should look at the passage in Matthew and Job. The one in Matthew relates to when Jesus was confronted by non-believers that had not seen any of his divine healing or miracles. They wanted to Jesus to give them a definite sign. As we know, Jesus did not play into this trap. These individuals had no faith in His ability to do anything and were in a state of Spiritual blindness. Jesus' response to them made them only further harden their hearts. The book of Job also contains some useful information in dealing with some of the complexities of life. Why Hosea and Jeremiah? You seem to be saying that you've dismissed God and the Bible based on your own evidential logic that is counter to your designer belief system. I don't think this is true. If you spend many years reading and studying the Bible, what made you stop? Did you have some awful or traumatic event in life that caused you to discredit God's word?

    January 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • momoya

      You assume way too much. I find that many self-righteous ego-tripping christians act similarly. I continue to study the bible and I probably always will. I dismiss the bible's god based on the bible's own principles. The main thing that discredit's the bible as "god's word" is the bible. It fails to achieve what so many people believe it completes.

      But you don't care about what I say or what anyone else says. You're going to go right on continuing in your ignorance despite the many corrections that you've received here–interestingly, from those individuals that you ridicule and ignore. Enjoy your empty boasts; they're all you have. As christians go, you're par for the course, and about as boring.

      January 23, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  8. Sadie

    One day, every knee will bow, and acknowledge God as the Creator.

    January 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • northern light

      "One day, every knee will bow, and acknowledge God as the Creator."

      This creator you people rave on about is actually .......yourselves... creating imaginary friends.
      Ah yes religion ...the only human endeavor that allows people to talk to themselves without others thinking they are raving mad.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • nepawoods

      ... and God will say "Darwin was right".

      January 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  9. Bumper

    momoya is both atheistic and hedonistic. I don't equate the two, however, I question what would keep an atheist from hedonism.
    God did not create religion. Don't put that one on me. I didn't say that. God's inspired word contains important theology, that should not be overlooked. Yes, children ask good questions, but they are lacking in knowledge, wisdom and substance. The questions that momoya asks are all answered in the Biblical text. If she had read the Bible, she would know this as fact. In particular, she should read the book of Job and the Gospel of Matthew. Don't just read to "get through" the material, but read for understanding and make use of guide reference material too. Skip Revelations and Genesis for now. Those books are very difficult and require a scholarly level of understanding to get it right. Ordinary folks (not theologians) have been asking the same exact questions that she asks for may hundreds of years and you can take comfort in knowing that there are Biblical answers to these questions. From a scientific perspective, I've already proved why Darwin's theory is false and explained other scientific possibilities. If you'd like to know, just read my blog postings.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • bobcat

      So house cats and vaccines do not exist? To disprove evolution would requre you to disavow 400 years of scientific study.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Bumper

      Complex adaptation is not false, but Darwin'd theory of evolution, as proposed by himself, is false

      January 23, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Primewonk

      "Complex adaptation is not false, but Darwin'd theory of evolution, as proposed by himself, is false"

      You keep saying this. Yet you refuse to show the scientific research that falsifies ToE. I wonder why you keep doing this?

      January 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • HellBent

      Perhaps Bumper is trying to say that Darwin was wrong in the way that Newton was wrong. Gravity exists, but Newton didn't have everything correct. Doesn't mean that gravity is wrong or that Newton's laws still aren't applicable for the right scenarios

      January 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Bumper,

      You are as hedonistic as the next guy.

      Most humans are psychologically set up to seek pleasure and eschew pain. Even masochists get pleasure from pain.

      You are getting immense pleasure from thu-mping your Bible and you revel in your self-righteousness. You are getting pleasure in fantasizing your afterlife of eternal bliss.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Bumper

      Darwin didn't propose his idea 400 years ago.
      Newton's stuff didn't describe the microscopic world, but it was fixed up with
      relativity. However, I have elevated Newton because he used the deductive method to formulate his ideas.
      In contrast, Darwin used the inductive method for his theory. In essence, it was both a false theory and paradigm.
      He claimed that his evolution and natural selection process was supposed to be a slow and gradual process, but too many counter examples have been found in nature. Also, when you include other disciplines such as physical and computational sciences, all hell breaks loose on this idea. More generally, a correct theory will include fast+slow processes, micro+macro, and simple+complex adaptive processes. As you point out, this does not discredit biology discoveries (vaccines, etc...) that have been made over the past 100 years or so. I would just encourage biologists to NOT say that their ideas point to Darwin's natural selection because it is a false umbrella.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • momoya

      Bumper, why do you claim to know my gender and my level of biblical education? You don't seem to be paying very close attention to reality. You've not disproved anything... at all... having to do with evolution. You've just demonstrated your lack of understanding of evolution's most basic principles.

      I explained to you that I have spent decades STUDYING the bible. I'm not interested in proving to you the years I spent in scholarly study of Job or Matthew much less Genesis and Revelation. You're too arrogant to be surprised if you found out the truth.

      And there's no "S" on the end of "Revelation." But you're the average Christian who doesn't know that or much else about your bible. And if you really absorbed my posts here, or my main arguments, you'd suggest two separate passages in Hosea and one in Jeremiah. You think you're barking loudly but you've run in circles so much, here, that the chain of your religion has chocked off the sound in your throat as it keeps you pitifully pinned to one spout. Is this recent, pitiful croaking all you're able to do, now?

      January 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Bumper,

      Isaac Newton was also very heavily into the occult - alchemy and numerology - perhaps even more so than the scientific principles for which he is noted.

      Only the principles which have been proven scientifically to be correct are the ones for which he is remembered.

      It seems as if you are an inveterate hero worshipper and think that everyone else is too. Get over it. Nobody worships Darwin, nor hangs on his every word.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "From a scientific perspective, I've already proved why Darwin's theory is false and explained other scientific possibilities. If you'd like to know, just read my blog postings."
      Sorry, which postings exactly? There are 60 page now.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Tabby

      God made animals and humans with the ability to adapt and evolve to ensure their survival. To deny adaptation and evolution, as proven by DNA mutations, is to deny HIM. Satan has a hold on you! You are going to HELL!

      January 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Bumper

      Tabby,

      You must be responding to a different blog posting. Enough Said.

      January 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • DaveC

      Bumper appears to have an incomplete understanding of "theory", as well as what Newton and others did. Newton was the first to try to formalize and understand gravity. He got the effects and some of the physical laws right, but could not explain how it occurs. However, although Newton (or for that matter any one else) could not completely explain the mechanisms involved in gravity doesn't mean either he was wrong or that gravity doesn't exist. Gravity is a fact, although we still don't fully understand it and have only indirect evidence that our prevailing postulated mechanism is correct. Similarly, evolution is a fact. There is an enormous body of evidence that shows that life forms have continued to change and evolve dramatically throughout Earth's historn. So in that regard Darwin was just like Newton. He observed evolution (i.e., through empirical evidence) and tried to formalize and understand evolutionary processes. Although he may be wrong about the mechanism (i.e., Natural Selection), he is correct in the basic premise: life forms change and adapt. At this point the discussion is not whether or not evolution occurs, but how it occurs (just like with gravity). There are a lot of different ideas besides Natural Selection, with the possibility that some (many) of the postulated processes may all contribute to evolution.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • northern light

      "Those books are very difficult and require a scholarly level of understanding to get it right"

      Well if an all seeing all knowing god is supposed to have written the Torah, Bible and multiple other faith texts....why are they in need of "scholars" to interpret them?......If he/she/it really wanted to "reach" the little people he\she\it is supposed to have created and so desperately needs worship from ................then why not a "Dick and Jane" version ?

      The most 'reasoned' and logical answer to the above is ......people and priests invented the gods.
      As Napoleon said
      "Religion.....what a wonderful way to control the masses"

      January 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  10. Jon

    What separates man from God is education. Given the proper education, one is more likely to believe his or her education if it is repeated through out society and thus seen as a cultural moral obligation. Education when they are young as well as through out their lives to reinforce the perception adds to the strong assimilation of the belief. A deeper bond to god is created when beliefs are practiced among like believing peers as in schools and churches so as to be legitimized as truths not fully understandable but accepted by the group. The truth of god can be more clearly seen by the educated: Illusory Self-empowerment over a world we can not grasp.

    January 23, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • Primewonk

      There is actually a negative corellation between education level and religiousocity. the more education you have, the less likely you are to believe in a god.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  11. Robert Yarush

    A phone survey.... hmmm... how scientific.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  12. Robert Yarush

    Now why would we expect that any of these pastors would agree with evolution??

    January 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • J.Wylie

      Want to believe in God? Visit apesantsandancestors.com

      January 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Bill

      These pastors should contact the Vatican and get and education on the age of the earth and evolution as reality.

      January 23, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  13. atheism sanity

    Goodness, gracious a bunch of crackpot atheists theorizing over evolution!

    January 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • erik

      That would be atheism sanity

      January 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      O, the sanity of it all! Rationality running amok.

      January 22, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • J.Wylie

      Want to believe in God? See my blog:

      January 23, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  14. Eric G

    Ok, enough. Believers, you lost this round. Let it go. Move on to something that science has not proven yet.

    January 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  15. False Dichotomy

    Science teaches us how to build airplanes; religion convinces us to slam them into crowded buildings.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • momoya

      Science contains within itself the method for proving its probabilities. Religion contains within itself the method for bullying the ignorant.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • James Holbrook

      They fully understand the implications of accepting evolution. It is very difficult / impossible to accept genetics and inheritance while remaining a deist.

      If traits are passed from generation to generation and (in geologic time) mutations occur, then you are inevitably led to the conclusion that we are somewhat different that the ones that came before us and they were different than what came before them.

      If you follow the trail and the evidence back, It leads to a very different garden. I'm surprised that so many preachers support it.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  16. momoya

    @Turtlemom

    Excellent posts. Believers can't answer the simple questions of children that highlight the unreasonable propositions of the faith. Any unbrainswashed child can point out the silliness of many of the bible's claims.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • BD

      The article should be corrected.

      It summarizes:
      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 second sentence should be corrected to: "Some evolutionists say the earth . . . ."
      Reason: Not all scientists believe in the 4.5 billion years. Some actually are young earthers, and some have other theories of origins.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • momoya

      This article isn't about the YEC movement, though. The polling was of the souther baptists, not just one crackpot movement. It's about the disturbing fact that so many pastors refuse to believe in the facts detailed by the science of evolution.

      January 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @BD,
      How about, "the vast majority of scientists..." or "the scientific consensus is..." or "every major scientific organization..." or "the scientific evidence shows..."?

      January 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • mandarax

      BD: A survey of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that 99.8% of members accept evolution. That means 0.02% don't. I would imagine far less than that believe the earth is 6,000 years old. I don't think any revisions to the statement that scientists say the earth is around 4.5 billion years old are necessary. It's an accurate statement.

      January 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • J.Wylie

      Want to believe in God? Visit apesantsandancestors.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  17. seadoc73

    Misleading ! Misleading ! These Pastors are all, or mostly all Baptists.
    The authors imply that these "Pastors" know God's Plan. That's blasphemy.
    To to say one knows God's plan sets one EQUAL to God. No human can know God's plan, only God himself. We should be humble enough to search for God's plan, but can never know it perfectly. Baptists are certainly not humble people.
    Try a polling of United Methodists, or Lutherans, or Episcopalians and then report the numbers.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • ___.__

      There is no god.

      Please provide reasonable evidence to suggest otherwise. (You will be the first person in the world to do so)

      January 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  18. momoya

    Bumper, I really wish that I hadn't read the bible as many times as I have. I wish that I hadn't wasted the time on it. However, studying it for the multiple decades that I did, it became clearer and clearer that it was a book of collected myths. There are no OBJECTIVE methods by which we can show the bible to be any more a book of "truth" than any other book. It contradicts itself and iits god is untenable as the multiplicity of denominations demonstrate. You can't answer sensible questions put forth to you, so you decide to keep on assuming you are right, despite the fact, and preach down to people rather than discuss their honest questions that expose your faulty reasoning. You're a good sheep, go back to grazing and quit pretending that you can assemble the facts of science into a pile that makes your book look good. It's obvious that you can't.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  19. J

    Denying science, mans only way to understand the objective world, is dangerous. More than dangerous, you must explain or findings in light of your belief or change your belief. There's no reason to believe the world was create 6000 years ago, the bible is not written that poorly.

    If a priest can't explain the findings of cave men, cave paintings, bones etc, we are all living in a primitive world that reufuses to progress However men spent the last thousand years canonizing, thinking, why do we stop now???

    January 22, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  20. Ladonna

    Bumper:
    First off, you are starting out your argument with an unsubstantiated assertion. "we are endowed with free will agency by god". "our thoughts and actions are not the direct workings of god". I agree with you that our thoughts and actions are not the direct workings of god because I don't believe in God. However, you cannot explain why one person is more "hot headed" than another. No human is perfect, but you have not explained why one person commits murder or tortures animals and the other does not. If we were created by your God on equal footing with equal souls with good emotion then you cannot account with "free will agency" why one chooses more good actions while another chooses more "bad' actions. However, nature, evolution, and sociology explains it perfectly. Your explanation is very very flawed. If a "God" creates souls then he is responsible for the soul he creates. No one asks to be created. If all souls created by a god start out on equal footing then we would all be the same. In order to account for variances and differences within people's actions then your God would have to create each soul differently which would make him responsible for who gets the good soul and who gets the bad one. We already know that people are born with different levels of intelligence. Did you God do that too? Sorry sir, if a human scientist genetically engineered a horrendous vicious monster. The only one to blame would be the scientist for the monster did not have the freewill to choose whether or not he is to exist nor the nature of his existence. The created monster is free from blame.

    January 22, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • momoya

      Ladonna,

      Bumper tries to argue logically, but then he is met with arguments from sensible people (like you) who show how his reasoning is wrong in a point or other. After than he just reverts to preaching his beliefs as if they are fact and does not converse or address any of the points that show his arguments to be wrong. Just read his past posts and replies. A page or two will do.

      January 22, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Bumper (in Spirit and Truth)

      Ladonna,

      Oh boy, what you describe in your posting is not described by sociology or evolution, but spiritual warfare. Some people allow themselves to succomb to the weaker and corrosive power of el diablo.

      January 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
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