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. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    Why is it that creationists seem to care more about what one book says about creation than they do about creation itself? Scientists don't interpret the book, they go out and interpret what actual creation tells us.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Yes, science agrees with Jesus. Sperm + egg(s) = to be fruitful and multiply.


      January 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Clarify

      Thankfully, there are many creationist scientists who do go out and interpret what creation says. They see the intricate workings and creatures as manifestations of God's incredible greatness. If you don't want God to exist, you can see whatever you want in creation. Science still cannot determine life's origins and the holes in evolution are continually being revealed (even by secular scientists).

      January 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  2. Harv

    One either believes in God or not believes in God.

    Evolution is a matter of understanding. If one does not understand evolution, one is either intellectually lazy or intellectually dishonest.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Eric G

      I hope it is dishonesty. I just cant stand the thought of that many uneducated people being allowed to vote.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • clearfog

      What about plain old fashioned stupid?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      As a former professor of psychiatry, I say we can never rule out insanity.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  3. Eric G

    Stupid people make me chuckle.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • clearfog

      Me too. But they scare me too.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      They are not so funny when they own guns and congress creatures.

      January 11, 2012 at 2:59 am |
  4. Paul

    7 in 10 religious leaders prefer religious explanations. Uh huh. You needed a poll for this?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • adam

      So, 7 out of 10 pastors are complete idiots. Remember this people when you send you kids to a religious school.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  5. RillyKewl

    This is a humongous failure in our education system. Unbelievable!
    Worse still, these people speak to roomfuls of others who look up to these idi0ts.
    Its a crisis in our ability to disseminate information properly and accurately.
    This survey ought to shame us all.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • clearfog

      Shame is a thought that came to me too. The rest of the civilized world must be laughing at us. The only thing I can do is make it quite clear that the "us" part does not include me or others who accept science as the ultimate truth.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  6. Dan

    Ah, the paradox of fundies. One way to learn about someone or something is to study what they've created. Well, if god created the universe, and science is basically the study of the universe and how it works, why do fundies hate science?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Eric G

      In all of our scientific understanding of the universe, all of the explainations uncovered by verified evidence, their god is not a necessary variable or constant.

      That is why they hate scientific understanding...... It works just fine without god.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Eric

      I read this story about (I forget the exact details) a great scientist who wrote an exhaustive treatise on astronomy in (I think) France in the (I think) 17th or 18th century. He presented it to his king, who read it and asked why there was no mention of God in this very long and in-depth book. The scientists answer was "because, your majesty, it does not need it." This is why fundies don't like science. Peer reviewed science and the scientific method are the best methods mankind has ever devised for ascertaining truth. The more people realize this, and reject the (in comparison) fairy tale explanations of how the universe operates offered by their priests, clerics, etc., the less power and influence these religious leaders have over the masses.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827) was reported to have replied to Emperor Napoleon I, when asked why he hadn't mentioned God in his thesis on the orbits of planets ("Mais où est Dieu dans tout cela?"/'But where is God in all this?'), "je n'ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse." (I had no need of that hypothesis).

      January 11, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  7. Wizard

    Faith suggests that we should believe because we are told it is right.

    Science requires that we challenge our understanding to ensure it is right

    Enlightenment is that 'ah moment' where the acceptance of science and the realization that there is a supreme-being at work in the universe are two ideas that are not in opposition, indeed they are intimately connected.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Sigh


      January 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Look past the trees to see the forest

      Faith is foolish when it contradicts overwhelming scientific evidence. These brainwashed obstinate sheep really believe that the world is but 6000 years old? That is nothing more than ludicrous.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  8. shawbrooke

    People who are dedicated evolutionists should accept that many Americans do not care about, or are prepared to ignore, something that is completely irrelevant to their daily life. Pastors' belief in, or lack of belief in, evolution makes absolutely no difference to their ability to relate to people and lead their churches, since the vast majority of Americans do not care. It seems a bit over the top to focus on one thing so much.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • go4it

      Are you saying we shouldn't try to educate the next generation? We should just allow these pastors to do it for us?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • RillyKewl

      I agree with go4

      January 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd


      Here are the problems; We vote on things, and people that have real-world consequences. We have people who are willfully ignorant of some basic realities like species extinction, like antibiotic resistance, like global climate change, like the need for stem cell research, like the need for conservation, like the need for renewable energy, like the need for vaccinations, like the need for family planning, like the need for clean air, and clean water, and safe foods. The politicians promoting this ignorance are Republicans, and their radical religious-right teahadist allies. They are going to kill us all.

      Seriously. They are going to kill us all.

      So, when a large number of preachers who are trusted by decent, honest, ignorant people preach that science is 'of dat debil Satan AKA Darwin,' we got major problems because they are going to kill us all.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:27 am |
  9. Vignesh

    I respect religion, and I fully support the idea of religion and people's rights to believe in it. Not believing in evolution however is like believing the universe orbits earth. If you take bacteria that reproduces very fast and put it in hostile conditions you will over time see it take up traits that help it survive in those conditions. These are genetic, DNA based changes. Run this experiment for ten plus years and you would see a new "species". Unless you want to discredit what you see in your eyes you can't disprove evolution. You can't correlate the biblical explanation to the scientific explanation at all, they aren't even related. Just like its pretty clear the earth doesn't form the center of the universe, its pretty clear evolution is the most widely accepted theory for how new species develop. Also, unless you believe the stars are some kind of imaginary backdrop, I don't see where you get 6,000 years.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Prf Calc.

      Evolution must be observable right? where is the proof?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • tan_theta

      If Man evolved, what is next for Man?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • James

      Do you have history of civilization that dates back to billions of years?

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

      The proof is everywhere... see the Galapagos, see the average heights of humans increasing, see stupid people being eliminated from the gene pool, see babies born with extra toes, see anti-biotic resistant bacteria, bird flu turning to swine flu. Evolution is everywhere, and it's a proven fact. End of story.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • RillyKewl

      What a bunch of ridiculous responses. There's tons + tons of evidence. Seems like there's more confirmation coming out almost every week now. Unless its all just snark, and the jokes are going over my head. If so, sorry, my bad.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Stephen

      Where's the proof that God exists? Make a prediction that turns out to be true, I know religion is wrong about the end of the world at least twice a year. Why doesn't god reveal himself to the world, because he doesn't exist?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Come out of your cave

      You don't get around much do you, Prf. Calc?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Oscar

      Although evolution cannot be proved, atheists prove time and again what wonderful specimens they are!!
      Au sediba eh? 😉

      January 10, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Frank

      Apparently one of these specimens backup the Piltdown Man.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Wizard

      Evolution can exist and most probably does exist. However it can also be true that a supreme-being can enhance/guide evolution.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      Hey Vignesh, we don't need ten years- would you believe ten hours?

      "Acceleration of Emergence of Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance in Connected Microenvironments" Qiucen Zhang, Guillaume Lambert, David Liao, Hyunsung Kim, Kristelle Robin, Chih-kuan Tung, Nader Pourmand, Robert H. Austin, Science 23 September 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6050 pp. 1764-1767

      Four fuctional favorable mutations conserved and propagated in just ten hours. Creationism is dead dead dead.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:30 am |
  10. truthfl1

    Wow. What's with CNNs' recent obsession with religion.

    Give it a rest, CNN. btw- didn't read article, came to question CNN choice of topic.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  11. Eric

    What's funny is that people have known about what a crock of !#$!@#!# organized religion is about as long as organized religion has existed ... I mean come on people it's MILLENNIA later and you're still believing in this hook, line and sinker.

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful." - Lucious Annaeus Seneca (3 BC – AD 65)

    "People think that epilepsy is divine simply because they don't have any idea what causes epilepsy. But I believe that someday we will understand what causes epilepsy, and at that moment, we will cease to believe that it's divine. And so it is with everything in the universe." - Hippocrates (460 BC – ca. 370 BC)

    January 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • truthfl1

      And some 'STILL' believe in Obama, hook, line and sinker. lol.

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

      Great quotes!
      Thanks for that.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  12. jdun

    Fascinating! Denial of factual evidence because of what you read in some book that is about 3000 years old. I like acupressure but I get a western medicine checkup first with x-rays and lab tests. Denying theory based on scientific evidence and verification seems foolhardy in the 21st century. If you believe in a God why should it matter how he created this place? By the way, if you disagree with me please don't use your computer to reply as it is also designed based on theory and scientific verification. At least the Amish try not to contradict themselves and live 19th century lives.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  13. southern

    History of mankind was derived from Adam and Eve. These early human beings were fitted to the the environment at that time: huge, simple and long lived. In thousand of years, we had evolved to become us today. Scientific-based evolution was partially correct, but not to the extent how Almighty God placed Adam & his wife on earth. The same way, we sometimes do not know exactly our great great great parents looked like 200 years ago. We are probably quite content that e.g we have Ireland or African descent, based on a family picture. We just need to believe to the Revealed book.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  14. 21k

    if you need proof of evolution, just stop getting your yearly flu shot. evolution will help a flu strain overcome your immune system, and the iq of the world will increase.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • truthfl1

      YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE in all that FLU SHOT Nonsense? Never got one, never got sick.

      BLIND FAITH in the flue shot believers, eh? lol.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • 21k

      is that all you got? ok, i'll go with it. i always got the flu shot, never got the flu. there, satisfied?

      January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  15. Tom

    Of course they they believe in creationism...to actually follow evidence and the best theory for the evidence would be anti-god. Faith is the enemy of reason and truth is poison to god.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Sigh

      Wow you are truly ignorant aren't you? Just because people want to believe like that, shouldn't be basis for calling their beliefs poison and what not. Heck, I'm a Christian and I believe in biological evolution. Some people are more cast in their beliefs than others, and aren't willing to budge on any grounds, however I feel that exploring the world through science is only one way of showing the marvels and glory of God.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  16. Mike

    1615 – 10 out of 10 pastors reject that the sun is the center of the solar system.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  17. Frank

    Part of the problem is this; every cult needs a 'boogie-man" to circle the wagons and inspire the troops. The Satan figure is the traditional evangelical evil one but it's hard to wrap your hate around such an esoteric character. So enters science which through the process of examining evidence has arrived at conclusions that do not agree with the literal bible, and so they are made the earthly boogie-man. This is of course the same boogie-man that has taken us to the moon, wiped out polio, and created the technology you are using to spew your religious silliness right now. The same one that had the audacity to declare that the earth is not flat to the ignorant religious leaders of the day.

    Science is not out to get you and you really look foolish with all the Young Earth garbage, just as foolish as you probably see those religious leaders of yesteryear. The literal reading of your book has continuously proven itself as incorrect. At some point I hope these folks have a chance to see reality for what it is. But I won't hold my breath.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • justme

      between 7 and 8 hundred years before the man jesus was born the man named isaiah wrote that the earth was round not flat

      January 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Frank

      Sorry, Isaiah doesn't fly. Here's the problem. The earth is not a circle, it's a sphere. And yes, they knew the difference back then. Go somewhere where there is an unobstructed horizon. Turn in a circle and look around. The earth appears to be a large flat circle, which is what people believed back then. This is what Isaiah is referencing. He is talking about the god that resides about the flat circle which is the earth. If he had meant sphere he would have said so.

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

      Oh, the verse I believe you were referring to is Isaiah 40:22. "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth"

      Circle, not sphere.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Proof

      Ignoring the fact that whether or not Isaiah (or the oral tradition, scribes and editors that begot Isaiah) understood that the earth is a circle is even remotely relevant to the point being made, read the book in Hebrew. It's an arch, not a circle.

      But don't let the truth get in your way. Never has before.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Frank

      I disagree. The shape of the earth has everything to do with this article. See, the young earth and anti evolution claims are using the bible for their information source, just like the flat earth people of yesterday. (actually, there are still flat earth believers). The only reason that they have dropped the flat earth claims is because science has proven the bible wrong beyond any shadow of a doubt. To claim that the earth is 6000 yo has also been proven incorrect beyond any shadow of doubt, but these folks still hang on to it, just like the flat earthers did. To show past errors when discussing modern errors is completely relevant to this discussion.

      And BTW, the earth is neither a circle or an arch, once again, it's a sphere.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  18. sqeptiq

    The more faith, the less reason; the more reason, the less faith. Reason will get one through times of trouble and danger far better than will faith.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  19. Mike

    Are they going with the flat Earth and the sun revolves around the Earth too?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  20. Alex S

    Amazing how blinded in their beliefs people can be. Not very bright are they? Ignoring the evidence is irresponsible to future generations. Sooner we r rid of religion the better..

    January 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      That'll happen when we get rid of stupidity and fear. I'm not holding my breath.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:47 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.