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. anonymous

    makes you wonder why God gave them brains if they have no plans to use them....

    January 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Copernicus

      love it....!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Wizard

      Read Jesus' Story of the Talents....

      January 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • JR

      Thinking uses much of our energy, so lets not think, just believe! and that will leave more energy for watching TV. It all goes back to a desire to control and have power, so they preach the unprovable. Oh, I forgot, it's in the Bible.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  2. SixForty

    From all of those here supporting evolution, I'd like to ask a serious question.

    For evolution, in the traditional sense to be true, (all life evolved from a single celled organism at some point in the distant past) there needs to be a process where there is an increase in the amount of genetic information in DNA. There is more genetic information in humans than there is in less complex life forms, so at some point (actually at countably numerous points) there has to have been increases in that genetic information. New information must come into existence.

    Yet in all the searching I've ever done, (which is a lot over the years, but likely not as much as others) I can't find a single example in a single piece of scientific literature of a single experiment ever being done which shows such an increase in genetic information being observed. I've never seen an example where someone has actually seen new information in a genetic code actually coming into existence.

    Can anyone point me to the results of some experiment which shows such a process?

    Now before you all jump on me and start calling me a flat-earther, please understand – I'm actually asking a legitimate question. I'm searching for such information and trying my hardest to find it, but I can't seem to find anything like this at all. Can anyone answer this for me?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Really? You didn't look very far, did you. After all, that's exactly what Down Syndrome is.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Maybe someone like Dawkins can answer this better than a CNN blog.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

      It's called evolution! Duh!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      I would leave it to a geneticist or biologist to better answer your question, but I do know that more complex life does not necessarily contain more genetic information (ie, a greater number of chromosomes). Humans actually have one fewer pair than our ape cousins. Many differences come not from the number of different genes, but the timing with which they are switched on and off during development, controlled to a large extent by hox genes. Sorry, that's the limit of my knowledge.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Matt

      Most of the proteins in our DNA don't code for anything and, at the moment, are considered to be "junk". The DNA replication process is simply a bunch of protein chains lining up with each other, and filling in gaps based on molecular bonds/attractions. I don't see why this couldn't randomly happen (over an incredibly long amount of time) and result in longer DNA strands (with plenty of "junk" sequencing that doesn't really do anything). And once you get up to a certain point, it doesn' t really matter how much actual DNA there is, it just matters what the different parts of the sequence do. It's all about how the mutations to the DNA affect the creature to which the DNA belongs. If a mutation helps, that creature would be around for a longer amount of time for more mutations to occur to it's sequence. Repeat ad infinitum, and you can get some pretty complex creatures.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Goose66

      Downs is actually an extra chromosome – an extra copy of the DNA sequence. It is not new DNA information.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Josh N.

      The thing is that evolution takes place over thousands of years so something such as increase of genetic information could not be observed over a period of something like ten years. Take into consideration the short span of modern science (100-200 years ago to now) it would be pretty much impossible to observe evolution occur in genetic coding. One thing I think you can look at is how viruses and such mutate to become resistant to treatments and cures. I may be entirely wrong on this, but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. If you want a scientists answer I think it'd be better to look on a more education/science related forum than the religion blog of CNN. (On a side-note, thank you for being courteous and calm when asking your question. We need more people like you around.)

      January 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • CNN Reader

      The genetic content may increase or decrease through gene duplication, splicing, mutation, and other such events, over the course of many generations. But you are on to something, the "standard" theory of natural selection does not accommodate very well the branching off of new species from old. It can't happen in the "gradual" way, through small random mutations.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Mendel student

      I'll take a stab at this and direct you to a study that shows, not only the striking similarity of our genetic information to that of chimpanzees, but also to the very real and observable and valid discovery that, somewhere along the way, two of our chromosomes (the "housing" for our genetic material) actually fused to form one large chromosome. Humans have 46 chromosomes, arranged as 23 pairs. Together, these house all of our genetic make-up. Other apes, such as chimps, have 24 pairs of chromosomes. According to your query, this would help to disprove the notion that we evolved from apes, as it would be a net loss of genetic material. HOWEVER, what was discovered was that one chromosome (Chromosome 2) was actually the result of a fusion of 2 separate chromosomes. When scientists took a closer look, they found that, SMACK in the middle of this super long chromosome, was material that is found on the tips of all chromosomes (called centromeres)....this is not just compelling evidence, but a real explanation that shows two chromosomes fused together to form what is now called human chromosome 2. OK, now that the fusion was proven, scientists then took a look at the sequence of the DNA in the fused chromosome 2 and found that it was ALMOST IDENTICAL to the sequence found on the "extra" chimp chromosome. Now this showed which 2 chromosomes fused. To boot, the discovery that it was NEARLY identical and not TOTALLY identical lends itself to show that there was some change in genetic material. "Change in genetic material" is the central idea surrounding evolution. Here's a cool site that shows what I just typed.....but in a better way than I did. http://www.evolutionpages.com/chromosome_2.htm

      January 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • SixForty

      Josh – I've looked into drug resistant viruses quite a bit, since it seemed to be the most promising answer to my questions. Yet every instance I've seen is actually a loss of genetic information, not an increase. (Actually, not technically true, since sometimes it just natural selection simply acting on a resistance that's already in the population in a small sample of organisms, that then just overrun the population because of that natural selection, but this isn't increasing the genetic information in the viruses)

      In the cases where it's a mutation, it's always a loss of genetic information, not a gain. The viruses aren't gaining a "tolerance" to the drugs, they are losing a "sensitivity" to the drugs. This is usually done through a mutation that shuts off a suppressor enzyme or some similar effect. But in the end, I haven't seen a single case where a "super virus" is actually a virus with new genetic information over and above the original virus.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • SixForty

      Gadflie – from my understanding, Down Syndrome is a duplication or translocation of existing genes, not a creation of new genes. Basically, it is screwing up information that is already in the genetic code, but it's not actually adding anything new. (and are you seriously using Down Syndrome as an example of evolutionary advancement?)

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • SixForty

      Dr K – I understand what you are saying, that an increase in genetic information doesn't necessarily imply advanced species. However, there has to be some new information created. The basic simple life forms at the beginning of the evolutionary chain obviously didn't have the genetic coding for certain advanced biological systems (i.e., they would have had no genetic coding for the basic sensory organs we have today, nor skeletal structure, nor respiratory systems nor se.xual reproduction) So at some point, there had to have been an increase in the genetic information. And this likely had to have happened millions, if not billions or trillions of times. I guess I would just have expected, with all the experimenting that goes on in this area, that we would have seen it happen at least once, somewhere along the way. That's why I was hoping someone could point me in that direction.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • SixForty

      Matt – I agree when you say you don't see why expanding the DNA couldn't necessarily happen randomly. I don't see why it might not happen either (well, there are some reasons why it might be hard to happen, like built in error detection methods during transcription and the whole fact of se.xual reproduction acting as a genetic backup, but still, chance might be able to beat those in the long run) But it could happen. I guess I'm just hoping to see just one single example of it happening, instead of having to take it on faith that it did happen. I guess it's just hard to believe that a process happened trillions and trillions of times throughout history when we actually don't have a single observed example of it ever happening. Well, maybe we do, but like I said, I just can't find one in the scientific literature.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • SixForty

      Mendel Student – Thanks for the link to the article. I did have a look through it, and it was unfortunately very short. I'll have a look through the references listed as well.

      I have read a bit about this fused chromosome before. And although it does provide very powerful data supporting common ancestry, it doesn't answer my question about finding a process that actually increases genetic information. To be honest, it may even be a good example of the problem. From some of the literature I've read in the past (please don't quote me on this, since it has been a while since I've read it, I apologize for not having a source) I do believe that the actual number of genes in human chromosome 2 is significantly higher than the combined number of genes in chimpanzee chromosomes 2p and 2q. Possibly as high as an additional 100,000 extra genes. So here again we see a perfect example of the fact that at some point, new genetic information had to have been added somewhere, by some process. But it keeps coming back to the elusive process – what process can actually create new genes and add them into the genetic code somewhere along the journey from splitting off from the common ancestor to where we are today?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd


      Most data will be from micorscopic organisms as these are fast growing, have relatively small genomes, and they don't have lawyers or activist organizations. But here is a primate example;

      J. Zhang , H. F. Rosenberg, M. Nei, Positive Darwinian selection after gene duplication in primate ribonuclease genes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 95 , 3708 (1998)

      And here is one on dogs;

      Henrik Kaessmann
      2009 "More Than Just a Copy" Science 21: 958-959.

      We know that genes, and even whole genomes are duplicated;

      Han Xiao, et al
      2008 "A Retrotransposon-Mediated Gene Duplication Underlies Morphological Variation of Tomato Fruit" Science 14: 1527-1530.

      And we know that thees duplicated genes are free to mutate new functions;

      "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

      “It is surprising that four apparently functional SNPs should fix in a population within 10 hours of exposure to antibiotic in our experiment. A detailed understanding of the order in which the SNPs occur is essential, but it is unlikely that the four SNPs emerged simultaneously; in all likelihood they are sequential (21–23). The device and data we have described here offer a template for exploring the rates at which antibiotic resistance arises in the complex fitness landscapes that prevail in the mammalian body. Furthermore, our study provides a framework for exploring rapid evolution in other contexts such as cancer (24).

      Multi-site mutations, functional mutations, TEN HOURS, why sequential mutations are functional, and more likely, and with medical applications.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • SixForty

      Dr Gary Hurd – Thanks so much for the references. I appreciate it. It looks like you've given me a bunch of stuff to research over the coming weekend!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd


      I hope you find them useful. There was another paper not in print yet, "Evolution of increased complexity in a molecular machine" by Finnigan et al, that you will also find interesting. It was published by Nature on-line the other day. There is a website discussion of it you could check;

      January 12, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  3. BigSir

    Why do they choose to fight this fight? They needlessly shame Christianity.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Z


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


      January 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  4. Fr33th1nk3r

    "“Recently discussions have pointed to doubts about a literal Adam and Eve, the age of the earth and other origin issues,""

    RECENTLY? As in the last century and a half?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  5. yeah right

    Hey Peter - you are no longer a Christian because of this topic or because you don't believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, come on.. be honest. Last time I checked a Christian is someone that follows Christ.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  6. Kenny

    This reminds me of the Fundamentalist Baptist brainwashing of my childhood. My sister and I had a conversation six years ago. I asked her about this 6,000 years old stuff she believed in at the time. She believes dinosaurs and eggs were put on the Earth for humans to have fun poking around in the dirt. Really, Does God enjoy us digging in the dirt for fun??? Then she shifted to Humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.....Really, Why do we not have human bones inside the mouth of dinosaur bones??? Since then she changed to Greek Orthodox.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      Maybe not a positive step, huh?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  7. Zambgy

    Evolution is a lie.

    Goo to You. What a joke.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Heretic

      Responding to someone who can not even be bothered to educate themselves and who would rather blindly follow the word of a Snakeoil salesman like Joel Osteen who is probably reading this story in bed with his wife/and or mistress and laughing while seeing his bank balance continue to rise is pointless.

      Be sure and get back to us on how that whole heaven thing works out for you...

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


    January 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  9. The Central Scrutinizer

    The Platypus vs. Intelligent Design

    The platypus is considered by many as the ultimate argument against intelligent design. Strangely, the platypus is also the ultimate argument against creationism, as Christians tend not to think that God is a jacka.s.s.

    The reasoning is that no sentient being would have created something so contrary to logic as the platypus.
    Creationists haven't come to any real consensus on the matter, but most begin frantically quoting the bible when the topic is brought up.

    In Psalm 81:20, Moses instructs that platypus should be served with white wine and that Thursdays are endless-platypus night at Ruby Tuesday.

    It is widely considered among theorists to be conclusive proof of God's cruel sense of humor.

    Well-Known Quotes:

    “The platypus... I don't know WHAT the FUK I was on when I made that...”
    ~ God on Platypuses

    “Fuk this, now I'm Atheist!”
    ~ The Pope on his first sight of a Platypus

    "I mean, what the hell?"
    ~ Everybody on Platypuses

    January 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm |

      I play with the pusa almost every night! And sometimes in the morning.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  10. David

    I just want to point out a survey that covers 1000 Southern Baptist ministers is not a representation of Protestant clergy.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm |

    I belive religion is a psychological drug. It's a way for people to leave the real world and go into their own where it's all good and wonderful. And you get 64 virgins!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  12. Fr33th1nk3r

    I guess it is safe to assume that Kent Hovind is part of the illustrious 7 of 10...with his Creation Museum showing humans and dinosaurs co-existing and people riding brontosaurs like horses. He claims that before the fall, there was no killing or violence, so T-Rex had those huge teeth for cracking open coconut husks, his primary diet apparently.....

    January 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm |

      Eve bore sixty-three children, thirty-two daughters, and thirty-one sons! And then the siblings got in on in the biblical fashion.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  13. Warp

    But what is their stand on astrology?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  14. akmac64

    If they believe in the literal Adam and Eve, they apparently consider incest to be the approved way of reproduction. With only those two and their offspring for breeding stock, incest is the only way.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm |

      The three boys had some fun with their own mother! There were no other women around, so that explains it.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Bob

      You must be obsessed with incest!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  15. Colin

    Which of the following is the most barbaric act imaginable, that only a sick psychopath would condone?

    (a) Cutting off the hand of a thief
    (b) Hanging a convicted killer
    (c) torturing and burning a woman as a witch; or
    (d) burning somebody for all eternity, simply because they do not believe something you could easily prove to them, but elect not to?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • ttwp

      You forgot e: Rejecting someone who loves you so much that He gave his life as a ransom for you.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • BigSir

      (e) none of the above

      January 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • CNN Reader

      Only if you believe in the literal, popular version of what "hell" might be. Many believers do not believe in a "hell" at all.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Believer in Jesus as my Savior

      (a) That's not in the Bible, that would be the quran
      (b) I guess we should instead support him with our tax money
      (c) Once again, not in the Bible
      (d) The Truth is there, all you have to do is believe. Instead you blatantly reject His every offer, including His giving of His only Son for you to be forgiven.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • MNWriter

      ttwp and Believer,
      I'm sorry, but your 'truth' is too small for me. The world of science is a much bigger, deeper, more interesting, and more beautiful world than your closed, egotistical system.
      However, you're right about things not in the Bible. How about stoning a disobedient child to death?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  16. PhilG.

    You can believe in God and believe in Evolution.

    They are two distinctly different things.

    Evolution is a study of the developement of the body and Religion is the search for a positive way of life through an interpeted dialogue with God.

    They are NOT the same thing at all and therefore do not conflict with each other at all.

    Can we move on people or are we going to be stuck in the early 1900's on this one forever?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, you can believe in god and evolution – just like you can believe in astronomy and astrology, or fingerprinting and palm reading. But, it still makes you a moron.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Your statement "Religion is the search for a positive way of life through an interpeted dialogue with God." already shows you are not objective and thinking with a totally open, objective mind.

      What makes you think there even is a positive way of life for god to reveal to you. Maybe he only has bad things to tell you. Cheers!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • NowSpinThis


      They make conflicting claims so I'd say you have a conflict on your hands. Ye olde magisteria increasingly overlap these days, and no support garment seems to be able to keep them separated.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Chad

      NowspinThis, why did you have to bring my shocking man-cleavage into this?

      January 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Deej59

      1900s?? Oh, these people are a lot more "retro" than that. They either exist in the time of Christ or the time of Reagan. Sometimes, they feel, the line blurs.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • BigSir

      Phil G: I agree.

      Streetsmt: What makes you think a totally open mind is desirable? In that case its nothing more than a trash receptacle.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Wizard

      @Colin: You passion for science (without God) is just as obsessive as a believer of God. Granted you state evidence for your positions, however you choose to discredit or ignore any scientific evidence that supports the existence of God. Since you cherry pick what fact you will consider, it comes down to a simple 'belief' on your part that God doesn't exist. BTW, I held a similar stance long ago. But time and further knowledge have provided a clearer view. Not trying to pick a fight here, but to simply trying to encourage you to consider a broader possibility.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • fintastic

      "however you choose to discredit or ignore any scientific evidence that supports the existence of God."

      Please cite just one example of scientific evidence that supports the existance of god.... we're waiting....

      January 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  17. Whutever

    In a related news story, 7 of 10 pastors are morons. Film at 11:00.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Rumer

      You must be a real freak.Go out and get some fresh air!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Duce

      No, Whutever is 100% correct.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  18. Fr33th1nk3r

    One CANNOT understate the inherent foolishness of Young Earth Creationism– there are cultures on this earth whose written histories go back farther than 6000 years (like Egypt and China, to name two). Also, the Huon Pine trees of Australia are older than YEC's claim the universe has been around.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Pastor number11

      7 out of 10 pastors do not believe in Egypt or China.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

    God created life two billions years ago and let it roll!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  20. evolved

    7 of 10 scientists reject pastors. One can live by thinking or by believing. I myself prefer to think.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm |

      It really is ten out of ten. Three are lying about it 'cause their wives are religious and they want to to get laid.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:41 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.