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. Dr. C.

    There is a Dr. C. here that is NOT me.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • peace

      time to change your handle

      January 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • The REAL Dr. C.

      I did. I don't need your useless advice.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  2. M-Theory

    Creationists understand that a Chihuahua is a dog and a Newfoundland is a dog right? And you understand that they both come from wolves right? Which have another ancient relative... You understand that Chihuahuas and Newfoundlands are newer adaptations of canines right? i.e. the didn't exist "in the beginning". How is this not evolution? Just because we (humans) had an influence on creating these varieties does not mean it's outside of evolution. The dogs could have created their own varieties as all animals do over time... without us... solely based on which dog survives in which ecosystem. Chihuahuas survive in the hot regions of Mexico and Newfoundlands survive in the cold regions of the arctic. That's evolution... whether the results take 10 years or 100,000 years. The survivors pass on their genes. This is true with dogs or humans, moths or bacteria. It's life's only way of surviving over time in a changing ecosystem.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Dr.K.

      Animal breeding has perhaps always been the clearest example staring people in the face – it is very much experimental evidence for evolution. It is actually (as you probably know) the example Darwin used as a lead-in to "On the Origin of Species."

      January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  3. Dr. C.

    Man fred mann I do not control a reply button. So what is the causal mechanism and are you a gradualist or a punctualist?

    January 11, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Gadflie

      You have never given a reason that there need be a trans species mechanism for evolution. Until you do, sorry kid, you lose.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Gadflie

      Here's a question for you Dr. C, do you believe in an omniscient God OR in free will. Obviously having both is impossible...

      January 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Dr.K.

      I'm still not clear on what you mean by a trans species causal mechanism, but why must gradualism and punctuated equilibrium be a dichotomy? These are just descriptions of rates of change, and are both likely to occur under given circu.mstances.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  4. TownC

    It seems that people put so much faith in science. The science and the theories of our origins are constantly changing. Eventually it will be proven that Adam and Eve were our first parents.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Gadflie

      It's amusing how you typed that on your computer connected to the internet.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • pastafarian

      TownC: I'll pray for you and your blind ignorance.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • NotATownie

      TownC, science doesn't require faith. It works whether you believe it or not.

      As for Adam and Eve, do you actually take biblical creation stories literally? And if not, how do you decide what the correct interpretation is?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Dr.K.

      The fact that scientific theories are always changing is a sign of it's strength. Science is self-correcting as new evidence comes to light. When an idea comes into conflict with evidence, it is modified or dismissed. This flexibility is what makes the scientific process so effective.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  5. Dennizen

    When you consider where Southern Baptists are coming from, it's amazing that 30% are ready to allow for evolution.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  6. Dr. C.

    Absence of critical thinking here. OUTRO.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Dr. C.

      God did everything. The bible says so. That's all the proof I need. I was told not to question God, for it would result in punishment and eternal damnation. God is real. I have proof that he exists. I can prove it.

      Call 1-800-273-8255 and tell them you want to meet your creator.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Blinded by the Light

      He surfaces!!!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Babu G. Ranganathan

      It's not absence of critical thinking at all. There are natural limits to evolution. Only evolution within "kinds" is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), but not evolution across "kinds" (i.e. from worm to human). How did species survive if their vital structures, organs, reproductive system were still evolving? Read my article published in The Mercury newspaper of Pennsylvania: WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! I discuss: Punctuated Equilibrium, "Junk DNA," genetics, mutations, natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities between species.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • NotATownie

      Babu, back to school you go.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  7. Phil

    @ Dr. C (aka, brainwashed moron)

    Try this, Dr. C.

    Stab yourself with a knife.

    Pray for god to heal you. Did that work? NO?

    Then go to a hospital, but don't forget to praise god and have him guide the hands of the surgeon...otherwise he might make a mistake and you'll die...because the doctor can't do anything without god despite spending hundreds of thousands and years of school and training...god must still be required.

    Please - you're a troll. Nothing more.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • ouirv

      Nothing like willful ignorance.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Keith

      Hey ape that itch still bothering you, ah? didn't monky daddy teach u how to scratch ur itch away? monkey troll!

      January 11, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Kevin

      Or as Tim Minchin said in an nine minute beat poem,
      "Chatter is initially bright and light-hearted
      But it’s not long before Storm gets started:
      “You can’t know anything,
      Knowledge is merely opinion”
      She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon
      Some un-hippily
      Empirical comment by me

      “Not a good start” I think
      We’re only on pre-dinner drinks
      And across the room, my wife
      Widens her eyes
      Silently begs me, Be Nice
      A matrimonial warning
      Not worth ignoring
      So I resist the urge to ask Storm
      Whether knowledge is so loose-weave
      Of a morning
      When deciding whether to leave
      Her apartment by the front door
      Or a window on the second floor."

      January 11, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Dr. C.

      Really? Come one man. I dont even have a position I am only asking that someone state theirs. Stabbing with a knife and identifying a trans species mechanism for evolution are not the same thing. Oh man. As someone with a job and a non-occupier why would i come here to insult people. Gotta love public school.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Phil

      Where are you getting that I'm a troll? I'm an atheist who believes in evolution. I'm poking fun at Dr. C. and this god character.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Gadflie

      One more time, please explain why there need be a separate trans species mechanism for evolution?

      January 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  8. Jim Ketcham

    Try this thought experiment. Given no a priori knowledge, determine how we got here. Your choices are either a physical or magical process. My personal favorite is a singular event at the beginning time followed by natural selection. That incidentally works for both processes.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • The Phist

      It doesn't necessarily have to be singular. That is only a theory.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Jonathan

      We're all born atheists...unless you believe it's just pure coincidence that children born to Christian parents tend to me Christian, same for Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism...you name it....

      January 11, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  9. MagnumPIE

    How do rational educated people listen to anything religious leaders have to say?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Kevin

      They don't. The more educated people are the less religious they tend to be.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  10. petridish

    So they believe in a god (for which there's no evidence) rather than in evolution (for which there's plenty of evidence). Facts and truth don't seem to matter at all. How sad!

    January 10, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Kevin

      A good theist will never allow our facts get in the way of their faith.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • TR in ATL

      Evaluating the "factual" evidence of evolution is pretty scary. I beg you to really study the books on evolution. Here are a few of the wild stories that you call factual! "Where did the proteins come from that created the early atmosphere suitable for life?" Believe it or not, several authoritative books suggest that they could have come from another planet or solar system! Ha, real credible evidence! How about this one... "early life started in the oceans, then animals grew legs and emerged onto land... then further developed animals went back into the water and became whales" Again, check the authoritative books on evolution. I'm not making this stuff up. So, really, let's talk about these established facts. Who made them up? Why are so many people so eager to accept them? There's absolutely no proof. The text books read like "it's speculated that the ...", "it's possible that this lead to ....". No proof at all. Please at least admit that evolutionary scientists don't have an f-ing clue if evolution is real. It's definitely not provable. It's all speculation built around some scientific theories. But really, all it adds up to is theoretical nonsense. Finally, let's call out evolution for what it is... it's YOUR RELIGION! It's your belief system. It's your FAITH. Like it or not, it's not science. It's not repeatable. It's pure speculation. My bet is still on the GOD of the universe, the Creator of all things, who came to this earth in human form (fact), was killed on a cross (fact) and whose body came back to life and was seen by thousands of people (fact). That's my FAITH. And I'm very confident my GOD is real. He can be real to you too. Start by studying Him, learning what He said in the Bible, and come to your own conclusions.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @TR in ATL

      Even though I doubt you are willing to learn, I’ll go ahead and refer you to some trustworthy sources of information. First, regarding the origin of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the origin of life you have made some basic errors. There were no “proteins” that created an early atmosphere. Second, the “panspermia” notion was proposed and rejected in the 1970s and ‘80s. For some more details, you might look at my “Short Outline of the Origin of Life.” It needs to by updated, but it will still teach you more than you know now.

      Regarding the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life, Google “Tiktaalik.” I know that you can read the Wikipedia, so start there. But also look at http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/

      Next, for a one stop review of early whale evolution, you should read: “Whales originated from aquatic artiodactyls in the Eocene epoch of India”

      January 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Dr.Gary Turd

      Im sitting on the toilet.

      January 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  11. Proof

    Oh sky cake. Why are you so delicious?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  12. Filtered

    This survey was commission by the Southern Baptist Convention – a specific type of pastor would take their survey. If it was conducted by an independent group, the results would have been much different.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  13. Marine5484

    Those 46% need to be hit in the head with a fossil.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      That would be an excellent experiment, if they aren't real it won't hurt.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  14. scottm4321

    If there is a god, I really wish he/she/it would stop all the silly believe in me by faith not proof nonsense and come out of the closet. It'd be so much easier for mankind if he/she/it would just fess up it he/she/it exists. We sure would have avoided a lot of nasty things, like slavery, war, genocide, human sacrifice, wasting of resources, etc...

    January 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  15. John

    This is an embarrassment.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Jon

      Asking pastors anything is an embarrassment.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • rafael

      John and Jon: you both summarize the problem well.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • NotATownie

      And you, Rafael. have tied their posts together well.

      Thank you, all three of you.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Dr.K.

      And you NotATownie, have collectively complemented their posts well. Thanks, all four of you.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  16. Jonathan

    When asked whether they still believed in magic I wonder what percentage said yes...

    January 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Charles

      u too good with ur monkey tricks bro!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • rafael

      I don't think magic is part of the theology.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Well, Rafael, according to Christians, God made a mortal son who died and was reborn. Said son could walk on water, turn water into wine, feed an entire crowd with one loaf and 1 fish, and people who eat his flesh and drink his blood are blessed.

      Sounds like voodoo magic to me.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Kevin

      Rafael, magic is at the core of Christian theology.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Rafael, really? Apparently you haven't read the Bible.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  17. Harry From Pa

    Ok this doesn't make sense, why is evolution even bad. If humans didn't evolve to their surroundings or their dna did not evolve by taking in Viruses and bacteria we would all be died. As for the Earths age, how can anyone say how old it is, nobody has been around to see it, Dinosaurs are not a hoax and nobody would go out of their way to plant them. This is ignorance at its best. I don't see why Religion can't coexist with science, like American politics our way of thinking can be too dichotomous, why does it have to be one way or the other, why not both? The bible lays out how the earth was created in days, what is a day to God? And the way things were created in the bible are created the same way, same steps on the ladder as what scientist believe. Jesus did not teach division, he taught acceptance.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • go4it

      It can't be both because they contradict each other. Take a stand, man!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • The Phist

      Agreed go. It's like trying to get hitler to love Jews.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Dick Money

      Umm, sorry scientists do not believe birds were "created" before land. Might want to re-read your book, an atheist knows it better then you!

      January 10, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Harry From Pa

      The way I see it, if God is the grand creator and knows all and sees all, then he would allow certain species to be able to adapt to their environments, for pastors not to believe in that in those simplest of forms is folly. Animals and we human beings are animals as well, we are still around evolving, meaning if you believe in God, his plan is working.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Blinded by the Light

      Who/What created God?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • The Phist

      Man created god.

      It was easier than wasting time figuring out what actually caused natural disasters. Religion is for the lazy.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  18. AlexPKeaton

    There is human calendars that date back further than 4000 bc. How do the religious nuts explain this? Say they don't exist. Religion is taken on faith with no proof whatsoever, meanwhile evolution can be seen around us. Why do we have antibiotic resistant bacteria now? Because the bacteria evolved to get around our drugs. God didn't do it, and if he, just to make more people suffer, a big middle finger to him.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  19. Dennizen

    The need for religion is itself an evolutionary stage in the development of an intelligent species. It's a natural thing to want to investigate, a natural reaction to the scary fact that we die, a natural drive to discover or manufacture some guarantee of continuance. Eventually, intelligent beings evolve beyond this stage of group surrender to the realizations/conclusions of the few. And of those who move beyond the religion stage, some may become materialist cynics, while others may choose a path of individual exploration of the transcendent and unexplainable aspects of the universe, using a combination of science, psychology, and philosophy, to formulate their own conclusions. It seems to me that in the end, only an individual can come to terms with the infinite. You can't really experience someone else's enlightment, and even if you could, it would be a second-hand salvation.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  20. Reality

    Only for the "newbies":

    What is being taught in some Catholic university theology classes (plus some added comments):

    "The story of Adam and Eve is only symbolic?

    Yes, this story was composed in the 900s BCE and functions as an etiology (explanatory myth) . In the 900s Israel was self ruling, under King David and Solomon. The people were no longer at war and the question" Why are we not happy?" may have been asked. The short answer is sin. (Look at 1 Kings 11 for some clues into why the story depicts Eve sinning first and then tempting Adam [Solomon]).

    Original sin is therefore only symbolic of man's tendencies to sin?

    Yes, I teach Original Sin as symbolic of the sins of our origins – in our
    families and in the broader society, both of which affect each person
    profoundly. The "sins of our origins" approach helps to account for certain
    patterns of sin in particular families and societies.

    Baptism does not erase original sin since the sin does not exist?

    Yes, the old "laundry of the soul," approach to Baptism is no longer accepted.

    Infant Baptism is only a rite of initiation and commits parents and godparents to bringing up the child in a Christian home.
    Yes, but, since baptism is now celebrated at Sunday Eucharist, all the members of the parish family are encouraged to pledge their support and care for the faith life of the newly baptized. (A manifestation of this is
    persons volunteering to teach other people's kids the basics of Catholicism.)"

    And if there were no Adam and Eve, it follows that there was no biblical Noah. see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah's_Ark#Other_flood_stories

    As per National Geographic's Genographic project:

    " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

    "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

    Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive.

    It is important to note that Adam does not literally represent the first human. He is the coalescence point of all the genetic diversity."

    January 10, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • yeah right

      So......they overlook Chapter 5 of Romans, which basically says ....that through one man sin (Adam) death was brought into the world and through one mans dead who was without sin (Jesus) we can conquer dead.

      So let me understand this correctly, some Catholic university are teaching that there is no justification for Jesus, so Why was Jesus here again? Smells like you trying to push some merda on us. Nice try....

      January 11, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Reality

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:28 am |
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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.