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. Rich

    and I reject 10 out of 10 religions...

    January 11, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Zargoth

      I second that motion!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • jojo


      January 11, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  2. surfdog11

    No surprises there. It's in their best interest to say they don't believe in evolution. Otherwise they'd have to get real jobs which won't be anything like the politicians they are. Would Mitt Romney praise Obama for the job he's done as President when running for the GOP nomination? BTW: This primary represents true de-evolution in action!!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  3. Jeff

    Why is this on this blog as news? I am clergy, believe in evolution, and also believe the Southern Baptist Convention has a bias towards promoting "creationism." How did they "sample random Protestant churches"? Are they really mainline Protestant, or are they Evangelical? Statistics say what you want them to say, and the SBC is hardly neutral on this "issue."

    January 11, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  4. 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 11, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • yummyboy

      60000 years ago coincided with the eruption of Toba, a super volcano in Indonesia, afterwhich the human species was almost wiped out. This is how they explianed the DNA bottleneck and why we all seem to come from a common ancestor who lived 60000 years ago.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  5. oncrying in the widerness

    Ok Here we go the atheist are out and about let me see apes lost their hair evolving into humans only to kill animals with fur to cover themselves backup now that is really moving up the food chain also let me see apes who have language at all evolved into humans with a language I thought evolution needed an animal to already be in place where did language come from oh yea and that little thing called cancer evolution at work cells mutating from their original function to start anew function why don't the evolutionist take a body full of that and let me see what comes of it and them maybe I will believe in it

    January 11, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Yeah, an undetectable and invisible, omnipotent and omniscient, universe spanning force that feels jealousy and anger based on the actions of his imperfect little creations in a remote corner of this universe. Oh yeah and it looks like us. (Does it have a belly button and Pe. nis or Va gi.na? If so why?) Why would it need legs or arms or any corporeal fleshy stuff at all?

      I'll buy that one when he finally shows up and says – HI!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Patrick

      @ oncrying in the widerness
      Wait wait wait… you mean those evil atheists have the nerve to comment on evolution! Will wonders never cease!

      “let me see apes lost their hair evolving into humans only to kill animals with fur to cover themselves backup”
      Humans have migrated all over the world. This creates different needs for survival. See tropical island nations, add regions along the equator. Most wear little to no clothing. The little they do wear is usually culturally based. Signifying status or modesty based on some primitive sky fiery.

      “who have language at all evolved into humans with a language”
      Many animals have language. This is a docu.mented fact.

      “I thought evolution needed an animal to already be in place”
      You’re not going back far enough. Keep trying.

      Your belief is not required. Reality will go on just fine without you.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  6. Adam

    These nuts believe the earth is 10,000 years old. They also think the Grand Canyon was formed during a biblical flood. Yet we provide them public VPK funds to TEACH children!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  7. DocdeWitt

    Carl Sagan's widow put it well when she said modern society ( I am paraphasing here) is comfortable in admitting that Santa, the easter bunny, tooth fairy, etc are not real when children grow up. She wonders when all of us will be comfortable in admitting that the whole religion thing is a great story for kids, and to comfort those who fear death, but please...

    January 11, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Zargoth

      Thank you......

      January 11, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Jammaster

      Mock God all you want. According to the Bible, God gave man free will. There are several facts that you cannot dispute. 1.The age of the earth is not mentioned in the Biblical text. These pastors are stating their opinion. 2.Evolution is a theory. Although it's a rather good one. It s yet to be proven. 3. More than 75% of the known universe is composed of dark matter. Even the brightest minds on earth have no idea what it is. (and you certainly have no clue).

      Just curious, what does Carl Sagans wife have to do with anything? One more fact. The Bible states that only fools mock God. Thank you for proving this for us.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Nothing found in your bible is unique or particularly exciting. The fact that there might be some real human knowledge in there is a testament to the fact that it was written by humans.

      Also, the fact that something is written in your bible does not give it any weight in the fact department.

      Also, I do not "mock god". I mock the belief in fairy tales by grown adults. And certain gods of man are worthy only of disdain since they reflect a lot of the worst in humanity.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • MarkinFL

      BTW, the fact that scientific inquiry has not answered all the universes questions does not add weight to your supersti.tious non-answers.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Jammaster

      Yep, you dome it again. Still have no clue as to what you are talking about do you? What do you know is written in "my bible" Have you been to my house?
      People like you (who hate God) are worse off than the Pastors that insert things into the Bible. You try to support a POV to criticize religion and you clearly understand neither. As far me, I have studied Geology, Astronomy, Anthropology, biology and I still have my faith int tact. I have also studied, history, sociology and psychology and understand where your hatred of God come from.

      However, there is no excuse for your ignorance.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Patrick

      Your own belief system says free will is an illusion. Your god (one of thousands) is all powerful and all knowing. He gave you free will, instincts and a set of rules that say you don’t get to go the big Chucky Cheese in the sky unless you follow them. If god is omnipotent/omniscient then he already knew what you were going to do 6000 years before you were born and still created you with said instincts and rules. He knew Adam and Eve would break those rules setting humanity on a course of original sin. He still created them, put the tree in front of them and watched. That is not free will… that is writing your own Tv drama.

      We are not mocking your god. We are mocking you, through your god.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  8. yummyboy

    The Bible is a collection of books that nobody even knows who really wrote them...and after being compiled they were EDITED, not by God, but by HUMANS that were members of our present day Roman Catholics and Orthodox Church (they were one before the Great Schism). The irony is, the Roman Catholic Church does not have a hard-line stance on evolution compared to its Protestant/Evangelical brothers. If we allowed these people to run our education system, we would be as worse as the madrassas of Wahabi Islam. If they REALLY want to follow the Bible literally, maybe they should "throw/give up everything they have and follow Jesus". No cadillacs, fancy jewelry or designer clothes needed.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Jammaster

      Get your facts straight yummy more. Copies of biblical texts that are almost 2000 years old read virtually the same as today's Bible. What was "edited" by the church was deciding which writings (by unknown persons) should not be in the Bible as they were od dubious origin. You have the right to your own opinion, but when you try to present "facts" that can be disputed with a simple Google search, it even makes your opinion suspect.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Patrick

      Actually yummyboy is correct. The vast majority of your biblical stories come from previous and unrelated religions. Most of the so called eye witness accounts were written generations later and it would not have been possible for the writer to have seen or spoken to the subject. That is why so many theists say the bible was ‘inspired’ by god. As far as your assertion that the bible today reads virtually the same, you are ether intentionally lying to support your argument or very misinformed. With a short google search you can see the bible has been translated many times, re-translated to account for errors and rewritten for the political climate of the time. (see KingJames). New versions are proposed daily, including one that would remove all of the ‘chauvinistic’ views. Your bible is anything but creditable. And you claim others don’t know what they are talking about. LOL

      January 11, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Jammaster

      @Patrick,. DONG ! Wrong again "Patrick". Guess you never heard of the dead sea scrolls. Fact still remains true that you can't argue what you don't know. I have faith. You chose not to have faith. No problem there with me. You can mock, God, believers or whomever. Fact sill remains that there is more unknown about the universe than known. For example dark matter comprises about 75% of the matter in the universe and the best minds on earth don't even know what it is (and please don't embarrass yourself by claiming that you can explain dark matter)

      Just because you cannot explain God with your limited grasp of science doesn't mean he doesn't exist. So feel free to believe what you want. But disbelieving in God based upon science that you clearly don't understand is foolish.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Jammaster

      @Patrick. Almost forgot. Instead of trying to understand the Bible using Google why don't you try reading various versions and comparing the differences yourself? I have and found no meaning lost even when compared to the original Greek writings. Not trying to convert you, just trying to help you present an informed opinion.

      January 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Will

      @Jammaster, You don't make any sense. You say "Fact still remains true that you can't argue what you don't know. I have faith."
      You just contradicted yourselfm, you don't know anything, however you throw your hands up in the air and believe in an imaginary friend. People are afraid of things they don't understand, i.e., you. Here is a strategy, buck up and realize that you are going to die and you can't do anything about it, you'll be less afraid by confronting your fears and you have fun in life. Sure, have faith, but put your faith in something tangible like your family and friends, not the easter bunnny.
      Remember, religion and faith is a learned behavior and it can be unlearned.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  9. Jeff B

    That's okay, because I reject 10 out of 10 pastors. Just goes to show you how many people make it into adulthood without a basic knowledge of science & the paleo record.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  10. Tom

    I have a scenario I like to throw at creationists just to screw with them – there's actually an easy way to reconcile creation & the big bang: relativity (specifically time dilation). all that needed to happen was for God to be moving at the right velocity relative to light speed (omnipotent, right?) & 7 days from His inertial reference=4.5 billion years from the Earth's – problem solved! don't believe in time dilation because it's not in the Bible? too bad – it not theoretical & in fact several everyday devices depend on and/or compensate for it: got a GPS (hint: if you have a cellphone the answer's yes)? it has to compensate for relativistic time dilation in its calculations. got a speeding ticket from a radar gun? no problem – just tell the judge it violates your right to religious freedom since it measured doppler shift of radio waves from a "theoretical" constant speed of light whose implications (time dilation) offend your creationist beliefs – good luck w/that!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  11. John

    OK, let's get the count now on catholic priest and jewish rabbis.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • MarkinFL

      This is one of the few places where the Catholic church pretty much accepted the main scientific concepts pretty early on but just says its guided by god. Admittedly a cop-out but at least they acknowledge the reality of it. Considering that Mendel's (a Catholic monk) work was an important contributor to the knowledge of genetics which is part of the core basis of evolutionary theory.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  12. edgarx

    That's embarrassing. Grownups literally believing a childish fantasy crafted in the Stone Age... This kind of ignorance nears mental retardation.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Darth Cheney

      "Nears?" How about defines?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Zargoth

      Emotionally-driven mental self-retardation, or willful ignorance...

      January 11, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Kerry

      I agree. It's almost as bad as people beliving whatever the age tells them to believe. Once upon a time the earth was flat. Scripture said so! Then it was proved to be round. Lets just...adapt that little tidbit. OK the earth is round!

      A VIRGIN gave birth to a man who was ressurrected and rose into the sky after being beaten to near death and nailed to a cross.

      A man parted a sea to allow people to cross safely.

      Jesus turned water into wine.

      Jesus took 1 fish and 1 loaf of bread and managed to feed thousands of people with it.

      The Quran comes from divine inspiration. Anyone who blasphemes against Islam is an infedel and must die. (Again, fear tactic, N-O-T-H-I-N-G – and I do stress NOTHING else)

      These are just a slight few of such 'truths'. That's also what they say. This is truth... THIS..... THIS stuff ^^^^^^^ Are you kidding me?

      Wait a second....... No...no... evolution isn't anywhere NEAR as fantastical, and at least evolution is noted as a theory and not truth or fact. Here's how we theorized that we evolved. Here's evidence of it. It's only theoretical. Unlike most religions that say flat out BELIEVE OR BURN for eternity! So the sheep follow because they're afraid. Jesus is the way...the TRUTH and the light. If you aren't saved you'll burn in Hell forever because of course saying you believe in some guy 'washes you of your sins'. Laughable.

      Saying "This kind of ignorance nears mental retardation." in regards to religion would be an insult to the mentally retarded. THIS is unfathomably ignorant.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  13. Tim

    I'm a Christian and I'm a scientist who believes in evolution. I believe the greatest misconception that most people have about evolution is that people evolved from monkeys, like the picture that is shown for this article... What the genetic data do support is that we came from a common ancestor. I read the bible and I believe the spirit of it and the true meaning behind it. It represent a reflection of god's knowledge on a particular person, but it doesn't mean that person can actually comprehend everything that god is saying. How could somebody 5000 or 6000 years ago understand the concept of genetics or biochemistry.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Adam

      An evidence based life and a faith based one are only compatible if your schizo or practicing some serious denial. These people take it on faith that the Bible should be taken literally, while you, with the same lack of evidence take it on faith that you should not. The difference between you and them, is that at least they are consistent.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • claybigsby

      ok but you are making a great assumption that God actually spoke to the writers of the bible, yet there is no proof of that.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Patrick

      If you are a scientist and follow this subject as you imply. Then you would know we have found Neanderthal DNA in modern humans. I’ll leave the obvious implications of this for you to figure out.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Alyssa

      And how are you sure of the "spirit and true meaning behind it?"

      January 11, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Jammaster

      Good point Tim. I also havenever ever met anyone who is faithless even being aware of the Vatican Obervatory. 99% of those who support evolution don't even understand it. Even a greater percentage realize that almost 75% of the mass oftheuniverse is composed of dark matter. I am pretty sure that none of the backyard scientists postinghere ever even heard of it.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  14. Will

    God has a sense of humor...hence he created the fossils, craters, and all those good things to keep people on their toes.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  15. Drew

    I still cant get over that that many pastors believe in Evolution. They must let others think for them just like most of the people on this stupid comments section. WOW people I am baffled by your ability to think for yourself, stop quoting what others say is fact when they have no basis. Nevermind its pointless why am I even writing this – wasting my time.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • ch

      well said

      January 11, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Patrick

      In a desperate attempt to preserve their faith some modern Christians are rewriting their religion. Incorporating evolution is just one example. The trend of not taking the bible literally is another. Christians are people like everyone else and despite their indoctrination some of them still think.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  16. Adam

    I wonder hw many don't believe in the theory of gravity?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • The Hat of the Three-Toed Man-Baby

      I'd happily help them test it - pitch Pat Robertson off a building and see if gravity works.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  17. Woody

    One thing I am sure of is christianity has not been around but for a little over two thousand years so where was the Christian God even 3,000 years ago ? Some say he created the earth but God can not be a he because apparently God is not human and you have to be a human to be a he or a she ! And no God could have created the earth if God as people know it today was not even known about 3,000 years ago . So who or what were people saying created the earth 3,000 years ago if so many think the earth is 5,000 or 6,000 years ago ?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Alyssa


      January 11, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  18. Brad

    Who cares, believe what you want.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  19. rob

    No kidding pastors disagree over whether humans are descendants of one common ancestor. So do scientists and biologists according to famed evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala. Evolution is an accordion word, which I point out here: http://calebspath.blogspot.com/2012/01/few-reminders-about-evolution.html .

    January 11, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  20. Stephen

    They forgot to ask if the earth is flat.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • rob

      Faulty analogy...

      January 11, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Will


      January 11, 2012 at 8:16 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.