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. jordan

    What a bunch of ignorant human beings................................
    DUH ! The Earth is a lot older than 6,000 years.
    Religion is the Opiate of the Masses.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • heliocracy

      There are rocks in my back yard older than 6,000 years.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  2. muhammad


    In mathematics there is a theory known as ‘Theory of Probability’. If you have two options, out of which one is right, and one is wrong, the chances that you will chose the right one is half, i.e. one out of the two will be correct. You have 50% chances of being correct. Similarly if you toss a coin the chances that your guess will be correct is 50% (1 out of 2) i.e. 1/2. If you toss a coin the second time, the chances that you will be correct in the second toss is again 50% i.e. half. But the chances that you will be correct in both the tosses is half multiplied by half (1/2 x 1/2) which is equal to 1/4 i.e. 50% of 50% which is equal to 25%. If you toss a coin the third time, chances that you will be correct all three times is (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2) that is 1/8 or 50% of 50% of 50% that is 12½%.

    A dice has got six sides. If you throw a dice and guess any number between 1 to 6, the chances that your guess will be correct is 1/6. If you throw the dice the second time, the chances that your guess will be correct in both the throws is (1/6 x 1/6) which is equal to 1/36. If you throw the dice the third time, the chances that all your three guesses are correct is (1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6) is equal to 1/216 that is less than 0.5 %.

    Let us apply this theory of probability to the Qur’an, and assume that a person has guessed all the information that is mentioned in the Qur’an which was unknown at that time. Let us discuss the probability of all the guesses being simultaneously correct.

    At the time when the Qur’an was revealed, people thought the world was flat, there are several other options for the shape of the earth. It could be triangular, it could be quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, heptagonal, octagonal, spherical, etc. Lets assume there are about 30 different options for the shape of the earth. The Qur’an rightly says it is spherical, if it was a guess the chances of the guess being correct is 1/30.

    The light of the moon can be its own light or a reflected light. The Qur’an rightly says it is a reflected light. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/2 and the probability that both the guesses i.e the earth is spherical and the light of the moon is reflected light is 1/30 x 1/2 = 1/60.

    Further, the Qur’an also mentions every living thing is made of water. Every living thing can be made up of either wood, stone, copper, aluminum, steel, silver, gold, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, oil, water, cement, concrete, etc. The options are say about 10,000. The Qur’an rightly says that everything is made up of water. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/10,000 and the probability of all the three guesses i.e. the earth is spherical, light of moon is reflected light and everything is created from water being correct is 1/30 x 1/2 x 1/10,000 = 1/60,000 which is equal to about .0017%.

    The Qur’an speaks about hundreds of things that were not known to men at the time of its revelation. Only in three options the result is .0017%. I leave it upto you, to work out the probability if all the hundreds of the unknown facts were guesses, the chances of all of them being correct guesses simultaneously and there being not a single wrong guess. It is beyond human capacity to make all correct guesses without a single mistake, which itself is sufficient to prove to a logical person that the origin of the Qur’an is Divine.

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

      dream on !!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Erm

      Arabic science, math, atronomy wer highly advanced back in the old days, before it was eventually gutted by Islamic fundamentalism. The Quran including a bunch od scientific knowledge doesn't make it right on religious matters

      January 11, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • ML

      The probability you are a terroroist is low. The probability you are a wack job is 100%

      January 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • John

      Rubbish. You abuse your mathematics. First, unlike flipping coins, it is not random guesswork but observation that leads to conclusions like the earth is a sphere, or the moon reflects light, or that life forms all have a liquid base. All 3 were well established truths long before the 700s when Mohammed wrote the Koran, although later much of that was lost. Second, it would not matter if the odds on achieving truthfulness were zillions to one, odds do not decide whether there is or is not a god. (Or do they? Better think about that.) Third and finally, getting some things right is not much help when your book is also full of 10-zillion lies and stupidities. If you take each sentence and work out some odds of if it is true or not, and then tally up how many were right and what it got wrong, it is a dismal failure. If god wrote it, he or she is an idiot. That goes even more for the bible, as that is larger.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • SSampson

      Well – I hate to burst your bubble – but there was 4500+ years of science between the Quran and the 'Old Testament' (as Christians like to call it) – It is more than reasonable to assume that it would have more up-to-date ideas....

      The items you mentioned had been considered as heretical for hundred of years, but they wer known AND were recorded – Although much knowledge was destroyed and scattered (from places like Alexandira) there was a lot of knowledge when the Quran was written...

      Your stiuplation that 100s of things not kown to man were revelaved by the Quran is illogical and incorrect – the Quran DOES, however, recognize many scientific findings long before some other religions (as seen in the lunacy of this article)

      So – as many of these 'findings' can be found in other writings (not tied to ANY faith) more than 1400 years ago – pre-dating the Quran – The Quran simply recorded this information into its text.....

      I have onl read about half the Quran at this time – I haven't stumbled upon all of the items you touched on (I've been jumping around a bunch) – but it does say what you say – its just that once again it is misinterpreted as something it isn't

      Oh – and FYI – the Mathematics 1500 years ago was pretty good too – you should look it up – your math above has failed to take something into account.... I am sure you may find it – It MAY even play into your theory.... but I'd fix it.... ENJOY !!

      January 11, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd


      First, your grasp of "probability" is at least as weak as your other science understanding. I'll start with your coin flipping example. If I were to choose "heads" in every single toss of your coin, I am guaranteed to be correct 50% of the time. There is no reason at all to multiply the probabilities. If I flip a coin of my own, and say ever time that your coin will be the same as mine, I will be correct 50% of the time. Again, there is no reason to multiply the probabilities.

      All of your so-called "examples" are equally bad. For example, the foolishness about "every living thing is made of water." How is that a surprise? The Sinai is one of the driest places on Earth. Anyone living there knows they will die without water. Water=Life is a trivial observation. But, you compounded your errors writing silliness like "Every living thing can be made up of either wood, stone, copper, aluminum, steel, silver, gold, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, oil, water, cement, concrete, ..."

      Concrete, and cement are essentially the same minerals under different preparations. We are not made of granite either. So what?
      Stone is merely some random rocks. In fact, we are made of many specific minerals. See my article on crystals and the origin of life: "Why Re-Invent the Crystal?" 2008, Reports of the National Center for Science Education, vol 28:5–6, pg:54–55.
      Wood is a living, or once living material. You are saying the "life" is not made from "life."
      We do use copper, iron (steel is an iron carbon alloy), sulfur, sodium, calcium, potassium, gold, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, and dozens of other elements.
      If the Quran said "every living thing is made of water" without mentioning all these other things, the Quran is wrong (again).

      January 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Bill

    If they admit to evolution, they lose the money coming in. Religion is a big business and a political power house. They are not stupid.

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

      SOME might not be stupid. But stupidity and greed are not mutually exclusive.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  4. God

    You guys got it all wrong. Adam and Eve were alien space travelers sent to start a new colony here. They weren't the only ones here, just the most popular. Get over yourselves. Do you really think it makes me happy to see all of you fighting over religion? You've taken one philosophy and turned it into hundreds and claim you're all right. You're not. I gave you brains to think, not mindlessly follow others like sheep.....and don't even get me started on Islam. God

    January 11, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • cecilia

      thanks God, we needed that. You are the Man, or Woman

      January 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  5. The ONE true GOD

    Scientists are mere dust compared to the vastness and complexity of GOD'S universe, and His earth -period

    January 11, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  6. jojo

    They are afraid of losing their 'jobs', or as the ministry is known, an easy boat ride to $$$$$$$$. Religion is a racket. It's a mind controlling cult.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  7. Woody

    Most Christians do not even know the continent Jesus was born on . If he was actually born ! The answer is Asia at Asia Minor . You can look it up for yourself . Next time a person tells you they are a christian ask them this simple question . You will be surprised how many people like to say they are a christian but are not educated at all to religion . Look up http://www.adherents.com . There are as many theories about what is true or false as there are different religions and different beliefs . Not all religions believe in Angeles but those that do believe in Angels would tell those that do not believe in angels that you are wrong if you think there are no angels . It really in a way makes no difference since we all die the exact same way every animal on this planet does .

    January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Bo

      Is it important to know what continent Jesus was born on? It doesn’t surprise me that people don’t know which continent that Jesus was born on. I was surprised when I took a test one time in college and the majority of students (something like 70%) didn’t know that Egypt was in Africa, most thought it was in Asia. It isn’t that the knowledge isn’t avaliable to people, it’s that they are not interested. People are not interested in history, geography of biology, many can’t do simple math and they would fail miserably in grammar. (I would too, I think) the same with politics. What they do know is facts about celebrities and sports movies and music and many are fantastic on a computer. I learned when visiting Canada years ago that the majority of people there thought that Walt Disney was a factious character. So what is your point?

      January 11, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  8. hippypoet

    thats cause they are simple folk... in our northern tongue, they're stupid people with poor educations...in my words, they be dumb dumbie dumbie-heads! 🙂

    January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Isaac

      Prove it! You, or science, can not disprove one iota of the Bible. You accept evolution as blindly as Christians accept the Scriptures.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • hippypoet

      no, i'm pretty sure we can prove the earth is much older then 6,000 .. infact i have at my house several fossils dating back as far as 250 million years ago, its called an ammonite fossil... but yeah totally beyond science! i want what your smoking cause i'm high but i wanna be THAT high!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  9. Nobody N. Particular

    Simple reason for this is dogma. These pastors have been brought up believe the the Bible is the living word of God, that God was the sole influence of it. What these people ignore is that the Bible is an anthology of several, unrelated works, that were bound together. The old Testament comes from a collection which includes books attributed to Moses, then a collection of pseudo historical works, author unknown, a collection of the "major prophets" and finally a collection of "minor prophets". The new Testament is even more disjointed, with only four or the estimated 33 Gospels codified in the Bible, the rest are letters written by the early church leadership dealing with the interpretation of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Its obvious that men wrote these works, and as with the times, their knowledge of the natural world was limited to what they could directly observe, they couldn't conceive of numbers like 4.5 billion years, or the idea of cellular development, or evaluation. Just remember one thing, no matter what science discovers, it will NEVER prove that God doesn't exist, it will only show how subtle God has been in creating the world we know.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Vupra

      You are incorrect. We can test any hypothesis using the scientific method, even to the extent of testing for the existence of any god. Logic and reasoning prove that there is no god as described in the absence of any physical test.
      In the case of a physical test, every god has been proven to not exist.
      You argue based on ignorance instead of facts and logic.
      Facts, logic, and reasoning are things you are not very good at, I guess.

      You think the agnostic position is the correct one, but it is the ignorant one.
      We have many religions with gods of a certain description for each.
      Each of these can be proved to not exist either from being logically impossible or physically impossible.

      I used to be agnostic, but there is no reason to think there is any "god" that exists unless it is so far away in a different universe that it effectively does not exist in this one.
      To be agnostic about the existence of gods in this universe is to claim ignorance of every religion we have ever heard of.
      There are no gods in this universe. Not a single sign, communication, or physical manifestation of any sort has ever been proven. You may wish for a fantasy to come true, but it does not give credence to the agnostic position.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • midogs2

      Interesting, and well explained, perspective.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  10. Galielo2100

    Evolution is what happens when a zygote becomes an adult. When an adult becomes a dis-believing pastor, don't pay him for his services.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  11. TownC

    I believe the Earth is very old. I believe in evolution within species. I do not believe an organism evolves from one species to another. Punctuated equilibrium was invented to explain the sudden appearance of new species. God created Adam and Eve. Man was created for a divine purpose and has a divine destiny.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Vupra

      We have billions of transitional fossils in the geologic record.
      You are denying the very ground you walk on by refusing to face the evidence there.
      What would your god say to that?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Primewonk

      " I do not believe an organism evolves from one species to another. "

      The problemis one of definitions. All too often folks want to see a cat evolve into a dog. That most certainly is not what speciation is.

      Evolution is simply a change in the frequency of alleles in a population over time. For instance we recently watched as a population of culex pipiens became reproductively isolated in a neww ecological niche. Within 50 years this population had changed so much that it was classified as a new species – culex molestans. We recently also had the storie here about the new shark species appearing off Australia.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  12. Zargoth

    A religious education.....

    Oxymoron or the gift that keeps on giving?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  13. Eric in Manhattan

    Ignorant, ignorant people.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  14. TM

    Just proves the wisdom of the passage that starts "Render unto Ceasar..." I would not seek answers to matters of science from teachers of religion any more than I would seek answers to matters of faith from teachers of science. The difference is scientists start from ignorance and work toward understanding, but these "pastors" start from ignorance and DEMAND everyone stay there.

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

      In more ways than one!!

      January 11, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  15. Tom

    Many deny God, but please expain tha feeling of guilt that errupts when you finally have enough and snap and hit that little brother or sister and they go off with a bloody mouth?

    January 11, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • TM

      That's called a "societal norm", and it would still exist even if religion did not.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • ord1n4ryguy

      You don't feel guilty over drawing the blood of a child because of a deity. You feel guilty because it's an awful thing to do, atheist, christian, jew, muslim, whatever. I do not need God to tell me that. Do you?

      January 11, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Vupra

      Many Catholics believe that having a "conscience" is direct proof of their "god", even though we can prove that it is just our natural animal empathy and sympathy and moral relativism at work.
      To equate our moral relativistic senses with an outside intelligence is to be ignorant of the most basic of human social skills that we have evolved from more primitive animal social structures. Our brains are descended from brains that have instinctual reactions to various stimuli. That's it, nothing more. Feelings of guilt are a natural reaction, not a supernatural one.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  16. Conrad Shull

    Worthless "study". Basically they questioned pastors who are Bible literalists, which means they are obviously going to get a high percentage of Biblical creationists. They did not poll non-evangelical, non-fundamentalist protestant pastors or Catholic.priests.

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

      This is what happens when a book based on Faith is used to make up scientific facts. Creationists are Wrong as are the Evolutionists. The truth is that space aliens mucked with pre-humans to make a controllable workforce. Modern man is such a result. Just as good as all the other 2 guesses. But I would believe in the aliens than the Poof Theory of the religious wacos. To think the Earth is 6,000 years old is so preposterous that its laughable. To add all the ages in the begats in the bible is idiotic. Modern American Evangelicals have made up a new religion. They demand respect and obedience and want to control our Government to reflect their own made up beliefs. Religious tyrants is what they are.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  17. 1221

    Rejecting evolution and saying the earth is only 6000 years old is foolish. It's as foolish as saying the big bang was a cosmic coincidence and that we are here only by chance. I haven't met a preacher or a scientist yet that was omnipotent enough to be all knowing.

    January 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  18. Oltan

    No comment...

    January 11, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  19. Hornsea

    In 2012, it is hard for me to comprehend why people do not accept Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It may not be 100% correct, but it is closer than a Bible consisting of handed down verbally related stories over many years.
    Before I first came to this country forty years ago, I went to Church most Sundays. A good Christian was a nice old lady who gave her time & wealth to help the needy & help buy the Vicar a car.
    I quickly learned that a 'Christian' in the USA hated all other religions & if you were not a member of their particular church, they would 'Stick it to you!', especially being a European & especially being in an inter-racial marriage. Don't push me to name names or organizations, but I would & with witnesses. That is not to say that they all shake hands & profess a shallow friendship.
    Quite a few of my in-laws are Evangelicals & don't believe in Evolution – I keep away from the arguments as it is usually in a social situation – I never win!
    But I have a simple message – 'Read the Ten Commandments & live by what they command' – you do not have to go to Church to follow Christ's teachings. Live a good, honest sectarian life. Use your common sense about creation – a Flu virus evolves each year slightly different from past years & requires a modified vaccine. Why can we develop disease resistant crops? Why does God allow millions of innocent children to die each year from Malaria, dirty water, starvation & the atrocities of war.
    If you are a Christian – Do Something constructive!

    January 11, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Jane Chambers

      I agree and have encountered atheist/ conscience arguments before. They are nonsensical. Atheists have more reason to help others–because if they don't, no one else will. Essentially, they are more responsible for themselves, for their friends and loved ones, and for the communities around them. Furthermore, life is more precious to them because it is limited.

      I do not believe that "religious" people really believe in God. I think they just pretend to or think they do. If they really believed in God, why do they send their children to the best schools, have operations, etc. Why not call on God? In every case, God is the LAST person a religious person counts on–after every other measure has been tried and has failed. No, they don't believe in God. Religion is a sort of club to them: I'm in/you're out.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  20. Tom

    Even animals have a sense of right and wrong. The lowly canine has an innate sense of fairness. Don't believe me google Fox dog sense fairness Man has a conscience. Where did it come from? It is easy to deny God, but to explain many of His creations would take someone who can't possibly exist.

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

      "Where did it come from? It is easy to deny God, but to explain many of His creations would take someone who can't possibly exist."

      lol just because you arent certain of something doesn't mean "god did it".

      January 11, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • wayne317

      'Where did it come from?"

      So you think arguments from ignorace are valid? No wonder you believe in God.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • ord1n4ryguy

      Like humans, dogs are social (or pack) animals. For far longer than 6,000 years, the dogs that have been able to hunt cooperatively and live as a social unit have thrived, while the so called "lone wolf" varieties have not. This has required them to be aware and empathetic of their pack mates, resulting in what we have named "empathy". Evolution really is a beautiful thing, just as the Bible is a crowning work of fiction.

      January 11, 2012 at 8:45 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.