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. Chase

    Love this clip: watch?v=6p5jnqEyUs4

    January 11, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Chase

      Full link here: youtube.comwatch?v=6p5jnqEyUs4

      January 11, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  2. myweightinwords

    First off, 1000 Protestant pastors is not a very big sample size. Secondly, we have no indication, aside from clearly not Catholic, which denominations any of them belong to.

    I imagine if the poll was taken of 1000 Baptist, 1000 Evangelicals, 1000 Lutherans, 1000 Methodists, etc, the results would vary quite a bit.

    Essentially, the poll tells us nothing.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. MNfree

    Not a fair question. To these pastors, God created MAN in His image, and therefore requires no evolution. God however does not pick other animals of this earth for this exception, so evolution is a viable theory that should not have conflicts with Christians.

    The muddy water starts when scientists suggest that evolution created humans. That is just a way for atheists to cope with how people exist, except the flaw is, where did the first particle of the universe come from so the evolution process can begin? Out of nothing becomes something does not match the theory and therefore from a creation standpoint, the theory is flawed. After that first spark however, evolution can certainly be a viable theory since animals are known and have been proven to evolve based on their environments. The focus to remember is, those animals have to exist first..

    January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • wayne317

      "To these pastors, God created MAN in His image, and therefore requires no evolution"

      Well that's where they are wrong. The rest falls apart from there.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Meanderman

      Your argument is flawed; if you believe God created the universe then the question must be "who created God"? The belief in a God is based on intellectual laziness, not logic. In the end, Man created God in his image, to serve His (Man's) need to believe in immortality. If God had created man, man would be perfect, for God does not create imperfect things. Well, maybe Newt Gingrich.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Nonimus

      There is plenty of evidence for human evolution, as well as other animals. ( try the Smithsonian website: http://humanorigins.si.edu/)

      The "first particle" is more likely to come out of "nothingness" than a fully formed supernatural supreme being is.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Des

      The questions were fair. The religious answers were nonsense, as is your post. Your claims would be akin to saying that milk is useless because it can't be easily used to build cars. You need to consider what evolution encompasses.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Boisepoet

      If you think evolution is just a way for atheists to cope with humanity, I have to believe you don't understand anything about science or its' methods. Now if you said religion was a way for humans to cope with not knowing the answers to creation, then you would get a 'bravo' for understanding historical, psychological, and sociological evidence that points to that conclusion.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Primewonk

      You're confounding cosmology, abiogenesis, and evolution. 3 separate distinct fields in 3 separate distinct domains.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • MNfree

      If I asked you all the same question, "God used evolution to create people," you would all respond, 'No,' just like most of the pastors did, but for a different reason. Therefore, yes, this is a survey filled with baiting.

      And, we can throw around all the jargon we want, and argue to the bitter end about the semantics of creation deriving from evolution, but the theory, and yes, it is still a theory because extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof, still does not provide sufficient evidence of how the primary particle was created. Since we do not have that independent variable, I'm not sure why scientist are so driven to drive away other options, since their own theory is also missing essential information.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Nonimus

      "...evolution, but the theory, and yes, it is still a theory because extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof, still does not provide sufficient evidence of how the primary particle was created."

      First, a scientific Theory is as strong as it gets. A Theory does not get promoted to fact, it is supported by facts, laws, and other theories.

      Second, the Theory of Evolution only covers the evolution after life began. Abiogenesis is life from non-life and is a different subject of research. "primary particle[s]" is physics and has nothing to do with the Theory of Evolution.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Rick W.

      at least you call it a theory... most other posters are claiming evolution as fact.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • wayne317

      "still does not provide sufficient evidence of how the primary particle was created"

      Because evolution does not cover how the first particle was created. That's irrevelant.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Rick W.,
      Evolution is both a Scientific Theory and a fact. It is also a fact because speciation has been observed and docu.mented. (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/VC1fEvidenceSpeciation.shtml OR

      January 11, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Primewonk

      Rick wrote, " at least you call it a theory... most other posters are claiming evolution as fact."

      And this one of the reasons we have these issues. You choose to be ignorant about science in general and the scientific method in particular.

      This has been posted thousands and thousands of times in these "debates". Evolution, like gravity, is fact and theory. Evolution happens – that is one of millions of facts about evolution. The theory of evolution explains the mechanisms by which it happens.

      I wonder why you refuse to understand this?

      January 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Doogie Browser

    Man spends nine months waiting to get out of the womb.
    Then spends the rest of his life, trying to get back in !

    January 11, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  5. God

    Religious belief has evolved for centuries. Many of these beliefs are now extinct. Many of today's beliefs will soon be extinct. Tomorrow's truth will be based on fact.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  6. Rick W.

    JMB... why do you call people stupid who dont share your blind trust in science? I think most "religious people" would believe in evolution if there were ANY proof just like most atheist would beieve in a Creator if there was proof. I believe as a matter of faith. Look it up, faith is believing in something without the presence of proof. Too me the miracle of nature if proof of GOD. You would rather believe science (which will never prove anything with all accuracy). We both have faith, it's just in different things.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • God

      Science has nothing to do with faith. It is about exploration of truth based on facts.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If science never proved anything, technological advancement would halt.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • DarwinsMom

      Have you ever heard of Carbon dating? Why don't you look that up? We have found fossils that have been dated way older than 6,000 years. We have seen proof of evolution. We have watched birds and other species that have been cut off from the rest of the world for many years evolve slightly to become more adaptable to their environment. If in a small period of time something evolves a little then in a longer period of time something evolves alot. It's not that hard. That is just one example. Yes, evolution is a theory just like gravity is a theory and any other science is theory, but unlike religion there has to be substantial EVIDENCE for it to become accepted.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  7. Colin

    This is remarkable! This is Bronze Age mythology!!! To put it in context, the ancient Scandanavians had the following creation myth. Frost formed in Ginnungagap, a deep empty space between realms of heat and ice and became a giant, Ymir. A cosmic cow named Audhumla also appeared. Licking the cliffs of ice, she revealed a man who had three grandsons. One of them was Odin. With his two brothers, Odin killed the frost giant Ymir and formed the Earth from his body, the seas and rivers from his blood, and the sky from his skull, which was held suspended above the earth by four strong dwarfs.

    Sound any less incredible than six days and a magic talking devil-snake?

    January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • God

      moo !

      January 11, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Doogie Browser

      All of mans concepts of god come from the sun.
      Somewhere along the way, somebody changed that to "Son".
      Ancient man may just be smarter than we are.
      They understood our place in the universe mathamatically.

      The death and ressurection of Jesus is just
      the death of the "sun", winter solstice.
      And the birth of the "Sun".Summer solstice.

      What happens naturally, has been transformed into a fairytale.

      For you bible thumpers, answer this question.
      Why do you believe in the Jesus story, but not the "horus" story.
      Its the exact same story, only Horus happened long before Jesus did.

      Its like putting out a book, many times, keep changing the characters name,
      until one of the characters clicks with the audience.
      Now you have a hit book.

      The bible wasnt written about Jesus,
      Jesus was inserted later.
      Tie up loose ends.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  8. Bill Marvel

    The problem is not the pastors' grasp of science - they have none. It's their muddled theology.
    By embedding creation in time - the six days of Genesis - they deny the unique, supernatural nature of creation as an act that stands outside of time and space and thus they reduce God to some kind of super-designer, a workman-architect on a schedule.
    We humans are creatures of time and space, thus creation seems to us to unfold over time, indeed, seems still to be unfolding. If God is God, there is no time with Him; all things are instantaneous and eternal. To attempt to tie Him down to the temporal order is to literally secularize Him, a grave error.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  9. CreatedbyGod

    Are you ready for the incontrovertible proof that Evolution is a big hoax? The fact of the matter is that evolutionists don't have as much as one single shred of evidence to support their bizarre claims. This fact alone is incontrovertible PROOF that evolution is the biggest educational big fraud ever fabricated.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Did you ever pass a science class? Did you ever attend a science class? Have you ever listened to or read anything other than the bible and Jerry Falwell? Please connect the wires in your head before you type anything.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      A quote for you, CreatedbyGod. Think about what he is saying and how this relates to your own stupidity:

      Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions. -Jerry Falwell

      January 11, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • lmpeters

      You're just trolling right?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • NJBob

      You must be hallucinating. Evolution by natural selection is thoroughly supported by biology, molecular biology, geology, and paleontology. No serious scientist doubts it. Yet YOU tell us it's not true. Who are YOU and what are your credentials? Please provide a list of your peer-reviewed publications. I think you're a know-nothing crackpot.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Doogie Browser

      Are you ready for the incontrovertible proof that CREATION is a big hoax? The fact of the matter is that CREATIONISTS don't have as much as one single shred of evidence to support their bizarre claims. This fact alone is incontrovertible PROOF that CREATION is the biggest educational big fraud ever fabricated.

      Fixed that for you, free of charge.
      No need to thank me.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • TR6

      @CreatedbyGod:” evolutionists don't have as much as one single shred of evidence to support their bizarre claims. This fact alone is incontrovertible PROOF”

      So you have researched every single shred of evidence that supports evolution (must have in order to make that statement). Please list each shred and why it does not support evolutionists claims. As this may take some time please list the most important ones first.

      January 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  10. MAG

    I have attended moderate and liberal mainline Protestant churches for forty plus years. I have never encountered opposition to evolution among the ministers of them or the congregation. The poll was skewed to extreme conservative fundamentalist type churches.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yes, that it was.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  11. Herky515

    Just as present mythologies were past religions, present religions are simply future mythologies in waiting.

    And the future can't get here fast enough...

    January 11, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • God

      amen !

      January 11, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  12. CreatedbyGod

    The truth is that evolutionists are hardhearted against the truth of God's Word. The Word of God declares that God created the world at approximately 4,000 B.C.—YOU'D BE A FOOL NOT TO BELIEVE IT, BECAUSE THERE'S NO HISTORY PRIOR TO 4,000 B.C. As incredible as this fact is, it is undeniable proof against evolution.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Colin

      What are dinosours?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Dr.K.

      No, the words of BIshop Usher claim that the world was created in 4,000 BC. That claim does not exist in the bible, assuming that is what you are referring to as the word of god.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • NJBob

      You call that proof? I call your reasoning circular. It's fatally flawed, just like your religious beliefs.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Marc

      It's a BOOK!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      CreatedbyGod – just "wow", thats all I have to say.....just wow....

      January 11, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • CreatedbyGod

      Adam was created on Day 6, so there were 5 days before him. If we add up the dates from Adam to Abraham, we get about 2,000 years, using the Masoretic Hebrew text of Genesis 5 and 11.3 Whether Christian or secular, most scholars would agree that Abraham lived about 2,000 B.C. (4,000 years ago).

      So a simple calculation is:

      5 days
      + ~2000 years
      + ~4000 years
      ~6000 years
      At this point, the first 5 days are negligible. Quite a few people have done this calculation using the Masoretic text (which is what most English translations are based on) and, with careful attention to the biblical details, have arrived at the same time-frame of about 6,000 years, or about 4,000 B.C.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • asdf

      No history prior to 4000BC, except for Mesopotamia, Egypt, and a handful other ancient cultures. Also your definition of "history" which is apparently limited to "things humans wrote down about stuff humans did" is a little narrow. We know of plenty of things that happened before 4000BC, but it shouldn't surprise someone as smart as yourself that its tough to find a 6500 year old copy of the New Babylon Times.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • lmpeters

      Sure, that timeline can be trusted! Just like how people lived for hundreds of years. Makes total sense when you realize this book was written by HUMANS based on an oral tradition. But what are facts anyway? Who needs 'em!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The history of humankind was recorded well before the bible says.
      The oldest petroglyphs are dated to approximately the Neolithic and late Upper Paleolithic boundary, about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Around 7,000 to 9,000 years ago, other writing systems such as pictographs and ideograms began to appear.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Rick W.

      Colin... a dinosaur is an extinct creature. Does that answer your question? Or was your question sarcasm? Like someone else posted... your reasoning is circular. You are using a dinosaur to disprove the young earth. How can you prove the age of the dinosaur. The Bible tells me they existed with man not billions of years ago. See Job 40:15–24

      January 11, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Doogie Browser

      I would gladly listen to the word of God, if he wants to speak to me.
      So far, all we have is the word of man.
      Words that make no sense.

      January 11, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Runt Batter

      God gave you a brain.
      If you believe in god blindlessly and refuse to
      seek truth, and knowledge are you not insulting god for not using his gift ?

      The human race is barely out of kindergarden,
      But christians have all of the answers,
      the bible tells them so.

      If there is a god, why doesnt he poke his head down here
      for one minute, and straighten out this mess ?
      After all, he created heaven and earth, dont you think he
      would have just a minute to share with his us ?

      I can hear it coming now, from all of the christians,

      "god works in mysterious ways".

      That line will get you out of anything, wont it ?

      January 11, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  13. foreman

    No surprise here. Religion will never see the light even when it is shining in their eyes.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  14. GOP hate America

    7 in 10 pastors are stupid

    January 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • duckforcover

      Amen to that!

      January 11, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  15. jj

    I firmly believe that Man was created to come up with these 'man bites dog' headlines. The 'belief' blog wanted a story that fit their provocative headline. Their nutty go-to guys were conveniently gathered at the Southern Baptist Convention. These brilliant philosophers were likely all carrying guns, too. But not their brains...

    January 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  16. Annie

    As a pastor I question the validity of their population sample. While their results might be true for some Protestant Evangelicals, it is definitely not true of mainline Protestantism. This kind of skewed 'research' does little but damage religion in general and definitely causes one to question even being involved in such.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • asdf

      Perhaps "mainline" protestantism represents much fewer of protestants in the country than it used to. There is no denying that evangelism has significantly increased in the U.S. over the past couple decades, and in many instances people make these tangential issues into all-or-nothing battles for the existence of god.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  17. Jim (retired AF colonel)

    This is why I left organized religion.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  18. heythere

    The article states this was a survey released by the Southern Baptist Convention. As a statistician, this makes me highly skeptical of the group they sampled. I suspect their sample they surveyed was heavily weighted toward Southern Baptists and does not reflect the beliefs of Protestant ministers as a whole

    January 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  19. Dave

    There is no GOD! Just a shi*load of clowns who think they are. Emperor Constantine decided what (from what was written and or verbally passed down through the centuries) would go in the bible. Everything HE didn't approve of was supposed to have been burned. And for centuries this book has been thumped on by millions who share in the contents of the baskets that are passed around. Wake up!!!!

    January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  20. Rob

    Evolution is a theory, and by definition, that means it is unproven....however, there is a significant amount of evidence to support this theory. On the other hand, religion has NO basis in reality. It is a antiquated form of social control that still works on the weakest of minds...

    January 11, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • RFBJR

      Thank you for your insight, Mr. Marx.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • NJBob

      A beautiful display of ignorance! How do you do it?

      January 11, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Wendell

      Nope, you are mistaken theories in Science are 'proven' hypothesis's. 'Theory' in Science ha a very clear meaning. An idea becomes a Theory only after it has passed rigorous and extensive testing and has shown itself to be as proven as anything in Scinec can be (i. e. The 'Theory' of gravity) .

      January 11, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Tex71

      Actually, in science, a theory is as well proven as anything can ever be. Gravity is a theory in science, just like biological evolution. This does not mean that its validity is in doubt. This use of the word "theory" is often trumpeted by creationists and serves no purpose except to display their ignorance of science.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:52 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.