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. Randy

    In other news, 3 in 10 pastors graduated from grade school.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  2. Bumper

    I've primarily just stated the obvious. Darwin did the same thing too, but he basically got it wrong. I'm proposing to replace Darwin's inductive reasoning paradigm with one that includes deductive reasoning and quality science similar to the way Newton formulated his ideas. It's really ashamed that there have been many deductive biological discoveries that have been made within the past 100 years only to confirm or fit within a false Darwinian paradigm. To its credit though, it did serve to rail against the most ignorant of fundamentalist beliefs about creation. Within my deductive paradigm, a corrected version of Darwin's macro evolution would be reduced to a footnote inside of a more general scientific theory.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      At the risk of drawing myself back into this silliness, I would point out that both deductive and inductive reasoning are valid components of the scientific process, and deduction has not been overlooked. Simply speaking, induction is often how we arrive at ideas of how things are. We observe patterns in the world around us and propose ideas that might explain those observations. This is how a hypothesis is formed. It is often through deductive reasoning that we then test the implications of our hypotheses. An idea is only purely inductive if it is never tested, and that is rare in science. Arguably, the systematic testing of ideas against observations is the very definition of science.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • momoya

      This guy CANNOT be serious. I just.. don't... even.... what?!?

      January 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  3. me

    The Catholic Church doesn't. They teach evolution in Catholic schools.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  4. Last Call

    The scarey thing is that 3 in 10 pastors accept evolution.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Bob

      30% of these pastors who nodded yes do not understand the theory of "evolution". Sad indeed!

      January 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  5. Phil

    My two take-aways from this are: 1. I'm glad I don't go to church, and 2. I really want that coffee mug.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  6. sasquatch

    Man was created by Aliens to mine gold.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  7. my friendly discussion with a religious person

    Me: How do you know that there is a God?

    Him: Look around you. Does this look like something that could have come about by chance? Consider the distance the earth is from the Sun. Any closer it would be too hot. Any further it would be too cold. Doesn't that testify in favor of divine creation? Did you know that Saturn (or Jupiter) protects the earth from meteors? Consider the moon. It keeps the Earth on it's tilted axis. Consider how your brain works. Could that have come about by chance? You were designed to be intelligent, with the capacity to store countless memories. look at the butterfly. .... continues for some time .....

    Me: Wow, I never looked at it like that. That makes a lot of sense. So who created God?

    him: I don't understand.

    Me: Well you said that humans possess qualities that prove we were created by God. By extension, doesn't that mean that God posesses qualities that prove he was created?

    Him: God always existed.

    me: oh. ok. have a nice day.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Cosmos

      The two worldviews are basically

      A} God created the universe and everything in it


      B} Universe came into existence from nothing

      Both can't be right, a rational person would therefore choose the most likely possiblity.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  8. Bumper


    I've already addressed the divine spark versus natural processes issue using simple binary logic and Bayesian statistics. From a non-Theist perspective, you get fair coin tossing stats for both. However, again, if you read my posting, you will see that I have eliminated the natural processes that have included eternal universe and "something" for "nothing" scenarios. Physical evidence from the Big Bang eliminates the eternal universe through the CMB. "Something" for "nothing" is supported by quantum mechanics, but deceptively, what Stephan Hawking refers to as "nothing" is actually "something", it's called a vacuum space. A vacuum space has to be created out of the space/time ingredients from the Big Bang itself. Wow, at this point, perhaps we are locked into only creative elemental options. Neat.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Why do you continue to confound cosmology, abiogenesis, and evolution?

      Three separate fields. Three separate domains. Three UNRELATED fields.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • momoya

      Bumper, please consider Primewonk's statement to you; it's what any professional biologist or physicist would tell you.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Bumper

      momoya and primewonk:

      Yes, these are different areas of study. In fact, for my bird example, you don't need to evoke the Big Bang or anything to do with cosmology at all. If you just look at the bird itself, it has fundamental elements and computational rules. It does not even matter if the bird is alive or not (here my definition of "living system" is somewhat arbitrary), because what I describe still works the same.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Yes, I too find the cherry picking of totally different scientific disciplines to support a personally desired outcome that none of the disciplines arrive at individually when taken to their respective end, annoying and self-deluding.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • momoya

      And yet again you miss the point, Bumper.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  9. Leucadia Bob


    January 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  10. Bumper


    The distinction you make between living and non-living is extremely irrelevant. More generally, I was referring to a complex adaptive system. It does not matter if it has literally died or not. That's stupid. Is that all you got?

    January 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  11. Bumper

    There are no citations to my blog postings because I have not yet published my ideas. So, I don't have any citations to point you to.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Primewonk

      So this is all "research" you are doing yourself? What accredited University are you at?

      What University awarded you your PhD's in biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, theoretical astrophysics, and mathematics?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bumper

      I've primarily just stated the obvious. Darwin did the same thing too, but he got it wrong. I'm proposing to replace Darwin's inductive reasoning paradigm with one that includes deductive reasoning and quality science similar to the way Newton formulated his ideas. It's really ashamed that there have been many deductive biological discoveries that have been made within the past 100 years only to confirm or fit within a false Darwinian paradigm. To its credit though, it did serve to rail against the most ignorant of fundamentalist beliefs about creation. Within my deductive paradigm, a corrected version of Darwin's macro evolution would be reduced to a footnote inside of a more general scientific theory.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Personally, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to work toward publishing your ideas in academic journals. I believe the ideas would benefit substantially from the peer review process and professional feedback.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  12. WASP

    ok this is something i imagine most people believers and sceptics of the bible will have fun with........god is an alien. lol don't believe me? check this out. "Extraterrestrial life, defined as life that does not originate from Earth" now if god made the universe, then he wasn't made on earth so there by being an alien intelligence.........thus aliens a.k.a. extraterrstrial life does exist to those that believe in god. lol.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Mike

      You are absolutely correct...God is by default, an extraterrestrial being. In fact, all born again Christians on this planet are part human, part extraterrestrial, because we have the extraterrestrial Spirit of God living within us. That is how he speaks to us...through his Holy Spirit and ANYONE, who hears voices in their head, HAS NOT heard the voice of God, because he does not speak in one's head. Can I prove that God speaks?.....Of course. Are their other extraterrestrials that the Bible speaks of? Yes indeed. I have seen them and I have heard them, but I will not bore you with the details.....lol? Your comment was the truth...why laugh about it?

      January 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • WASP

      why laugh about it? because the whole idea that some perfect being would waste one iota of his time on such a pitiful thing as a human is hilarious. that and i know i can find hundreds if not thousands of christians that say aliens don't exist, but they believe in an alien. now that's funny. you have seen and speak with ET's. how long have they spoken to you? one more thing, so god is creating alien/human hybrids? lmfao now that is the funniest thing i have ever heard from a believer. thank you for the laugh.

      January 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  13. yeahalright

    My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Except, of course, that it isn't.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  14. travelinpants

    Internal geiger counter........... free will............hedonism...........murder...........woodstock..........WWi, ii, VNam..............marriage......divorce.........sibling rivalry......dating.........eharmony.........nasa......Vatican.......ML.......MLK..........MX.......

    January 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • yeahalright


      Or are you having a stroke? Get off CNN, call 911.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  15. asche

    How was this a question to begin with? Are too dumb to even be ok with the obvious delineation between religion and science? Pretty simple, if you're a scientist who believes in divine... things, you are dumb. If you are a pastor who believes in evolution, you are even dumber than if you were just a dumb pastor rejecting science. Dummies, as always, can be excluded so the rule is, religious people do not believe evolution, science does not believe in divine creation. End of transmission.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Primewonk

      There are 2 billion Christians on earth. Of that number, 90%, or 1.8 billion belong to sects whose position is that there is no problem with a faith in the Christian version of god and an understanding that evolution is a fact. It is only amongst the remaining 200 million Christians that we see this problem. The vast majority of these folks are fundamentalists. And unfortunately, a majority of them live in the U.S.

      You can also go to the Clergy Letter Project. This is a group of 12,000+ professional theologians in the U.S. who again state that there is no conflict between a belief in your version of god and an understanding of science.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  16. Canadain

    Religion's ability to promote ignorance is heart breaking. Is there any hope left?

    January 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • asche

      It's people, not religion that is the source of ignorance. If we weren't ignorant about religion, we'd find something else to get completely wrong. Look through the trees to see the forest.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  17. Canadain

    Religion's ability to promote ignorance is heart breaking.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  18. truesoy

    Well, at least they don't deny the earth is round.
    Boy, I feel better now.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ...any more.

      January 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  19. Sheldon

    Christians are afraid of evolution because it threatens their belief that they are the center of God's creation. They also think that evolution says we come from monkeys. To put it simply, it's not that we come from monkeys, but rather than we share a similar ancestry. The evidence is overwhelming, but who can argue with someone who accepts a 2000 year-old book written by a group of ignorant old men as their primary source of evidence? I certainly cannot.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • frespech

      No but you can accept a 100 year old book about birds with slim beaks and birds with blunt beaks and somehow believe from that we get a change in species. Talk about a leap of faith, or better yet a leap of science. Secondly your depiction of monkey to man is simply that, a depiction of fiction.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      @frespech- the basic tenet of Darwin's theory is survival of the fittest and avolution takes place when it is necassaryfor a species to survive. The alligator and shark have changed litte simply because they have not had to. They are survivng fine as they are.
      Now your turn... explain to me how the Church almost put Galileo and Copernicus to death for openly stating that the earth was the not the center of the universe as claimed by the Bible. The Church somehow rectified this with their beliefs when it became common knowledge (even to the most ignorant and stubborn) that the earth was NOT the center of the universe (as the Bible clearly states). You can still worship your God and be intelligent. You should try it some time.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @freespeech – wow. Awful argument. No one takes Darwin's work at face value. That's the whole point of science. It needs to be reviewed and evidence needs to be repeatable. Science is always questioning itself and trying to prove itself wrong. This is obviously over your head. You could try talking to a 6th grader though – they should have an understanding of the basic process.

      Your religion on the other hand, uses circular logic to defend its one and only source. It (or many versions of it) discourages or prohibits questioning (and until the last couple hundred years or so, prohibited by death).

      January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  20. alan

    very scary....the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and we still spout this nonsense about talking snakes, virgin births and flying angels

    January 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • frespech

      Really, then explain to me how much an alligator has evolved over the last 10 million years, or the shark.They haven't, get the picture.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ frespech – do you think that there is a timetable evolution has to follow?

      You do realize, don't you, that evolution happens when there is a change in the ecological niche an organism inhabits.

      If you don't understand science, why do you denigrate science?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @frespech, You really should read more. Just do a google search or something it's not hard to find. If you want to be treated like an adult, quit acting like a child. Besides leaving out the fact that alligators and sharks evolved from something to begin with, you must also be willing to dismiss all of the fossil records we have that show the many changes that they have gone through.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @frespech, Sorry my last comment was really inconsiderate of the fact that you may actually be a child. In which case, my advice is the same. Read, learn, evolve.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • doggies with full bellies wagging their tails

      Why are there albino crocodiles?
      Jesus must have made them because he loves us, so that we can look at them and say "Oooh! An albino crocodile! Neat! Jesus, you soooo rock!"
      No other explanation makes sense, really..................................................

      January 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.