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. Jamie M.

    Seems like you're asking the wrong people. Maybe try a, oh, I don't know, someone who has actually studied the natural sciences. Why should we care what people who are ignorant of entire disciplines think on those subjects that fall under that discipline? It's like asking an actor to weigh in on string theory. It's just silly.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  2. DrJStrangepork

    I can understand why some pastor's reject evolution. To accept that man evolved and the Earth is older than 6000 years, opens a door to questioning the literal description of creation contained in the Bible, and many people believe such questions are dangerous to their salvation. I can't/won't ask them to doubt, but I can/will ask them to keep it themselves.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  3. Bob

    It's no wonder this country celebrates stupidity: it's religious leaders are idiots.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Bob


      January 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Kane

      No, you were right the first time. "It's" is the contraction of "It is", "Its" is the possessive of "It".

      January 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Kane

      Never mind, didn't see the second one.

      Sorry for the spam.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  4. Marilyn

    This came up when I was in Sunday school many years ago, and what was determined by my church (not Baptist) we have no way of knowing how long God's days are. At the time it explained it for me.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  5. Truth and Reality

    These results are so scary and bizarre. These people are supposed to be America's leaders! I think I'm fairly religious but I obviously don't know "religion", at least as it seems to be practiced in the US of A. This seems like a really bad movie.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  6. oneSTARman

    THIS Article REALLY had Me Scared – I mean I am a Devout Christian and I Don't Know ANY Pastor that says the Earth is 6,000 years old – Are THEY just LYING to me – THEN I Read that This is a DELUSIONAL Southern Babtist Survey – so it makes sense.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  7. HHN99

    According to that timeline, dinosaurs died out about 5000 year ago, first human on earth about 4000 years ago, that leaves the bronze age and ice age and pyramid at 3000, Jesus christ at about 2000. Nothing else exist in between.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  8. Gary

    Evolution is a theory, not fact. That is what it is termed, and there are many problems with that doctrine. Some great scientific minds have very valid arguments against it, but are being silenced by the mob rule of evolutionists. What happened to the scientific method? The best scientific minds of their time knew that the earth was the center of the universe, that the earth was flat, that a good blood letting would release the bad humors, that the cell (then atom) was the smallest.... We do not know everything, and to act so is pure arrogance.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Brian

      There's also germ theory as well. So next time you get a cut, don't clean it out because it's only a theory.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Mike

      Actually, evolution is very much a fact. The belief that it is responsible for the development of humans is being debated, but evolution itself is a proven fact. There are numerous examples to support it. The fact that it is called the "theory of evolution" is unfortunate because of the large number of crazy religious supporters who will not accept it.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Brett

      Learn some science terminology first, especially the scientific definition of what a "Theory" is. It is not the colloquial definition of "theory" which you are confusing it with.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Eric G

      " We do not know everything, and to act so is pure arrogance."

      I am pretty sure it is the believers who make claims of knowing everything.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      OOPS! – Posted Elsewhere in the Wrong Place: Aeronautical Engineers call it 'The THEORY of Flight' but We Depend upon Its Reliability when We Get In an airplane.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Jason


      As a scientist I would lke to answer your question. Below I am going to list a few other "thoeries" and attempt to explain why the word theory is used.

      Other theories:

      1) Gravity

      2) Friction

      You cant see Gravity or friction, nor canyou touch it, taste it, smell it, etc but you can setup scientific experiements to TEST the theory of gravity and/or friction. When we setup these experiments guess what? We always get the same results. These tests help us know that the theory of gravity or friction is a correct theory, but we still use the term thoery.

      Theory of Elevolution is the same. We set-up experiements to test the theory of elvolution, and time and time again the test come back true. The lastest test is DNA which has truly allowed us to see how differnet species have elvolved from each other.

      I hope this helps Gary.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • counter

      Yes, but you cannot test macro evolution, only micro. Therefore you cannot prove it. It is NOT fact. Even if you claim it is, it simply is not.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  9. The Central Scrutinizer

    Memo re: Intelligent Design (Rabbit poop just never gets old)

    The Mystery of Rabbit Poop

    Unlike most other mammals, lagomorphs (including domestic rabbits) produce two types of droppings, fecal pellets (the round, dry ones you usually see in the litter box) and cecotropes. The latter are produced in a region of the rabbit's digestive tract called the cec.um, a blind-end pouch located at the junction of the small and large intestines. The cec.um contains a natural community of bacteria and fungi that provide essential nutrients and may even protect the rabbit from potentially harmful pathogens.

    How does the rabbit get those essential nutrients? She eats the cecotropes as they exit the anus. The rabbits blissful expression when she's engaging in cecotrophy (the ingestion of cecotropes) will tell you that she finds this anything but disgusting. In fact, rabbits deprived of their cecotropes will eventually succ.umb to malnutrition. Cecotropes are not feces. They are nutrient-packed dietary items essential to your companion rabbit's good health.

    A rabbit may produce cecotropes at various times during the day, and this periodicity may vary from rabbit to rabbit. Some produce cecotropes in the late morning, some in the late afternoon, and some at night. In any case, they usually do this when you're not watching (quite polite of them). This might be why some people refer to cecotropes as "night droppings," though cecotropes are not always produced at night. A human face is apparently an excellent and refreshing palate-cleanser, as a favorite activity immediately post-cecotrophy often seems to be "kiss the caregiver". Mmmmmm.

    Now THAT is intelligent. A mammal having to eat tasty morsels that come out of it’s butt (an evolutionary trait passed on from the fish digestive system many millions of years ago).

    Next week: Cows and that crazy “cud” double tummy thing. Intelligent Design!

    January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • oneSTARman

      Aeronautical Engineers call it 'The THEORY of Flight' but We Depend upon Its Reliability when We Get In an airplane.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  10. Walker

    God was created in Man's image.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  11. Mike

    It's scary knowing that there are so many stupid people out there in the world who believe all this religious stuff.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  12. loathstheright

    Hahahahaha...well, don't ask me to believe in some magical, invisible faerie in the sky then.....ignorance in this day and age, sad.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  13. Greg

    Ignorance is alive and well.....

    January 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  14. DragonPat1

    This is always one of the funner topics since one can get so many thoughts from a myriad of people. My wife who came from Columbia was told by the Catholic Church that the earth had been formed in seven days so it was quite a shock to her when I proved to her she had believed the wrong concept; now, naturally she swears she never believed such a thing but she did.
    I like the Ancient Alien series since it does (in my opinion) bring up proofs that are hard to resist but then they also have a knack for promoting total BS so they can sell more videos, the trick with them is to use your head and come to a conclusion what could be real and what is total BS.
    I used to believe the bible literally but then discovered in time there was oodles of BS in it, so what to do?
    Now I listen to what theory a promoter has and then decide for myself if it has validity or not in my mind. Was man created by God or did man evolve from the template of life that follows the universal template of planet construction? Or perhaps as legend in the Middle East states Aliens/God/s with advanced technology spliced genes into the ape men tribes that survived after large cataclysms thus transforming them into us? It seems that possibility has some merit but it happened so long ago that one could form the idea that man was created by God by design or by some other race with godlike powers.
    If you look at Genesis it is clearly stated that man was made in their image i.e. the image of more than one so the bible points out that we humans were made by a group rather than one.
    The pastors are stuck by their beliefs in a church that feeds them, literally and as any mutt knows you don’t bite the hand that feeds you and to parrot the official line is good if you wish to continue working in your job, no matter what it is.
    Is there a single God of the universe? I believe there is. Are we the only intelligent beings in this universe? I don’t think so. We simply do not have enough information yet but every day we learn a little more and I do believe that one day we will know absolutely how we came to be.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  15. Rob

    I think they are going to believe (these Pastors) whatever will get the plate passed around and keep the money flowing. The church and disney are in the same business... making people feel good

    January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Doc M

      At least you get your money's worth at Disneyland!

      January 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  16. Big Easy in New Orleans

    If there is no such thing as evolution , then why din't Moses have a laptop, cell phone and HDTV? Man, like all creatures, has evolved over long periods of time. Look at the clothing, tools, farming, hunting, technological and medical advances. We are way far advanced than the humans that roamed the Earth 6,000 years ago. But these pastors would have you believe otherwise all for the sake of the dollar. And with every large advance in technological advances, man has always found a way to destroy its own well-being. Thus the rise and fall of many empires, e.g. Rome, Egypt, Greece, Persia, etc.

    January 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  17. Pest

    Wow, guys who believe in a Hebrew zombie are willing to accept other tall tales? Golly!

    January 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  18. DeeCee1000

    Why doesn't God start writing in the Bible again! That might clear up some questions! Or did "He" decide 2000 yrs ago that He would never ever write another word in the Bible? Did he lose his pen or something?

    January 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Why doesn't God start writing in the Bible again!"""

      Have you heard of the Qur'an? It was written after the Bible. That's God Holy Word, Version 2.0

      Then there's the Book of Mormon. God published that one in 1830, so we can accept that as God's Holy Word, Version 3.0

      Right, Christians?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Kane

      God is suffering from the same thing Hollywood is–Massive writer's block.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  19. Rob

    And the easter bunny too

    January 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  20. Sirned

    The same kind of ignorant voices for God that jailed Galalio........

    January 10, 2012 at 7:55 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.