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. tony

    And we let these dangerous animals near our children . . . . . . . . .

    January 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  2. korkea aika

    Creation itself is a myth. Reality is a dream in the Cosmic Mind, and we are caught up in it. Real religion is waking up from that dream. So how old is the earth? No one ever remembers the beginning of a dream.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      On the Solipsism tip:

      The Universe ceases to exist at the moment of your death. Likewise, the Universe springs into existence at the moment of comprehension. “Reality” is personal. It is not universal. What I believe, is true. What I perceive, is real. Therefore, there is an infinite number of realities (call them universes) both coming and going at all times for infinity. The reason physics breaks down as we get close to that frightening doom is because we realize at that point that WE are the God we seek. We create our reality only to destroy it.

      Is there a Bible when I die? No. Galaxies? No. Do you exist when I die? Not to me.

      A “life” is a dream so amazing and long coming that true comprehension is out of reach.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  3. revkkj

    Clearly, the pollsters interviewed only the most conservative Protestant pastors, and not those affiliated with 'mainline' churches. I don't know any mainline protestant ( ELCA Lutheran, Presbyterian CUSA, Episcopalian, Methodist, UCC) or Roman Catholic clergy colleagues who support creationism and the 'young earth' theory. We teach and preach that the creation accounts (yes, there are two, and they differ from each other) in Genesis answers the question of WHO created the universe, not HOW it was created. The same is true of the figures of Adam & Eve. Their story is 'true' in that their disobedience fractured humanity's relationship with God, the creator. The truth of their account in Genesis doesn't need Adam & Eve to be actual figures of history. Most mainline protestant and Roman Catholic clergy work from the understanding that Genesis 1-11 is 'pre-history.' Please, please, don't lump all Christian clergy (or all Christians, period) together with those whose views differ from ours. Christians are not one monolithic group who vote Republican. In fact, most of the clergy I know are Democrats–because of issues of faith. Check out sojourners.com and Jim Wallis' work.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • nancheska

      Good points. This artlicle would make you think that Protestant pastors are a few cards short of a full deck, and there are a lot of sane, informed (do I dare say, "enlightened?") pastors around.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  4. jma58

    Of course they are not going to do anything to dispell their money making myths. Religion is a tax exempt business and is based on fear and stupidity.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Brett

      God likes his Pastor's to be sharply dressed, live in 5000 sq. ft. mansions, and drive Mercedes, didn't you know?

      January 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  5. BBJack

    The same study revealed that 35% of Americans believes the earth is flat and that Fruity Pebbles is a food group. Will someone please beam me off this planet?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • nancheska

      Ya mean Fruity Pebbles ISN'T a foodgroup? Waaaaah!

      January 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  6. nancheska

    Hey Pastors: ever heard of carbon-dating? (And no, it's not snuggling with someone by the campfired embers!) Newsflash: Grand Canyon's a few million years older than 6 to 10K years....

    January 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  7. Jim

    It is shocking that 7 out of 10 purportedly educated leaders are trapped in the middle ages. What next, we restart the spanish inquisition and burn non-believers at the stake?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Chris

      Many denominations do no require much in the way of formal education. Many pastors of small Southern Baptist or urban Pentecostal churches do not even have bachelors degrees. I think that is what is at play in this "study".

      January 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  8. Shaheen

    7 out of 10 rational people laugh at people who reject evolution. the other 3 just laugh on the inside.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  9. Alan Meyer

    "Skeptic" wrote: What does that mean? 73% of pastors are faithful idiots while 27% of them are intelligent hypocrites.

    ROFL. I was going to say more but I can't top that.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  10. *frank*

    ahahaha protestant pastors are idiots ahahaha

    January 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  11. pockaleelee

    This is stupid – ministers know NOTHING about science. Do they poll scienctists on religious dogma?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  12. Harmsy

    Sooooo, if one of these pastors is told by a scientist/doctor he has cancer, does he not believe them because a scientist told them. Does it really matter how the world is created, we should be focused on how to preserve the Earth and not destroy it!

    January 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  13. Eric G

    Does this mean that 73% of Pastors have been diagnosed with Idiocy?

    January 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  14. Caboose

    This is just sad.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  15. The Central Scrutinizer

    The Platypus vs. Intelligent Design

    The platypus is considered by many as the ultimate argument against intelligent design. Strangely, the platypus is also the ultimate argument against creationism, as Christians tend not to think that God is a jacka.s.s.

    The reasoning is that no sentient being would have created something so contrary to logic as the platypus.
    Creationists haven't come to any real consensus on the matter, but most begin frantically quoting the bible when the topic is brought up.

    In Psalm 81:20, Moses instructs that platypus should be served with white wine and that Thursdays are endless-platypus night at Ruby Tuesday.

    It is widely considered among theorists to be conclusive proof of God's cruel sense of humor.

    Well-Known Quotes:

    “The platypus... I don't know WHAT the FUK I was on when I made that...”
    ~ God on Platypuses

    “Fuk this, now I'm Atheist!”
    ~ The Pope on his first sight of a Platypus

    “"I mean, what the hell?"”
    ~ Everybody on Platypuses

    January 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • nancheska

      Haaaa!!! Platypus reminds me of human-duck hybrid on Southpark!

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

      ROFL! That may well be the funniest thing I've ever read in a comments section. Thanks!

      January 10, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  16. Chris

    What denominations pastors did they interview? I am at a soundly evangelical seminary. Not many people here agree with young earth. Most believe in Intel Design of some kind. I doubt many think Adam and Eve were literal people. Perhaps the results are possible if they only interviewed Southern Baptist pastors. Out of all protestants I would have a hard time finding a Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist or Anglican who would thing these things. I trust this survey almost as much as I trust Mitt Romney which is not very much.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Harmsy

      they probably interviewed the non-degreed tea drinking "pastors",

      January 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Jamie M.

      Yep. Good call. I was just reading something along similar lines in a book called The Devil Wears Nada. He covers some of this stuff, but, as with the author, I worry that there may be more people out there like this than we care to imagine. Eh.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  17. marc

    these idiots need to go spend a week in the Galapagos Islands.

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

      Or in the South American tropics with giant centipedes!

      January 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  18. oneSTARman

    I GUESS What this ARTICLE Shows US is that 'You Can't Believe Everything You Read" The so-Called 'SURVEY' Conducted by Southern Baptists shows that INTERVIEWERS can seriously SKEW the Results. This survey is NOT in any way Representative of EDUCATED (Which Most Pastors Are) Christians.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  19. Skeptic

    What does that mean? 73% of pastors are faithful idiots while 27% of them are intelligent hypocrites.

    January 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Stacy

      Yes, that about sums it up.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Guess you feel that 100% of Christians have to be literalists.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  20. independent jim

    It is official .. 7 out of 10 Pastors are uneducated .. only 3 out of 10 recognize the fact that God created ...man ...just not not in his present form .. isnt it true that god created everything .. how do we know what gods plans for evolution were

    January 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Brett

      What created God? That's what I want to know! If everything must have a creator, then surely God is included in everything!

      January 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Ben


      I would guess you are not as educated as half the pastors who believe in creation. I would guess you don't fully understand the theory itself, the various divisions of the theory of evolution or the significant problems with the theory. Most Americans when asked to explain evolution explain an adaptive mechanism for evolution that leads to a natural "evolution" to higher and higher species. However, natural selection is random and as such nothing is inevitable. Yet, that is not what we observe. In a world of natural selection you should see as much devolution as evolution. Interestingly evolution (as the notion of moving towards higher functioning creatures–as people presume and as seems to describe the world in which we live) fits better with a biblical picture of God's creation, as more "evolved" creatures are created on the latter days of creation. Whatever the case, and my intent was not to start a debate on the theories of evolution itself, calling someone uneducated because they disagree with your world view, is simply ignorant. Perhaps you should explore their world view and yours before commenting on their education.


      January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Dr. Gary Hurd

      @ Benkai

      You make some of the more interesting gross errors of fact and reasoning in this discussion so far. For example, you wrote that, "moving towards higher functioning creatures" ... "seems to describe the world in which we live." This alone is ridiculous. Since the first instance of life on Earth, relatively simple single celled organisms have dominated. Today, we can find bacteria in alpine springs, under thousands of feet of ice under glaciers, in boiling thermal vents, under miles of rock, in acidic water that would dissolve your cotton pants, in hyper saline lagoons, and in alkali sumps. There are bacteria that are killed by oxygen, there are bacteria that release oxygen. Some times these are the same. We have billions of cells that make up our bodies. There are three or four times as many bacteria, yeast, and fungi cells in "our" bodies as "our" cells. All of these cells also three or four kinds of viral organisms living inside them. And, we have millions of microscopic multicellular critters that live inside, and all over us. There is nothing in the history of biology to support that "higher" organisms are more than temporary froth on the surface of a vast sea of life. Really, at this point in time, our survival as "higher functioning creatures" is balanced on the point of a needle, and ignorant nitwits are trying to push us off the tip.

      But, the most amusing bit was when you speculated that "Jim" was more ignorant than the creationist preachers, failed to know much about anything, and then scolded him for "calling someone uneducated because they disagree with your world view," because that was "simply ignorant."

      Truly, Bravo! That is some of the best hypocrisy I have seen in weeks.

      January 11, 2012 at 1:45 am |
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