A new Gallup poll released three days ago confirms that America is still stuck on creationism, and that the numbers have barely budged in thirty years. Here’s the upshot in a graph (click to enlarge):
Four in ten Americans are still straight-out creationists; those numbers have been pretty constant since 1982 though there’s a drop of four points since the last survey. Of the 54% of Americans who accept some form of evolutionary change, 7 in 10 (a total of 38%), are theistic evolutionists, believing that God guided the evolutionary process. Need I add that this form of evolution is not what we biologists accept? And a total of 16% of Americans accept real evolution—purposeless and unguided by God. That’s up from 9% in 1982, and may be a real trend. Still, it’s dispiriting to realize that fewer than one in six Americans accepts evolution in the way scientists accept it.
As always, acceptance of evolution is positively correlated with level of education; here’s the table from the Gallup survey. Still, only one in four Americans with a postgraduate degree accepts real, unguided evolution:
And, again, acceptance of evolution is highly correlated with religiosity. Churchgoers are nearly three times more likely to be straight-out creationists than those who don’t go to church, and only one-fifteenth as likely to accept scientific, unguided evolution. Surprisingly, there’s not much difference between churchgoers and heathens in their acceptance of theistic evolution:
More non-news: Republicans—and this surely reflects in part their greater religiosity—are more creationist than Democrats, and only 40% as likely to accept unguided evolution. Dems and independents are about the same.
If there’s any good news here—and there’s not much, since the data still show us to be a benighted, science-rejecting people—it’s the increase in non-theistic evolutionists in the last decade. I take no heart in the higher proportion of theistic evolutionists, since these range all the way from “God-started-the-process-and-let-it-goers”, to ID advocates who posit continual interjections of God into nature, to old-earth creationists who accept microevolution but not macroevolution, to people like Simon Conway Morris who see God as having intervened (or designed the evolutionary process) to permit the evolution of servile, God-worshipping humans.
What do we do? My solution has always been to loosen the grip of religion on America, since that’s the overwhelming source of creationism. Or maybe we just need some Rock Stars of Evolution. Put me next to Lady Gaga, or Dawkins next to Katy Perry, and Americans will become Darwinists!
UPDATE: Several people have touched on the issue of the relationship between Gnu Atheism and the putative increase of evolution acceptance. If you take the evolution-acceptance trend as real, the rise began about 2001, and that was before the first Gnu Atheist book, Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, was published (that was 2004). Still, what one can say is that since accommodationism by the NCSE and other organizations has been pretty constant over several decades, the rise of Gnu Atheism certainly hasn’t hurt acceptance of evolution—as many accommodationists maintain. (Remember, though, that the “trend” may be specious.)