Secularism on the rise: new Gallup poll shows that 40% of Americans are young-earth creationists, 33% are theistic evolutionists, and 22% are naturalistic evolutionists

July 27, 2019 • 11:00 am

Over at a Gallup poll site, you can see the headline below reporting the newest iteration of Gallup’s sporadic—now yearly or biennially—survey of American belief in creationism. (It’s really belief in human evolution, so be aware that there are many who think that while other species evolved à la Darwin, humans alone required divine intervention. Do remember that Tennessee’s Butler Act, whose violation led to the trial of John Scopes in 1925, forbad the teaching of human evolution, not evolution in general. )

That headline seems scary, no? In fact, if you read here regularly, this is pretty close to long-term estimates of Biblical young-earth creationists gathered by Gallup since 1982 (the percentage has varied between a low of 38% two years ago and a high 47% in 1993). Here are the data taken since the first survey in 1982.

But in fact the headline is a big underestimate. In fact, 73% of Americans believe in creationism—if you count those who think that God guided an evolutionary process leading to the evolution of humans “over millions of years from less advanced forms of life”.  If God is guiding the process, then there has to be some divine, teleological intervention in evolution, just as Intelligent Design advocates propose. This could happen in several ways. God could, as Michael Behe apparently believes, create the right mutations at the right time, circumventing the naturalistic “random” mutations that most biologists accept but that, says Behe, can’t produce complex adaptations. Or there could be differential reproduction or extinction mandated by some undetected interventions of God. Maybe God tweaked the reproductive potential of those members of Homo who had bigger brains.

So the proportion of Americans who accept some divine hand in evolution is really 73%, and what is divine intervention except a form of creationism? Granted, it works hand in hand with evolution, but it’s a non-naturalistic theory. Thus, by saying that the figures are 40%, Gallup is underestimating the real figure by 45%.  On average, only 22% of Americans—a bit more than one in five—accept a purely naturalistic view of human evolution.

Although Gallup says that the figures for creationists and theistic evolutionists have held pretty steady, the long term-trend is really down a bit (their sum was 82% in 1982 and is now 73%).

One trend that is evident is the slow but ineluctable rise of naturalistic evolutionists, which has more than doubled (9%-22%) over the last 37 years. I’m betting this isn’t a statistical fluke, but a real increase of American acceptance of evolution.

Why is this happening? My theory, which is mine (but also other people’s), doesn’t require any perspicacity: it’s almost surely due to the increasing secularization of America. “Nones”—those who aren’t affiliated with a church—are now nearly a quarter of the American population, and about a third of young people. Granted, many of those are still deists, or even theists, and many are spiritual, but there’s no doubt that the unaffiliated are more willing to accept naturalistic evolution. If you don’t believe in a theistic God, then what reason do you have to oppose evolution?

You can see that in the demographic, educational, and religious breakdown given by Gallup:

These are the usual results: the lower the index of a person’s religiosity, the more likely they are to accept evolution. Young-earth creationism is higher among Protestants than Catholics (though more of the latter accept theistic evolution), and the “nones” are rife with evolutionists: 59% of them accept unguided, naturalistic evolution.

Do note that although the Catholic Church officially accepts evolution, 34% of them remain young-earth creationists, bucking their church’s dogma, while only 18% of them are naturalistic evolutionists. (The Church does broach some supernatural views of evolution, including the important tenet that all living humans are the lineal descendants of one pair of people: Adam and Eve.)

Finally, having a college degree strongly reduces your chances (by more than 50%) of accepting young-earth creationism of humans (though, curiously, it increases the probability of accepting theistic evolution), but that college degree also doubles your likelihood of accepting naturalistic evolution of humans.

The upshot? Creationism—both young-earth and “goddy interventionist” forms—is still the dominant American view of how humans came to be. But, slowly and surely, those who accept evolution in the same way scientists accept it are growing. Why, in 80 years, if the trend continues, nearly half of Americans will accept evolution! None of us will be around to see that, and our species might not even be around. But at least Americans are growing saner.

I’d love for some reporter to ask Trump, as well as the Democratic candidates for President, if they accept naturalistic evolution. I don’t think anyone has ever asked Trump about that.

Here, for those interested in such things, are the methods Gallup used to get these figures. And remember again that the data are about human evolution. If you left out humans in the questions, you’d see a lot fewer creationists, at least of the young-earth, Biblical type.




h/t: Barry

58 thoughts on “Secularism on the rise: new Gallup poll shows that 40% of Americans are young-earth creationists, 33% are theistic evolutionists, and 22% are naturalistic evolutionists

    1. I’m not sure which of those two figures is more depressing……(sigh). But I agree with your interpretation that those 40% are likely to be the same individuals!

    2. From my experience (which proves nothing about the general case) this is not true. I know more than a few longtime, committed atheists who voted for Trump. I don’t think they particularly like Trump, except as a weapon to assault people and ideas they despise (Hilary Clinton, postmodernism, political correctness, etc.).

        1. Yes, as Stephen Pinker broadcasts “anecdotes are not data.” Neither are yours and mine combined. I would guess yours is more indicative of the general sentiment though.

          You do know (of) at least one atheist who voted for Trump – Donald Trump, if he bothered to vote.

            1. By extension, I see Trumps persona (he doesn’t have his own personality) as an accumulation of attitudes from a silver spoon childhood, a ruthless real estate career, a reality TV actor – beauty contest promoter – wrestling actor/promoter, (He’d sell you the Brooklyn Bridge with a strait face). Combine that with in innate sociopathic psychopathy and you see what you get. Calling him a liar is misleading since he has no significant contact with reality to begin with.

            2. Hmm,I belonged to a Presbyterian church before I became an atheist, and the Sunday liquid they used was (un-fermented) grape juice. Like some of the Methodists at that time, they opposed drinking stuff with ethanol in it.

          1. Only small fraction of unaffiliated voters would be “committed atheists”. Far more would be “spiritual but not religious” and so forth. Still, I’m sure there were some atheists who disturbed enough about Islam to support him on that basis. But I would expect that to be an extremely small number.

  1. Is there some way that they can tell what number is a landline and what is a cellphone number?

    I am one of the few people in the universe who still has a landline, but also a cell phone. However, I do not answer any call from any number I do not recognize and even if the caller id said Gallup poll I would not answer. I know others who do the same, so with so many spam calls affecting how we use our phones, I wonder if their confidence levels are correct.

    1. What is this “landline” that you speak of, o wise and ancient one? Does it have a rotary dial? 🙂

      1. I actually still own a rotary dial phone, but I have not plugged it in to see if it still works. It is the same phone that was in our house in Cleveland in the 1950s and my mother used it for most of the next 50 years.

        1. In our home in Cleveland in the Fifties we had one rotary phone on the wall (if yours is a table model, I’ll bet it’s black), shared a so-called “party-line” with a neighbor, and our phone number began with an exchange (“WHitney” in our area), the first two letters of which indicated the first two numbers to dial (like the “BUtterfield 8″ in the title of John O’Hara’s novel).

          Now I feel ancient, too. 🙂

          1. Do you like the Topper character in Dilbert?

            That’s nothing. My first phone had no dial, but a crank. “Numbers” in the community were things like two longs and a short. When you “dialed” the code was heard on every phone in town. If it was yours, you answered – or you could just pick up and listen if you were that sort of person.

            Unlike Topper’s claims, this one is true.

            1. Impressive, but I lived in 3 different houses up to the age of 15 with no phone at all. It was at least a 200 yard walk to the phone box (rotary dial with a slot for pennies), without street lights.

          2. +1 and the party line was with mumAaunt and Uncle who lived in the next house on the street. This was St. Louis. VI (victor)3-4713.

  2. With more people than ever going to college and university in 2019 an amazing ndictment of public education.

  3. I think what these statistics reflect regarding Protestants is the shrinking of the old moderate, mainline denominations and the rise of evangelicals in their place.

    I think this corresponds with the rapidly vanishing moderate wing of Republican Party and the complete disappearance of its old, liberal Eastern Establishment wing — the wing of politicians like Nelson Rockefeller and Margaret Chase Smith and Prescott Bush, of families like the Cabots and the Lodges and the Cabot-Lodges — the wing that controlled most of the levers of real power in these United States through the middle of the last century.

    Those folks — the “Brahim” class, as it was known in New England — were religious (mainly Episcopalian, I think) but they didn’t take their religion all that seriously, and especially not so seriously that they’d ever let it interfere with their children’s education. And they managed to maintain a bit of self-deprecating humor about it, too, both as to the snobbishness of their class and as to their religion.

    As the old Brahim doggerel had it:

    Here’s to dear old Boston
    The home of the bean and the cod
    Where the Cabots speak only to the Lowells
    And the Lowells speak only to God.

  4. The first thing to jump out at me was only a third of people who completed college, know the right answer (I think we can say “right answer” on this forum without controversy). This is pathetic and either indites the survey, the colleges, or the people going to college.

    Failure to grasp one of the most important facts we humans have discovered is one reason in a long list that “college for all” is such a misguided ideology.

    1. What percentage of colleges are religious based? I did a quick lookup and it was like 25%. I don’t know if that is correct but it is food for thought. Most of the religious parents I know want their kids to go to s religious based college

      1. I went to a religious undergraduate college (name redacted). Two years of “religion” courses were required for graduation. However, the professors who taught religion were real religious scholars and it was in those courses that I learned that most of the stories in the Bible were known to be myths, as demonstrated by religious archaeology and actual historical records. I was already well on my way to considering myself an atheist and those courses helped me confirm it.

    2. I don’t think anyone is proposing to make college attendance compulsory, Carl. I think the proposal is to make free higher public education available to students with the qualifications and will to attend. The most popular and feasible proposals I’ve heard involve extending free public education to two-year community and junior colleges and trade schools.

      I don’t know that this would have more than a minimal impact on acceptance of evolution, but it seems a reasonable approach for helping the children of the working and middle classes who’ve been hurt worst by the erosion of this nation’s industrial and manufacturing base.

      1. My use of “college for all” doesn’t involve compulsory attendance. I oppose the idea that everyone or even many going to college is good and laudable idea.

        In the overwhelming majority of cases, the value of a college degree consists entirely as a signifier to potential employers. The skills and knowledge one obtains are minimal and certainly not worth four years and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

        I don’t object to expanding opportunities. I object to the overvaluing of college and the pain resulting from society as a whole buying into the myth.

        1. Don’t you think extending free public education to two-year trade schools or community colleges would help expand those opportunities (without simply serving as a “signifiers”)?

          Couldn’t your argument be extended to eliminating free public high-school education, too (as was argued by reactionary forces against adopting free public K-through-12 education when it was first proposed in the late 19th-century United States)?

          1. I’ll try to be clearer without being repetitious. It’s the idea that college is a pure benefit, or even a benefit at all in most cases. If the value is only in the credential, not the skills and knowledge acquired, we are involved in a costly, senseless ritual. If we could break ourselves of this, it would save a lot of money and pain.

            No, the argument doesn’t extend to eliminating free public high school. In fact, that’s where I think the money is better spent. I see value in every citizen having a common core of knowledge: the Constitution, history, math, English, literature. Some communities do a good job with this basic common education, but others are deplorable – let’s fix that.

            Another policy that’s often next out of the mouths of “college for all” proponents is student debt forgiveness. This is a terrible idea, heaping another advantage on people already ahead of the game.

    3. To indict college for all because only a third of college graduates give the “right” answer regarding evolution makes no sense to me. As others have pointed out, most students attending college these days want a technical education so that they can become high paid drones in the modern cyber economy. What we need is more much detailed information about the type of education and what kind of institutions attended by the respondents to the Gallup poll. For example, I would like to see a comparison of responses between those who received a liberal arts education versus a technical education at a secular university.

      1. I responded to Ken on the subject of “college for all” but that seems to have gotten lost. My objection doesn’t involve mandatory attendance at all. Not knowing Darwin is a minor reason. I don’t object to expanding opportunities.

        I object to the idea that going to college is a good idea for most people. The degree is valuable as a credential to employers, but only because the wider society buys into the myth. The skills and knowledge people gain in college are minimal and easily gained on the job in most fields. Having the degree says a little bit about your intelligence and work ethic, but at tremendous expense in time and money. A 30 minute IQ and aptitude test would suffice.

        And you have the rest of your life to read the great books or study whatever you want.

    1. This result doesn’t surprise me at all.

      An atheist raised a Jew used his religious acumen to kill (for most thinking people) the idea that the Bible is of supernatural origin or that it contains any knowledge that cannot be discovered by the light of reason. I hope everyone knows the book (contemporaneously described as “forged in hell”) and author I here mention.

      1. I’m tempted to tease you with “Karl Marx,” but think the proper Jeopardy answer is “Who is Baruch Spinoza?”

        I’ll stay with religion for $200, Alex
        Carl. 🙂

        1. Half credit for Ken. For Sasha, the title is Theological-Political Treatise or Tractatus Theologico Politicus (TTP) in the original Latin. This book, unlike what is generally considered Spinoza’s masterpiece (Ethica), is quite readable and entertaining or maddening if you are a believer.

          To place the book in historical perspective Steven Nadler’s A Book Forged in Hell, Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age is excellent.

          Not coincidentally, the TTP is highly important to all of liberal theory, and some (me included) think was background philosophy guiding the founding generation. The combination of an attack on religion with political theory is not an accident. Spinoza saw that religion interjected into politics was the political problem.

  5. Combining “creationism” with “theistic evolution” results in a depressingly high percentage. But as a practical matter, how much significance should we assign to that latter category? Seems to me, “theistic evolution” might range from wishy-washy creationism to the likes of Ken Miller and Francis Collins. And if it’s mostly Millers and Collinses, that’s slightly better news.

  6. A few days ago I made what I believed would be a provocative OT comment on a report posted on a popular news site telling how genetic family tree data had been used to track down and convict a likely assassin. My comment went “The same genetic certainty deduced from family trees that has sentenced [name redacted] to life in prison equally guarantees, through the similarity in DNA, that we humans, you and I, are cousins roughly 8-million-years-separated from [man’s common ancestor with] the chimpanzee.”
    I had expected to be crushed by creationists but surprisingly received 6 thumbs-up and only 1 down vote. Times seem to be changing.

    1. The only true statement about the basic question of the age of the earth that matters is, “Why do you need to know.” If we found a countdown timer in a mountaintop nook that showed the exact age of the earth, what question would that answer. The first doofus to try to add up the modern language translation of the Bible to total up the age of the earth only made an ass of himself. The potential source for error in the translator’s understanding was enough skew the date. It was ignorant to suppose it accurate or possible. Do I believe, yes. Do I worship, yes – but neither side of the ridiculous argument over which is right is a waste of time. We don’t know. It will not help anyone or expand anyone’s understanding to reach a conclusion. If the answer, were delivered by two white mice — 42 — would we really be better off. The question only serves to offer a space for people to trade snarky remarks. The Bible is not a book, it is a tiny library of ancient texts translated by fallible men. The stories and the men who interpreted and translated them span many decades. Even the direct quotations of the Christian faith’s martyr cannot be conclusively proven. But, one thing is clear, we are to have our own individual understanding of what amounts to truth and live by those codes. Religion is best lived quietly, not as a group activity and most frequently noticed by the kind of relationships we have with others.

      1. What a load of nonsense Woody – you should be ashamed. Your philosophy is that facts about the world or our universe do not matter:

        The only true statement about the basic question of the age of the earth that matters is, “Why do you need to know” […] Do I believe, yes. Do I worship, yes – but neither side of the ridiculous argument over which is right is a waste of time. We don’t know. It will not help anyone or expand anyone’s understanding to reach a conclusion.

        It is through an interest in nature & the other phenomenon around me that I began to twig at a young age that I was being lied to by my church. Your attitude of not questioning is a failed model that all churches teach their flock & we all know why. Right?

        1. Wrong, and I said so. We don’t know . . . the list of things we don’t know, why fire works, where oil comes from, why we are here, the list of assumptions is long and usually, and I mean usually if you look at them over time, turn out wrong. The argument or arguing itself is baseless. Believe what you want, but leave my beliefs out of the blather, my beliefs are functional for me. If you have a beef with the church, unless you are willing to join that church and lead it to an enlightenment, leave it alone. You are figuratively shouting anti-message slogans through the black wrought iron fence in front of the Whitehouse, it’s pointless to criticize unless you do something. Don’t argue. Don’t try to bend others to your point of view. I DON’T know your interpretation of the fact. Just some advice – find some beliefs that are functional for you and go about your business of improving the spot of real estate you populate right now, smile at people, be nice to custodians, thank your clerk at Walmart or the Stop and Rob for a good job. Now, wear your hair purple, tat everything you want to tat, prance naked in the moonlight, but harm no one. I’ll be the guy smiling at you on the street.

          1. You are so cute Woody for being so unaware. Unaware that your self-interest sticks out in front of you sir.

            Some bloke has ‘questions’ about the origin of what are termed by most experts “fossil fuels” [yes, I found that convenient doubt of yours in another thread] & the age of the Earth – this opens the door for him to ‘question’ climate science [yes, that other thread again]. A great move to have in your back pocket when selling high end goods to the rich or to people who charter to the rich.

            The same bloke has a spiel that discourages questioning : “why do you need to know” – I am not the least surprised that you cultivate doubts where it suits your wallet to do so.

            Another reason for you to be ashamed.

              1. Yeah, the guy who brokers yachts & super-yachts is ‘sceptical’ about ONLY exactly those aspects of science that might put his business in shade [and/or his conscience] – this ‘questioning’ approach to things he can’t see, touch, measure excludes the extraordinary number of yacht-friendly gadgets that rely on principles his kind of Janus-faced ‘sceptic’ ignores:

                No G.P.S. & RADAR without
                Young, Dalton, Faraday, Maxwell, Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Born, Dirac, Pauli & others for quantum mechanics; Michelson, Lorentz, Poincaré, Planck [him again], Minkowski/Einstein [not him again!] for relativity; vonThisundtthat & many astronomers for practical rocketry; Shockley & Bell labs & zillions before for semiconductors.

                All the above is cool with the fat cat, but he thinks we don’t know how fire works! Well he says “how” not “why” actually which indicates he’s not sciencetastic. I bet he writes to the posh Brit papers** about the Commie Greens hurting the trade balance 🙂

                ** The Sunday Telegraph hosted a climate denying columnist, Christopher Booker for 30 years until April Fool’s day 2019

  7. A couple of things that occurred to me:

    All three of the questions in the poll include a reference to god as if it existed. I wonder what the response might be to a question along the lines ‘There are no gods, and evolution proceeded along entirely naturalistic lines’.

    As I understand it, the RCC’s dogma is that evolution may have taken place, but (a) it is teleological (ie god had the end-point, humans, as its final objective) and (b) there is a fundamental difference between us and all other animals, in that the god has injected a bit of soul substance into us.

    All anti-scientific bollocks, of course. But at least creationism is now on a downward path.

    1. The wording is odd. Despite the title saying humans, the questions use man rather than humans. They use the word “developed” instead of “evolved.” They use the word “God” capitalized, without an article in front of it, as if everyone knows which god they mean.

      “but God had no part” is very odd. It would be more ordinary to say “and” rather than “but,” unless a god not having a part is unusual. Even better would be just “humans evolved”.

      The “Nones” who see a role for a god in the origins of humans are a curious group. How do you square believing a god created you with not being religious? “Yeah there is a supernatural being who created me, but I have no interest in it.” Seems a bit cold.

      1. I also dislike the words & phrasing of the questions: “Humans”, “evolved”, “evolution” & “guided evolution” might be better. For example there is a portion of the population [including atheists] who hold to a non-theistic form of creationism e.g. aliens planted humans on Earth or created us from Earth primate stock mixed with alien DNA etc etc.

        If we inquired more generally into the beliefs of Westerners we would discover that irrationality is on the increase. People are bombarded with nonsense** all their waking hours & this must rub off somewhat.

        Diets & nutrition: multivitamins, superfoods, gluten hysteria, “chemicals” are bad, anti-GMO, folk medicine [such as Chinese medicine]

        Alt med: Anti-vax, Homeopathy, crystals, magnet bracelets, cupping, quantum this & that, radio waves are bad, “chemicals” are bad, detox, cleansing, body energy fields, aromatherapy, grounding, Rorschach test, Feng Shui

        Audiophile tube amps, vinyl records $10,000 audio cables, guitar tone woods

        World government, Jade Helm, UN Black helicopters, Illuminati, George Soros, Rothschilds, Bildeberg, crisis actors, Chemtrails

        Jewish banks & media, anti-Semetic conspiracies, holocaust denial, Third Reich glorification [uniforms, Wunderwaffen]

        Human behavioural sex difference denial

        Gay cures

        Anthropogenic climate change denial

        Ancient aliens, pyramids

        Men in black, Area 51, Alien abductions, implantation & cattle mutilation

        Flat Earth

        Electric Universe

        Apollo hoax

        9/11 an inside job



        12 step programs

        Lie detectors

        Left brain/right brain

        Cooking myths: sealing meat etc

        Ghosts & the paranormal

        Bigfoot & cryptozoology generally



        Abiotic oil


        Big pharma

        Mandela effect

        Suppression of inventions [water-fuelled engines, everlasting lightbulbs]

        Knights Templar

        Hair restoration

        Solfeggio frequencies

        blah blah blah

        1. Perhaps people are getting more confused. Especially with social media spreading rumors. On the other hand, the popularity of stupid ideas has probably always been with us. I always try to remind myself that half of all people fall below average on some important spectra such as intelligence, intellectual curiosity, etc. Not to sound elitist, but, a big chunk of humanity couldn’t care less about having strong evidence for their beliefs. Whatever feels good at the moment will do. Others are simply preoccupied with sports, jobs, drugs, avoiding arrest, sex, mortgage payments, etc. and simply will not spend time thinking about these issues until asked about it. They’ve got 3 seconds to come up with an answer that will make the question go away so they can get back to whatever they consider important. As evidence for this view, most polls break somewhere, loosely around 50% – 50%. That’s what you’d expect if people were just guessing. Take the birther issue. When asked:

          Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?

          Yes . . 59%
          No . . 25%
          Don’t know . . 16%

          A full 41% failed this easy question. If you were to probe further, you’d find some of these were blinded by Trump, but others are simply clueless on the issue but took a random stab at it. In both these cases, they lack the ability to think independently and rationally on the issue. Yes, that’s worrisome for a democracy. Maybe we need a philosopher-king.

  8. It would also have been interesting if Gallup had replaced the word ‘developed’ with ‘evolved’….? David Milne – Chair – Greater Manchester Humanists

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