The findings of a recent (August 30) poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press as well as the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life will most likely add ammunition to the ongoing battle of beliefs in the origins debate.
The poll, conducted July 7-17 among 2,000 adults, revealed that despite the fact that nearly half of Americans believe that humans evolved over time, nearly two-thirds of Americans nevertheless said that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.
Christians weren’t the only ones in the poll to favor the teaching of creationism along with evolution in public schools. The report said that while much of the support for teaching creationism comes from “religious conservatives,” even many who are politically liberal and who believe in evolution are in favor of expanding the scope of public school education to include teaching creationism.
This fact surprised even those who administered the poll. In a New York Times article (August 31), John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see this support of adding creationism to public school curricula coming from “majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection,” calling it a reflection of “American pragmatism.”
The poll also showed that not all creationists believe that creationism should replace evolution in the schools: 32% of those who subscribe to the creationist view do not think it should be taught instead of evolution. Likewise, AiG doesn’t support mandatory teaching of the creation position (imagine how unbelievers would distort our position), but argues that it would be good if Christian teachers (and other teachers) had the legislative freedom and encouragement to present critiques of evolution and discuss alternatives (see Feedback: A Common Misconception).
According to the Pew report, “These findings strongly suggest that much of the public believes it is desirable to offer more viewpoints where controversial subjects in the schools are concerned.” President George Bush was obviously not alone in his recent comments which supported both sides of the creation/evolution debate being taught (see USA President Bush on Origins).
As Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis–USA, has often said, “Public school teachers know that they can critically discuss different theories in regard to just about every issue—but not evolution.” See Creation in Public Schools?!
While the report showed that most Americans believe that God was responsible for the creation of life on earth, they were divided on the questions of whether and how life has changed since the creation. Overall, 78% said God created life on earth, while 5% thought a universal spirit or higher power was responsible for life’s creation.
On the issue of how life developed, 48% of Americans said that humans and other living things have evolved over time, but nearly as many (42%) said that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, a belief, the Pew study said, is held by creationists. But this is not what all creationists believe (certainly not what AiG believes—see Get Answers: Arguments we think creationists should NOT use and Get Answers: Speciation)—we see many animals today that we didn’t see in the Garden of Eden or on Noah’s Ark. Certain dogs, like poodles, were developed over time, like most current domestic varieties of dogs. (But this has nothing to do with evolution in the molecules-to-man sense. See Did God Create Poodles?) This is one area in which creationists as a whole are often misrepresented.
In addition to the confusion around the definition of creationism, there seemed to be some confusion around terms like “evolution over time being guided by a supreme being.” This view was attributed by pollsters to those who believe in intelligent design (ID) but some ID scientists reject Darwinian evolution. Many though believe in theistic evolution (i.e., God used evolution to create). This confusion of terms was even noted in the report.
As AiG has often said, it is very important to define terms such as evolution (molecules-to-man evolution) when entering this hotly discussed topic.
The fact that most Americans in this poll support creationism being taught does not surprise Ham in the least. He has seen the significant impact creationist materials have made on the culture since the modern creationist movement started forty-four years ago with the publishing of the book The Genesis Flood.
“Even though the Intelligent Design Movement has received a lot of publicity in recent times, the grassroots creationist movement has really been responsible for the abundance of creationist material that has influenced people’s thinking and we are now seeing that reflected in the polls,” Ham said.
It’s interesting, but not surprising, that the poll showed that people who take the Bible literally are much more convinced about the accuracy of their view of the development of life on earth (69% “very certain”), compared with those who don’t take the Bible literally.
While poll figures, politics and people may change, God’s Word never does. We can trust the Bible from the very first verse.
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