Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Wed Aug 25 10:47:45 PDT 1999

[from the American Association for Public Opinion Research list]

Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 13:26:32 -0400 From: George Bishop <george.bishop at uc.edu>

I suspect that the story on 45% of Americans believing in a literal, creationist view of evolution probably originated from a University of Cincinnati press release on an article I wrote for The Public Prespective about a year ago: "The Religious Worldview and American Beliefs about Human Origins" ( 1998,Volume 9, No. 5, August/September, pp.39-44). It was based on a secondary analysis of a question that Gallup has asked since 1982 (with very slight wording variations):

"Which of these statements comes closest to describing your views about the origin and development of man ( "human beings" in more recent versions of the question)?

A. God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.

B. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in in this process.

C. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man's creation."

The first statement identifies the respondent with what is widely considered the "creationist" view (44% in the most recent Gallup Poll in 1997); the second, with what is regarded as the naturalistic, scientific, or "Darwinist" position (10% in the same poll); and the third, with what has come to be known as the "theistic evolutionist" perspective (39%); and the rest, "don't know" (7%). These figures have remained essentially unchanged since the question was first asked in 1982. It may come as a shock to discover such a high percentage of American adults believing in a biblical literalist account of human origins, including nearly a third (31%) of college graduates, but those are the numbers. American adults are also much more likely to be biblical literalists as compared to adults in other developed nations (see the International Social Surveys).

I recently did some interviews with ABC.com and others this past year about these findings, but alas--little did I realize I would be giving aid and comfort to the creationist movement in America. May Darwin, Huxley, Gould et al. forgive me.


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