Evolution Icon Evolution
Human Origins Icon Human Origins
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

Latest Gallup Polling on Evolution Fails to Enlighten

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

Trifling evidence and momentous conclusions. That is evolution in a nutshell, and news of the day from most mainstream sources bears out the observation once again. First, we learned that, on the basis of “a lower jaw from Greece and an upper premolar from Bulgaria” (Science Daily) — a jaw and a tooth, that’s it! — we’re now supposed to believe that pre-human ancestors arose and parted ways with apes not in Africa but in Europe. See Jonathan Wells’s comments of earlier today on fossils and human origins.

Equally unenlightening, in a different way, is the latest Gallup polling data on belief in evolution, announcing “In US, Belief in Creationist View of Humans at New Low.” I understand that surveys like this ask the same questions year after year in order to track major trends in opinion. In this case, unfortunately, the question reflects the primitive nature of the evolution debate when Gallup first started polling on it.

They report:

The percentage of U.S. adults who believe that God created humans in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years or so — the strict creationist view — has reached a new low. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults now accept creationism, while 57% believe in some form of evolution — either God-guided or not — saying man developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.

So they are juxtaposing creation with evolution. Since 1982 they’ve been asking:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings — 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?

What I wish they would ask is:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of living creatures – 1) Animal and human life arose and developed over billions of years, guided by a designing intelligence, whether God or otherwise, 2) Animal and human life arose and developed over billions of years, by strictly blind, natural processes, unguided by any intelligent agent, 3) God created all animal and human life at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?

Now that would tell you a lot about the state of the evolution debate. But the modern intelligent design movement didn’t exist 35 years ago, so Gallup is stuck in 1982.

That doesn’t stop them from trying to insert ID after the fact. They assert, “Often rebranded as ‘intelligent design,’ especially as it relates to education, the creationist viewpoint has met defeat in the Supreme Court but continues to surface in curricula across the U.S.”

No. This is of course false. Are they also taking dictation from the National Center for Science Education? ID is not “rebranded” creationism – the ideas are worlds apart. Teaching creationism in public schools has indeed been rejected, but ID is not creationism. ID does not “surface in curricula across the U.S.” It’s not in public school curricula anywhere.

The idea of allowing teachers to challenge students with a range of mainstream evidence about evolution, not ID, has had notable success in a number of states. But that, again, is a different matter. I won’t rehash the rest here. See our Science Education Policy.

It sure would be helpful if a major polling company like Gallup refreshed their awareness of the evolution debate next time they survey about it.

Photo: Lower jaw, Graecopithecus freybergi, by Wolfgang Gerber, University of Tübingen, via Science Daily.