Friday, July 3, 2009

British Poll: Compatibility of God and Evolution?

The British Council and a marketing research firm, Ipsos MORI, asked 10,000 individuals in ten different countries asking, among other things, whether or not one can believe in God and evolution simultaneously (data here). Press release money quote:
Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker, Head of the British Council Darwin Now programme, said: ‘The international Darwin survey has thrown up some very interesting results, especially as it includes data from countries not previously covered before. The most encouraging aspect of the survey shows that whilst there are diverse views on Darwin’s theory of evolution, there appears to a broad acceptance that science and faith do not have to be in conflict. Whilst the results show that there is some way to go in communicating the evidence of evolutionary theory to wider audiences, it is evident that there is clear space for dialogue on this sometimes complex area of debate.’ (emphasis mine)
According to the results, 53% of Americans believed that it is possible to believe in God while believing life has evolved over time. 27% think that these beliefs are irreconcilable, obviously those from either creationistic or scientific backgrounds. India overwhelmingly believes in the compatibility of these belief systems, while Egypt is almost evenly split. Importantly, in each of the countries polled, a majority of respondents stated that the belief in God can co-exist with the belief in evolution.

The blog Science and the Sacred argues:
While surveys are not always accurate representations of a larger population, the results of this study offer some interesting ideas about the international debate over religion, evolution, and origins.
On one of those interesting ideas, like Elsdon-Baker, I think that these results, overall, underscore the general (and international) acceptance that science and faith can co-exist, can offer each other fruitful guidance and dialogue.


Drew said...

Other interesting data: 41% of those have heard of Darwin and know something of his theory believe that enough evidence exists to support the theory of evolution, while 43% of Americans believe that life was created by God in its current form.

Only 21% of Americans believe evolution alone should be taught in school, 51% believe that evolution should be taught with other theories, 9% believe that evolution should not be taught but other theories should, and 14% think that no theories should be taught.

These results, to me, show that America is divided on the certainty of our origins, but, interestingly, Americans are open to teaching the debate in school. Obviously, I disagree with that sentiment, but this is where Americans, according to this British poll, currently stand.

Kent H said...

Drew, I'm a little surprised. For a guy who always (in my interactsions with you anyway) has so valued dialogue and a open debate over issues that divide, how in the name of academic liberty could you possibly be opposed to teaching that there are actually competing views of something as "faith-based" as our origins and the tenets of these separate views? Are you just open-minded and liberal on SOME discussions. A little disappointed.

Drew said...


While I am a man open to dialogue, evidenced hopefully in this blog, I don't think that science class is an appropriate arena for that discussion. Science should teach science, and the origins of life premised on a Benevolent Creator should not be taught there - even though I believe that premise.

Obviously, to me, this is a church-state issue. The teaching of creation, whether through intelligent design or through the back door - the insufficiencies of the theory - are thinly veiled teachings of creationism. In this mannter, religion should not be taught in the classroom. Obviously, I am not trying to devalue the worth or validity of these beliefs, but that their teachings should not be taught in government funded, public classrooms.

There are other appropriate forums for such a dialogue, but that is not one. Let's have that dialogue, absolutely. It is appropriate and necessary to discuss our origins, to search for answers to our deepest existential questions. But let's have those discussions in arenas upheld by our founding principles - that the church and state thrive when seperated.

matt said...

drew- so "science" is wrong in your opinion, yet you do not wish to teach what you believe is right? sorry, but that's just plain weak.

shouldn't science ask "what if?" isn't that what's it's all about? what if they are wrong? there really is zero evidence that they are right, in an absolute sense. science is all about finding out what is right, and keeping all options open. as evidenced in your preceding post, there is plenty of room for both god (or any generic creator) and science.

Kent H said...

You and I have had these talks and I know that deep down, you know the church-state answer to my question is a farce.
No one is asking the government to fund a "creationist" denomination. No one is asking that only the "methodist" or the "presbyterian" views on creation be subsidized out of the public coffer.
The question of origins and the strength and weakness of certain theories will arise every time the scientific facts of evidence cannot uphold and even fundamentally disprove the theory of Darwinian evolution -- what are the options to this false or incomplete theory?
The answer must be that a student be given ALL the facts (not just the ones that support evolution) and all the science (not just the supportive points) and understand that some of those facts and some of that science is in support of an argument called "intelligent design" or creationism.
Church and state is not even called to question here. Only the possibilty of an education which allows the student the possibility of there being a God.

Drew said...

Matt and Kent,

I've obviously miscommunicated my ideas. Let me regroup and sleep on a better response. I'll get back at you tomorrow (Monday).

Drew said...


I think I have been misunderstood. I do believe in science, and as such evolution. And I believe in a Creator. I do not view them as incompatible whatsoever.

And, in terms of science, it isn't part of the scientific discipline to wonder what if in an abstract sense. Science deals with data, verifiability, reproducibility, and peer review. Scientists don't make abstract claims, but have data and mathematical proof to back those claims up. And, in terms of evolution, I know we are beating a dead horse here, but there is a bounty of evidence to verify the process of evolution, both macro- and micro-level. Sure, there are scientists who claim otherwise, but on balance, scientists overwhelmingly - OVERWHELMINGLY - believe that evolution is true.

But, that does not mean that God doesn't exist or God didn't have God's hands in the process. Even the agnostic, Robert Wright, can go there!

Drew said...


I do actually think the church-state issue is very salient. View my response to Matt to get to my beliefs; I obviously believe in God and that God had God's hands in creation, a process understood through evolution.

Now, even though I believe in a Creator God, I do not whatsoever think that version of the origins of life should be taught in school. Science should teach science, not theology. There are many other appropriate forums to teach this theology. Home. Church. The lunch table. The play ground. The public sphere.

When it comes to government, government cannot teach theology one bit. Not a creationist denomination, like you said, nor a Baptist or Lutheran.

I don't claim to be an expert on evolution. But I do know that a huge majority, like 99.99% of scientists believe in the process of evolution. So while there may be some problems - as you assert - those problems have been asserted with people

Let's have the healthy debate about our origins. You know I'm for that. But let's do it in the proper forums, not in places that are constitutionally restricted to entertain the debate.

Sure students should be given all the sides of the stories. And that is where we, as responsible parents, come in. Aren't conservatives the party of personal responsibility? Church is a great place, because it is inherently and constitutionally theological, to have the debate. There are numerous arenas for that discussion, and the fact that one arena is limited, doesn't mean that that science is trampling faith. Not one bit.

I don't want the debate stiffled. Not one bit. But the science classroom is not the place for that debate.

And to date, the judicial branch agrees. See Dover.

Sorry, I've rambled, Kent. I'm not entirely sure I communicated these thoughts well either. But there you go. I'm vulnerable again.

matt said...

what bothers me is not that "creationism" is not taught in the classroom. on a small level, i agree that any form of religion should not enter the classroom (except when discussing our founding). what bothers me is that macro evolution and the supposed big bang theory are presented as facts, not as theory. i would have no problem if schools taught that hey, here is one way people think that the universe came into creation, but there are competing theories, parts of which are equally unprovable as the big bang theory, but may be more philosophically satisfying.

and i think that your assumption that 99.9% of "scientists" believe in a big bang + darwinian evolution dogma is a stretch. please, i encourage you to research the science behind some of the claims that evolutionary biologists and physicists make. you will be astounded at some of the leaps of faith (pun intended) that they make when connecting supposedly related dots. i arrived at my conclusions solely based on my own research and philosophical ponderings - it is in no way tied to religion.

Matt F. said...


I won't jump into the evolution debate here, because it is obvious to me that there is no actual scientific debate. Drew is absolutely right that the scientific community has spent the last 200 years discussing, testing, and evaluating evolution and while it looks much different than what Darwin first envisioned it is undeniably true.
However, Drew made no claim about the big bang. I was taught in science class that the big bang is simply a theory about how the universe may have come into existence. I don't think you will find many people arguing that there is no room for discussion where the big bang is concerned. However, I will argue that it is the best theory supported by the most evidence that anyone has come up with so far. If you have a better theory, supported by evidence, I would be interested to hear it.

Kent H said...

All due respect, anyone not thinking that there is a ton of debate over the issue of evolution has their head stuck in the sand of his own paradigmic prison.
The church/state issue is not in question here because there is no "establishment" of religion by the federal government involved with actually informing students that there are huge amounts of information that do not conform to or support the idea of spontaneous origins or biological, macro evolution -- in fact, there are tons that completely disprove them.
Please get the argument right. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech (even if it includes religious notions), etc. etc."
To speak on topics with possible religious ramifications is not an establishment of religion any more than Obama's acknowledgement of God at his inauguration. So please, wearily, I plead with my brethren, quit calling everything that smacks of any kind of religious discussion in public a violation of the Bill of Rights. A cursory skimming of the founders' writings blows that out of the water -- so stop the rhetoric.

On the issue of biological evolution, etc. The science and the theories are quite stark. Science, Drew is right, is observable and repeatable. Factors that cannot be applied to the issues of either creationism/intelligent design or evolution.
I happen to believe that if there is a God, that He would inform His creation of His actions. I believe He has done that in the Scripture. I believe that if God did (or would) communicate that the information would be accurate. He was there, we weren't. I happen to believe that the observable evidence we have can be explained in a young earth/catastrophic flood scenario much better than in a "nothing became everything over billions of years" scenarion. What is seen in the fossil record, the fossilized strata (often missing and inverted around the world, BTW), complete forms suddenly showing up in the fossil record, lack of transitional forms (there should be millions you know), and the 2nd law of thermodynamics (a show-stopper) lead me to these conclusions.
The fact that huge numbers of unbelieving scientists prefer a worldview that discounts or removes God from their paradigm does nothing to belittle the fact that both creationism and evolutionism are faith-based paradigms by which to interpret the data that is available. Informing students of the gaping holes in evolution is not a violation of scientific inquiry or constitutional rights. In fact, it may just give them an education vs. an indoctrination.


Preas said...

At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo evolution Cartoons!