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article imageGallup poll: many people still do not believe in evolution

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Feb 12, 2009 in Religion
A new poll just released by Gallup shows an inverse correlation between belief in religious superstition and belief in evolution. This looks simple and predictable, but there is more to the story.
When Gallup asked “Do you, personally, believe in the theory of evolution, do you not believe in evolution, or don’t you have an opinion either way?” there was no majority for belief or disbelief in evolution, but people who believe in evolution were the largest group (39%) among those who provided an answer, just three percent more than the 36% who have no opinion. In contrast, only 25% does not believe in evolution and disbelief in evolution is thus clearly a minority opinion.
Education and belief in evolution
When the results are split up according to education level, a very predictable picture shows up, namely a linear correlation between education level and (dis)belief in evolution.
Among those with high school or less, 21% believe in evolution, while 41% of those with some college education believe in evolution. This number climbs to 53% among college graduates and to 74% for postgraduates.
Disbelief in evolution exhibits more or less the same trend, in reverse. 27% of those with high school or less do not believe in evolution. Of those with some college education, 29% do not believe in evolution while this number is 22% in college graduates. Only 11% of the respondents with a postgraduate degree do not believe in evolution.
It is somewhat strange that not believing in evolution is 2% higher in those with some college than in those with only high school or less, but given that the difference is so small, this may be attributable to mere sampling error.
Religion and belief in evolution
It is hard to measure someone’s religiosity in phone polls like these, because deities tend to reward or punish their followers in the afterlife, and they also tend not to divulge any statistics, so pollsters must “make do.” In this case, Gallup asked for church attendance.
Among those who attend church weekly, only 24% believes in evolution. This climbs to 30% in those who attend nearly weekly to monthly, and soars to 55% among those who seldom or never attend church.
The opposite trend is true for disbelief. Of those attending church weekly, 41% does not believe in evolution. This goes down to 26% of those who go to church nearly weekly to monthly, and goes down to a mere 11% of those who seldom or never attend church.
Age and belief in evolution
Of those aged between 18 and 34, 49% says to believe in evolution. This goes down to 39% of those aged between 35 and 54, and goes down further to 31% of those that are 55 or older.
The opposite trend is true for those who do not believe in evolution. 18% of those aged 18 to 34 do not believe in evolution, rising to 24% of those aged 35 to 54 and rising even further to 30% of those of 55 and older.
What is the meaning of all this?
The first two results are very predictable. Science can be hard to understand for those without an education. One tends not to believe what one does not understand, and the numbers clearly reflect that.
It has been said by many that belief in religion implies abandoning one’s capacity to think in a reasonable and logical fashion. These numbers seem to confirm that standpoint.
Others have claimed that religions are not mere superstitions, that they do allow and even encourage their followers to think, and that they do not indoctrinate their followers into blindly accepting irrationality. These numbers seem to disprove those claims. There is a clear correlation between church attendance and not accepting rational science and reality.
The relation between age and belief in evolution is harder to interpret. While this does seem to show that younger people are less inclined to surrender their rationality to religious superstition, this should not be overestimated. It is not impossible, for example, that young people’s belief in evolution will decline when they age. However, this possibility is to be considered more hypothetical than realistic, based on what we know from statistical experience.
More about Gallup poll, Charles darwin evolution, Religion superstition