Do you "believe" in evolution? A new survey reveals that your answer can be predicted in large part by your political loyalties. The Pew Research Center finds that two-thirds of Democrats accept the validity of evolution, in contrast with the 43% of Republicans. The latter figure, remarkably, has shrunk by 11 percentage points since 2009, when Pew performed a similar survey.
In a time of great divides over religion and politics, it's not surprising that we treat evolution the way we do political issues. But here's the problem: As settled science, evolution is not a matter of opinion, or something one chooses to believe in or not, like a religious proposition. And by often framing the matter this way, we involved in the news media, Internet debates and everyday conversation do a disservice to science, religion and our prospects for having a scientifically literate country.
As a progressive, I'm tempted to blame willful ignorance by those on the "other side" when I see the sharp rise in Republicans rejecting evolution, and the always-high percentage of white evangelical Protestants (64% in the Pew poll) who believe that humans were created by God in their present form; i.e. no evolution.
But partisan politics isn't the end of the story. More than a quarter of Democrats reject evolution, as do half of Protestant blacks. Women are 10 percentage points more likely to reject evolution than men.
Willful ignorance plays a part in this dynamic. But so does the poor job done by the field of science in engaging the public. And the way the evolution vs. creation standoff is framed in the popular conversation, you can understand why many are led to believe we have an either-or decision to make: evolution or God?
Written By: Tom Krattenmaker
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