New chart shows church member’s acceptance of evolution and climate change

New chart shows church member’s acceptance of evolution and climate change May 18, 2015

Josh Rosenau over at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has compiled a great chart using Pew Research data that shows different religious groups and their acceptance or denial of certain scientific theories, mostly evolution and climate change.

What Josh found was fascinating. He focused on 2 questions on the Pew study.

First, one asking which statement people most agreed with:

Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy; or Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost

Secondly, asking if they agree or disagree with the following:

Evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth

What Josh compiled from that is shown in this chart:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge / Image: NCSE

Josh states, “The circle sizes are scaled so that their areas are in proportion to the relative population sizes in Pew’s massive sample (nearly 36,000 people!).”

What Josh finds is that groups who accept biological evolution also seem to accept climate change, sans Jehovah’s Witnesses’ who seem to openly accept climate change while still rejecting evolution in rather high numbers.

So why does this information matter and what does it tell us?

Josh first notes:

First, look at all those groups whose members support evolution. There are way more of them than there are of the creationist groups, and those circles are bigger. We need to get more of the pro-evolution religious out of the closet.

He also notes that while Catholics seem rather neutral on climate change, he suspects that will change as Pope Francis continues to urge church goers to take better care of the environment.

And while the chart does show that creationist groups are much smaller than those who accept evolution, Josh noticed and commented on a trend amongst creationists and the African-American religious community:

Finally, creationism has a solid hold in African American churches. There’s important outreach to be done on that front, and it’ll have to be accompanied by an acknowledgment of racism in science, both historically and in its current practice. While science is not itself racist, and neither is evolution, both have been tainted by and abused for the benefit of racism, and the African American community has cause for its ambivalence. Those of us who love evolution, love science, and want to share that love with our brothers and sisters of all races and religions need to find better ways to bridge these gaps.

Josh’s chart is great and shows us where the work in science education needs to be done among religious groups but he also closed with an important finding when coupling his data with that of Tobin Grant at Religion News Service, which looked at the same Pew study and charted it out to political stances. Josh recommends we make a “clearer the connection between social welfare policy and environmental policy.”

The chart is uplifting, it is nice to see such large circles moving towards scientific acceptance. But it shows we have work to done, but at least we know where to focus and coupling this data with the latest 2015 Pew religious results, we know the trend is moving in our favor.



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