It’s a highly polarizing subject.
Origins and the interpretation of Genesis.
Let’s start with the public at large. According to a recent 2014 Gallup Poll:
- 42% of Americans believe humans were created in their present form less than 10,000 years ago.
- 31% believe humans evolved but God had a part in the process.
- 19% believe humans evolved and God had no part in the process.
This poll is loaded and conflates a number of issues – belief in God, interpretation of Scripture, etc. Obviously if you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe he had any part in the process of evolution. But it also begins to illustrate the divide between how believers make sense of origins, whether it be Young Earth Creation, Old Earth/Progressive Creation, or Theistic Evolution (Intelligent Design another prominent view among believers – having both Young Earth and Old/Progressive Creationism adherents).
Let’s step outside the US for a moment.
According to research reported by Michael Le Page in New Scientist in April 2008, the US is near the bottom of the list in terms of acceptance of evolution.
Before we proceed, a brief word on evolution, as the term is thrown around loosely. Certain components of evolution are highly uncontroversial such as genetic mutation and natural selection, but Darwinian evolution (macroevolution and common ancestry) is where things get heated. Let’s focus on that topic as we hone in on particular faith traditions.
It is interesting to note that Jewish and Catholic believers seem to have much less of a problem with macroevolution. In a 2009 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public life, approximately 36,000 US citizens weighed in illustrating considerable discrepancy on the view of evolution within different faith traditions. Just to highlight a few who agree that evolution is the best explanation for our origins:
- Jewish: 77%
- Catholic: 58%
- Orthodox: 54%
- Mainline Protestant: 51%
- Evangelical Protestant: 24%
Focussing on “Protestants at large”, how do pastors specifically weigh in?
Consider the 2012 survey commissioned by BioLogos, conducted by the Barna Group. 743 US Christian pastors weighed in on their view on origins.
- 54% were strong/leaning “Young Earth Creationists” (6 days of creation, Earth is 10,000 years or younger)
- 15% were strong/learning “Progressive Creationists” (Varied views on creation time periods, Old Earth)
- 18% were strong/leaning “Theistic Evolutionists” (Common ancestry, God set forth the natural directed process of macroevolution to create humanity)
- 12% were uncertain
But it appears things aren’t that simple. As the polls suggest, many believers accept macroevolution and even more accept an Old Earth and Progressive Creationism. My point is not to argue for Old Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, or Theistic Evolution. Actually I’ve enjoyed the tension between the groups and have learned much from the debate. I even read up on some of the best Young Earth arguments I could find from Christian scientists. With distant starlight, the Universe certainly appears to be billion of years old and it was interesting to hear how some Christian scientists wrestle with this issue.
The tension on the debate is to be expected.
Common ancestry and macroevolution is the only game in town for the non-believer, just as a literal 6 day creation and 10,000 year old earth is the only game in town for the Young Earth Creationist. As 42% of Americans are Young Earth Creationists, you can imagine things heating up as Darwinian evolution in the public school biology curriculum is viewed as a direct attack of their beliefs.
But as interesting as the issue is, it eventually becomes tiring (at least to me). It’s no doubt a politically infused issue as it brings into question God’s existence and one’s view on the interpretation of Scripture. That said, it’s much more of a pressing issue in the US than in Europe, which I hope, for some, bears pause. For those philosophically-inclined, there are many more important questions.Does God exist? If so, what of his character? As I am philosophically-inclined, I’ll end with a question, rather than an answer.
Where do you stand and why?
Image credit: Ian Bailey-Mortimer