According to a new survey, conducted over the internet, Christians in Europe are more likely than Christians in other parts of the world to accept evolution. What's more, Christians the world over were much more likely than atheists to say that they were absolutely certain in their beliefs about evolution and how the universe came to be.
The survey was run by David Wilson at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Over 4,300 people took part, recruited basically by word of mouth as well as some adverts. The survey was very quick - just one question about acceptance of evolution, then a few questions on faith and why they hold the beliefs they do.
The figure summarizes the key findings (you'll need to click on it for a larger version). Basically, the bar charts show how the percentage of different groups who say they are absolutely certain of their beliefs in evolution (atheist, black; Christian, red; agnostic, cyan; other, grey). The pie charts show the beliefs of Christians - dark blue is creationist, light blue evolution, and yellow is "theistic" evolution.
Most Christians surveyed were creationist - except in Europe. Although Christians there were just as convinced of the correctness of their beliefs!
Wilson reckons that European Christians might be educated differently, or have a different cultural background. He also suggests that European Institutions which have come out firmly against creationism, like the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, may have had some influence.
I dunno. Looking at the survey, it picked up loads more atheists in Europe. Maybe the survey just circulated in different circles in Europe.
Anyway, another interesting finding of this survey is that it asked Christians why they didn't believe in evolution. The most popular reason was that Genesis should be interpreted literally. The next was that it undermines the belief that humans were created in God's image.
Only then,in third and fourth place do we get to the two 'evidence-based options' - that there is no evidence of evolution of one species into another (50% of responses) and there is no evidence for natural selection (40%).
So the primary objection these Christians had to evolution is not evidential, but dogmatic.
In contrast, when atheists were asked why they didn't believe in God, their overwhelming response (given by 85%) was that there is no evidence!
Wilson, D. (2010). European Christians are at the forefront in accepting evolution: results from an internet-based survey Evolution & Development, 12 (6), 537-540 DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2010.00439.x
This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.
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