A recent Gallup Poll1 has suggested that 46 percent of all Americans hold a creationist viewpoint of human origins. This statistic by itself promotes comment. The Gallup report states:
Most Americans are not scientists, of course, and cannot be expected to understand all of the latest evidence and competing viewpoints on the development of the human species. Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question’s wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.2
The only comment that I would make on that paragraph is this: It may be hard for a polling organization, whose raison d’être is public opinion, to understand that science does not proceed by majority vote. Scientific progress almost always occurs at the behest of thinkers who are “at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature.”
The statistic picked up by Robert Wright of the news blogging agency, The Atlantic, is the change in percentages over two years. The poll3 measures three positions, and the results are shown in Gallup’s graph below.
While the level of “evolutionary atheists” has remained pretty constant over the last few years, the last two years have seen a 6 percent increase in those believing in creation, with a 6 percent decrease in “theistic evolution.” Wright concludes that the creationists’ increase must have come almost entirely from the ranks of the “undecided” theistic evolutionists, and that this change is due to the vociferous and aggressive comments of “militant Darwinism atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. He says:
I mean they started proselytizing, ridiculing the faithful, and talking as if religion was an inherently pernicious thing…. It’s as if people who had previously seen evolution and religion as compatible were told by the new militant Darwinians, “No, you must choose: Which is it, evolution or religion?”—and pretty much all of them chose religion.4
The agenda of such writers is not difficult to discern. Like the Gallup report, Wright considers creationism to be wrong. But one element of his analysis makes sense. It is the thought that modern militant atheism is pointing out the impossibility of believing both Genesis and the theory of evolution, and, in that respect only, Dawkins, Myers, et al. have their fingers on the pulse.
- June 1st 2012, < http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx > ↩
- ibid ↩
- Wright, R. (June 11th 2012), Creationists vs. Evolutionists: An American Story, < http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/06/creationists-vs-evolutionists-an-american-story/258384/ > ↩
- ibid ↩