Thinking Anglicans

What the British think about Darwin and Evolution

It’s not only Americans who don’t believe in evolution. Pat Ashworth writes in the Church Times about recent research on this. Rescue Darwin rows from extremes, says theology think tank.

ONLY 37 per cent of people in the UK believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution is “beyond reasonable doubt”, research by Theos, a public- theology think tank, suggests.

Of those questioned, 32 per cent think that Young Earth Creationism (YEC — “the belief that God created the world some time in the past 10,000 years”) is either “definitely or probably true”, and 51 per cent say the same of Intelligent Design (which Theos defines as “The idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages”). The report describes the term Intelligent Design (ID) as “slippery”.

The fact that these figures do not add up shows how confused and often contradictory the population is in its opinions, say the authors of the report Rescuing Darwin, Nick Spencer, director of studies at Theos, and Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. They describe it as “a sorry state of affairs”, in an age when the theory is now incontestable in scientific circles and when advances in genetics have strengthened it.

Theos has published a press release, Half of Britons sceptical about evolution, and the report Rescuing Darwin is available as a PDF, and the research tables are available as another PDF here. From the press release:

Only half of the UK population consistently choose evolution over creationism or Intelligent Design, according to a major report published today by Theos.

The report, entitled Rescuing Darwin, published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (February 12), draws on extensive new research conducted by the polling agency, ComRes (see tables below).

It reveals that only 25% of British adults think that evolution is “definitely true”, with another quarter thinking it is “probably true”.

The remaining 50% are either strongly opposed or simply confused about the issue. Around 10% of people consistently choose (Young Earth) Creationism (the belief that God created the world some time in the last 10,000 years) over evolution, and about 12% consistently prefer Intelligent Design or “ID” (the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things). The remainder of the population, over 25%, are unsure and often mix evolution, ID and creationism together…

Whatever the exact numbers are, it seems pretty clear that most of the people in the UK who are “sceptical about evolution” are not active religious believers.

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Pat O'NeillGöran Koch-SwahneTimppsiloiordinaryPluralist Recent comment authors
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Merseymike
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Merseymike

Who exactly are these people? And how come I have never met any of them?

Göran Koch-Swahne
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This was in the Free Church paper over here a couple of days ago.

I didn’t bother to check it up.

Is it for real? – and as Merseymike asked Who are these people? Are there many?

Andrew Brown
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Yes. They are for real. Theos’ research was very thorough — a sample of about 2,000 adults. We don’t meet them because we are either educated or interested in these questions or both. But you simply cannot underestimate the ignorance and lack of interest in science or any other form of disciplined intellectual endeavour on modern Britain. Probably about the same in much of Western Europe. It’s a consequence of the more general collapse of the school system. There is a commenter at the Guardian site who cannot spell at all without a spell checker. I know this because he… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
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There are a lot of people out there who believe in young earth creationism, they can be quite vehement in their beliefs. One observation is that their thinking has a core premise that humanity is made in God’s image (the masculine one), and that God is thus human-like. The idea of a God that exists before, after, with or without humanity scares them silly. As does the idea that God might have no form, or take on any form. It is an infantile form to postulate that God can only exist within human constructs, and that God does not exist… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
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I never pay much attention to this sort of poll. So much depends on how the questions are phrased, and you tend to get back what you put in. Leaving the 10% of young earthists aside (and what is the sampling error?), the remaining 90% of respondents are categorised in a pretty confusing manner. In what sense is ‘Evolution’ (define please, it’s important) ‘True’? Once you pose that question the rest falls apart methodologically with great speed.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

I wonder about the “probably true” ones. They’re more likely to misunderstand what the term theory means in scientific circles, and they could be the ones who read about increasing understanding of the process, therefor thinking that we still don’t know enough to have a final, lasting piece of knowledge. When they say “probably true” they might well be making a positive statement, not a sceptical one. Intelligent Design is also a concept often misunderstood. I know people who believe that there is a creator God who kick-started the process of evolution, and who would call this Intelligent Design. For… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Once upon a time in USA Bible Belt states, I had a real conversation with a faithful woman believer in my large, extended family of religious folks. We happened to touch on her doubts about evolutionary models. If Darwin is really true, she asked me, Why aren’t Chimpanzees still gradually dropping down out of the trees and evolving into humans right before our very eyes. I knew immediately that she was speaking for a surprisingly large number of people who just do not speak up about their doubts, though doubt they do. Fa Real, yo. That – sadly – is… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

This is really depressing. I thought that the anti-Darwin crappola was mostly an American oddity. Sorry to hear Brits also infected. A big part of the problem among the ill-educated is that they think the word ‘theory’ means ‘best guess,’ when in science, it means ‘established paradigm’ or ‘established pattern of behavior.’ Like, the theory of gravity.

Pluralist
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The best way to see the Darwinian system, I suggest, is as a chaotic system. Most of the time it has a sort of large scale equilibrium where mutating bits don’t add up to much. But in some localities, and very occasionally across the world, catastrophic changes in the environment mean that mutations start to matter, as tiny proportions of a mass dying population survive, and also varying species emerge out of the intense environment. Once a population that’s adapted starts to grow, there is a new equilibrium. Most reptiles dying allowed little mammals through, and thanks to that, and… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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It seems to me Andrew Brown mixes the absence of knowledge with Dyslexia. Not at all the same.

And also disregards, what Mynsterpreost indicates, the prominence of Calvinist Free Churches in promoting, creating, “belief” in Intelligent Design and the like…

It’s possible that the proportions be something like 90% to 10%, but only where Free churches are strong and politically powerfull enough to promote it…

ppsiloiordinary
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ppsiloiordinary

Hi all,

I think that the wording of the questions was flawed.

Have a look and see what you think.

Regards,

Psi

Tim
Guest

Intelligent design is nothing but a wedge strategy for so-called Christian creationism.

There is no Gen.1:0 saying “this is how it happened”. God’s processes have given us brains with which to analyse actual evidence; anything else is idiotic.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

The wording of the questions is always the difficulty in questionaires.

What you ask for – and how – will determine the answers given at a specific time…

But I can’t find these questions?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

It almost doesn’t matter what the questions were. if you asked “Do you believe Darwin’s theory of the origin of species is correct?” or “Do you believe in evolution?” or similar questions, the problem is that most people have never really read or studied Darwin or evolution…they only know the little they got in high school science (and in some states here in the US, that might be damned little) and/or what they read in the papers when the controversy comes up. You’re asking them to state a belief in something they know virtually nothing about. But in the scientific… Read more »