At a recent symposium I attended, I heard a speaker say that Americans are still ignorant about science and reject evolution. The speaker put a good deal of the blame on Christianity, saying that the majority of the major religion in the US (meaning the majority of Christians) reject evolution.
While this kind of statement is good ammunition for both of the extreme ends of the warfare model between science and faith, it has one problem. It isn’t true.
The data on this issue come from a Pew Research Trust survey that has been ongoing for many years. Here are what the data actually show.
About 62% of all American adults believe that humans and other animals got here through evolution. A little less than half of these people also believe that God is somehow involved in the evolutionary process. That might be bad news for atheists, but since I am in the category that believe God is involved, it doesn’t bother me at all. A substantial majority of mainline white Protestants and white Catholics hold to evolution (65% and 66% respectively. Only 38% of Evangelical Christians believe that evolution is real. This seems depressing, but in fact the trend is positive, since at the previous survey the figure was only 27%.
So, even with the strongly anti-evolutionary sentiment among evangelicals (many of whom are continually being told that evolution is atheistic), 55% of all Christians accept evolutionary origins for humans and other animals.
Not great, but not as bad as it could be, considering all of the propaganda poured into anti-evolutionism in so many evangelical churches. Even so, more than one third of evangelicals have come round to reject the anti-science bias of their denominations. It is certainly not true that a majority of Christians reject evolution. We have a lot of work to do, among Evangelicals, and others who reject evolution. But the trend is in the right direction, even as fewer people identify as Christians.
That is the trend that should be worrisome, and I think there is a connection between the two issues. Other surveys have found that many college-age and post-college young adults are leaving their Christian faith behind. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most common is that they see religion as being in conflict with science. (evolution being the most direct case). What we need to do is evangelize and explain to Christian young people that science is not only NOT in opposition to Christian faith, but is one of the strongest pointers to the truth of the majesty of the creator. As I have said before, science is distilled doxology.