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Are we evolving?

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A recently-released survey from the Pew Research Center revealed an interesting trend in the American public's attitude toward evolution. Asked whether humans and other living creatures have evolved over time or whether they have existed in their present form since the beginning, over half (60%) affirmed the principle of evolution. This was essentially the same as the results of a similar survey done in 2009.

Many of those who affirm evolution also believe that God had a hand in the process. 25% of those surveyed said that evolution was the process used by God to create humans and other living creatures.

It's not surprising that people's attitudes differed according to religious preference. White evangelical Protestants were the most likely to reject evolution (64% to 27%), while white mainline Protestants held the opposite view, supporting evolution by a sizable 78% to 15%, even more than the religiously unaffiliated (76% to 20% for evolution). As might be expected, the unaffiliated were more likely to say that evolution is a process of natural selection (57% to 13%), while mainline Protestants are evenly split over whether the process is divinely guided (tied at 36%).

Where the shift of attitudes is most evident is not in relation to religious affiliation, but to political affiliation. While Democrats and Independents have remained fairly steady in their percentages since 2009 (roughly 66% for and 28% against evolution), Republican belief in evolution has dropped 11 percentage points in four years. According to the Pew researchers, this difference cannot be entirely attributed to the religious or racial identity of party members. It would seem to indicate that the party is enhancing anti-evolution attitudes within its ranks.

For more reflections on the report, see Sarah Putnam Gilliam's article at Religion News Service.

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