One third of Americans don't believe in evolution

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:09am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:09am


One third of Americans utterly reject the theory of evolution, believing that humans "have existed in their present form since the beginning of time", a new survey has found.

About a quarter of Americans believe evolution was guided by God, while only 32 per cent believe evolution is due to "natural processes such as natural selection", the Pew Research Centre found.

The broad results were little changed from a similar survey in 2009, but Pew found a drastically widening gap along party lines.

It found 54 per cent of Republicans and 64 per cent of Democrats believed in evolution in 2009. That 10-point gap more than doubled in the latest survey, which found that only 43 per cent of Republicans believe in evolution, while 67 per cent of Democrats said humans had evolved over time. The views of political independents were essentially unchanged, with 65 per cent believing in evolution.

Evolution has long been a political issue in the United States, where science classes are a battleground between advocates of non-religious teachings in public schools and conservative Christians who push for curriculum that includes creationism or "intelligent design". The debate has heated up in recent years as the so-called "culture wars" have reignited amid a deepening partisan divide.

Differences in the racial, ethnic and religious composition of the Democrats and Republicans surveyed "do not wholly explain partisan differences in beliefs about evolution", Pew said. "Indeed, the partisan differences remain even when taking these characteristics into account."

But it did find strong differences among religious groups.

Two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants believe God created humans in their present form, while 78 per cent of white "mainline" Protestants believe in evolution. Half of black Protestants believe God devised humans as they exist today.

Nearly seven in 10 white non-Hispanic Catholics and 53 per cent of Hispanic Catholics believe in evolution.

Meanwhile, three out of four religiously unaffiliated respondents believe in evolution and just 13 per cent believe evolution was guided by a "supreme being".