Interest in Science/Faith discussion waning?

(Joel Duff) #1

Above is a screenshot I took showing the Google Trends report for searches for “Young Earth Creationism” from 2004 through 2017. I understand there are a number of variables that effect the results but the term “creationism” and “theistic evolution” all show similar downward trends.

Can you guess what that big blip up in Feb 2014 is?

I would be interested in your impressions of this data. Does it represent a real decline in interest in YEC or does it reflect a growing disinterest in origins conversations overall? My sense having followed science/faith interactions for more than 15 years is that the age of the earth and evolution are not quite the hot topics they once were. This past year has had the added distraction of politics and natural disasters that have taken away the small amount of attention that some people might have devoted to researching/reading about origins questions in the past.

Your observations?

(Stephen Matheson) #2

That is REALLY interesting. I have a zillion questions but the first one that came to mind was whether this correlates to any extent with other trends/terms. So for example, if we postulate that the trend is related to changes in “interest in origins,” I would wonder if there are similar trends for other religious topics or scientific topics. But boy is that interesting.

(Phil) #3

Very interesting. I agree that there does not seem to be quite as much interest as before. To some extent I think the YEC crowd is becoming more marginalized and the mainstream Christian reaction is to ignore them. Sort of becoming that weird uncle at the family reunion. At least locally in my central Texas home, I think we are pretty well in line with some of the polls that put YEC and old earth views about equal in the church.
I was at a men’s Bible study this week, where we are studying Genesis, and the (Community Bible Study) material was pretty much noncontroversial, avoiding any hot-button issues, and pretty much just asking questions that were directly related to the text. Several of the discussion remarks from the group tended to be literalistic in their bent, and I mentioned that I saw the creation story as being more metaphorical, which got a lot of positive nods from the group, but again, it seems like it is something that is just not discussed in polite company. Or maybe I am that weird uncle. Hum…

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

On a related note … has anybody ever wondered what the average age of participants is on this forum? Not that Biologos has this data or would be free to share it if they did, but I’m guessing the average age here is well over 30 (maybe well over 40 or 50?). I could be dead wrong on this, but it feels like there are a lot of established or even retired professionals around here. Like fear of nuclear war --the issue never went away, and in fact is probably more urgent than ever; but is the perception that … (like certain Oldsmobiles) this is your father’s issue? (and you’re ready to move on). And if most of you are familiar with the phrase “not your father’s Oldsmobile”, then my conjecture above may be confirmed. And I would be surprised if participation here was not somewhat representative of wider interest.

(George Brooks) #5

I’m more impressed with the decline in volatility … than I am in the slow drop in overall numbers…

(Joel Duff) #6

I believe that Google has changed some of its algorithms for capturing this data over time which may explain the reduction in volatility.


But what is the average age of the people who read these posts? That age may be lower. It can be a bit intimidating to post on forums like these, so it may require a level of confidence to participate in these discussions, a level of confidence afforded by age and experience.

At the same time, one does have to wonder if access to the internet has done serious damage to the YEC movement. Before widespread internet usage and forums like these it would have been difficult for a YEC to come across evidence that challenged their position, or evidence that showed their arguments to be seriously wrong. When a simple Google search can turn up thousands of pictures of transitional fossils it is pretty tough to keep denying their existence.

The outcome of this head-on crash between YEC and facts would probably cause some people to have a crisis of faith, or even cause church congregations having to face a theological crossroad. The two paths would probably be to insulate the congregation from the world of facts or attempt to reconcile modern science and Christian theology. Either way, it would probably decrease the presence of YECs on the internet, and thus reduce the number of people debating the issue.

Or I could be completely wrong and there are other factors in play . . . :wink:

(Phil) #8

One downside is that YEC groups (and you know who they/you are) that feel threatened may become more antagonistic in order to polarize their adherents and muster money and support, much as we see in politics. That seems to be a tactic used in the past, and may become more aggressive.

(James McKay) #9

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that young-earth claims have become less convincing and more outrageous over the past thirty years or so? Thinking of the RATE project’s billion-fold accelerated nuclear decay for example.

(Brad Kramer) #10

Probably, on some level. YEC itself is decreasing, if the polls are accurate. [quote=“Joel_Duff, post:1, topic:36713”]
does it reflect a growing disinterest in origins conversations overall?
I think it depends what you mean by the “origins conversation.” I don’t think people are losing interest in the science and faith conversation at all, but their interest looks a lot different than previous generations. A great example is the incredible popularity of “Science Mike” McHargue, who has pretty much built a career ministering to a generation disenchanted with traditional religion but still fascinated by spirituality and enamored with science. His two podcasts get literally millions of hits (yes, Millions).

Younger generations just don’t seem to care as much about “young earth versus old earth” and those sorts of divides. I can’t be the only one who has noticed that a lot of these conversations are now dominated by middle-aged and elderly white men. EDIT: Doh, apparently I’m not the only one.

If it wasn’t for Ken Ham, YEC might have experienced an even greater decline by now. His ministry has been phenomenally successful because he has tied YEC to Christian anxiety about cultural change (this has always been a thread of YEC belief, but Ham has made it much more explicit).

BioLogos is in an interesting predicament when it comes to the origins conversation. In order to build trust with existing Evangelical institutions, we need to show how EC can fit into their faith commitments. But the spiritual journeys of the emerging generations are so dramatically different, and it’s hard to serve both demographics concurrently.

(Christy Hemphill) #11

Anecdotally, the only people I know in real life who have ever mentioned being aware of my participation in this forum are in their twenties/early thirties. They have never posted here. Also, some of the younger people who do post often mention having been readers for months or even years. I think it is more intimidating than your average comment board.

(Brad Kramer) #12

You better back that up with several links to large-scale statistical studies or I will repeatedly mock you in passive-aggressive fashion for your peasant-level intelligence!

(Phil) #13

You better tread lightly as you are skating on the thin ice of our gracious dialogue policy, and we will have to ask you to get off our lawn, whipper-snapper.:wink:

(Phil) #14

Speaking of age, it would be interesting to see what the age breakdown is of YEC vs EC is among the churched. Millennials in general seem to have been raised as natural skeptics, question authority etc, and I suspect few are YEC. The percentage would go up a little with gen X perhaps but would be higher with baby boomers and highest with the elderly. At least that would be my expectation. Any polls you know of addressing age and beliefs?

(Stephen Matheson) #15

These data are a bit old, and it seems the only evolution-related question is a simple one, but overall millenials are less likely to swallow the culture-war nonsense of evangelicalism. But I don’t think there is analysis of churched vs. unchurched. That would be interesting to see.


Here is a recent Gallup poll broken down by age:

It would appear that creationism is pretty steady from Gen X (my generation) onward, but a sharp downward trend with Millennials. It appears that Evo/Creo correlates best with level of education and not age.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #17

Good point!

It seems that some internet sites feel they are up for the challenge. I think you are right that the internet makes it harder to imagine that other bubbles either don’t exist or are insignificant if they do. But at the same time the internet makes it easier to find that big flashy web site bubble that tickles your own itching ears, and then just park there – only to occasionally emerge “all mouth” and “closed ears” on any outward “mission” ventures.

(Laura) #18

I think this hits the nail on the head. It’s not so much about origins as it is about winning a culture war. Millennials seem to be steering ourselves away from culture wars in other areas of the sociopolitical conversation as well, and it doesn’t really surprise me.

(Larry Bunce) #19

It seems to me that there have been more threads started here by YECs recently than I remember from past years. Perhaps BioLogos has become a lightening rod for YECs. since their posts will get serious response and not be automatically deleted.
Lack of interest in the science/faith discussion would have been shown if this thread had no replies after a few days. I think this is the 19th reply, so interest is still high on BioLogos, at least.

(George Brooks) #20

The lack of interest is coming from all those captives under YEC control…

“Yeah, yeah… Adam rode a Dino… no doubt about it… Hey, I’m trying to watch the TV special on when arthropods evolved from water creatures to land-based insects… could you stand on the other side ?”