This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/new-gallup-poll-shows-significant-gains-for-biologos-view
While polls can be problematic, these results are pretty consistent with what I experience in real life. If anything, I think that people are more open to an ancient universe than ever before, and that leads to consideration of evolutionary thought. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next decade or so.
This is very interesting though I would probably argue the categories are too narrow. However, they cannot change them at this point as you wouldn’t have any data points to compare with. I think many who read articles on BioLogos might find themselves somewhat awkwardly in between categories #1 and #2. I suppose #3 could also apply to progressive creationists as well and not just young earth creationists? I recall reading once in 2009 the market for category #3 was at least 40 milllion USD, I wonder if that’s changing as well?
Thanks, this is a pretty short read and definitely worth the time investment! I just had one comment and one observation.
Comment: “Gallup notes that this is a historic low for the “present form” option and the first time since 1982 that this recent creation view has not been the most common answer.” I was very curious what happened in 1982 and what could have possibly been the most common answer. The graph also showed nothing that would have been more common in 1982. I was somewhat embarrassed to find that the question as it is now formulated was first asked in 1982 and I had just made an assumption that there WAS a more common answer to the question at some point. It wouldn’t be the first time my very literal mind led me to misconstrue a statement!
Observation: It was interesting to note that the percentage of those selecting the “Humans evolved, God guided the process” was actually higher in the group that attends church “nearly weekly/monthly” (44%) versus the group that attends church “less often” (40%). Additionally, among the “nearly weekly/monthly” church-going group, the “God-guided evolution” subset (44%) is edging ever closer to the Young Earth subset (45%). I could be reading a bit much into the data, but it seems that the acceptance of both Christianity and evolution is indeed gaining momentum with more mainstream church attenders.
Let’s hope the acceptance of Christianity continues to gain momentum with more mainstream church attenders!
What attracted my attention most in Dr. Haarsma’s blog post was this nugget:
Considering just those who completed college, the percentage holding the “present form” position dropped by almost half in the last five years, from 46% in 2012 to just 24% in 2017. Unfortunately about half of these college graduates shifted to the “God had no part” position, but the other half shifted to the “God guided” view.
This, to me, sounds like half of the kids who grew up holding the “present form”/YEC view left the faith after college, and that is not good news.
Agreed, I think that’d be great! Hahaha! Perhaps I should have stated the simultaneous acceptance is gaining momentum. Unfortunately, I also have to agree with you on your final point. I’m afraid young people with a YEC upbringing that lose faith due to a false dichotomy (at least in part) is also gaining momentum.
Category 3 wouldn’t apply to progressive creationists, since the whole purpose for holding that view is to allow for an old earth, while the description of that category had humans created, “as-is” within the last 10,000 years.
And “God had no part” could include those Christians who believe God didn’t intervene in evolution. This is one of the problems with polls that ask “big picture” questions in multiple-choice format. The picture gets a little fuzzy in the details.
The other problem with polls like this is how honest or perhaps more accurately how thoughtful people are, when they answer. I know folks who look at fossils, geologic formations and pictures of deep space, never questioning deep age, yet who when asked may answer that the earth is young. Many when asked will reply that both may be true.
Yes, I had that critique when they first wrote about this poll. I honestly didn’t know whether I would choose 1 or 2 if asked, but decided I would choose 1 since 2 seems to be the atheist choice, though I could justifiably choose either one.
A few notes. First of all option #3 is not just YEC. It also includes many (if not most) OECs who think that humans were only created in the last 10,000 years (which is what the option states), even if life itself is much older.
However, I’m wondering why any Christian would be excited by the poll numbers. If you look at the full graph, the number of people believing that life is based on God’s plans have decreased overall. Unless one thinks that YEC and OEC are worse than atheism, this doesn’t seem to be good news.
Excellent points, though perhaps some inkling of optimism is possible in that the loss in Present Formers since 2014 seems to be absorbed into the God Guided group, instead of all going into the atheist group.
I agree that the overall trend is not a real reason for joy, yet supports the mission of Biologos as meaningful and productive in helping stem the tide.
Might it not be another factor that it seems current YECs largely believe that the “kinds” have changed in the last few thousand years, both as a result of the Flood and in adaptive ways? So some of the other categories might actually be capturing on-trend YECs.
Please don’t use that ugly term, “evolutionist”. It means, “One who believes in evolution”. Hardly anyone believes in evolution. They conclude it from the evidence.
As a linguist (and, in mid-career, some even called me a lexicographer, though I didn’t and wouldn’t), I’ve never understood why this ubiquitous argument is anything but an equivocation tactic. My nearest English language lexicon at hand lists as the first definition of the verb BELIEVE:
“to accept some concept or declaration as true and/or reflecting one’s view of reality.”
That sounds reasonable to me. And I happen to believe that the Theory of Evolution is a truthful explanation of changing allele frequencies in populations over time. I believe the theory provides remarkably accurate predictions of such changes. By any rational measure in common English language usage, I happen to believe in evolutionary processes and the discoveries scientists have made in their efforts to understand them.
I certainly do. And I’m in good company.
So do I. Overwhelming evidence is why I believe in evolution, photosynthesis, mitosis, relativity, and all sorts of other natural processes and phenomena which scientists describe.
Because of the way detractors often use the term with a denigrating sneer, I too tend to dislike it. However, I can certainly understand the need for a convenient noun which refers to people like me: those who affirm the Theory of Evolution as our best explanation of the evidence we observe throughout the biosphere. Even so, I can’t immediately think of another noun which is equally convenient and unambiguous in the minds of the general public. (I find the popular alternative, “Darwinist”, even more problematic.)
When someone speaks of an “evolutionist”, I sometimes ask them, “Do you mean a scientist? Or perhaps evolutionary biologist?” But I’ll admit that that is rather snarky on my part and it doesn’t capture their intended meaning.
What noun should we use to refer to a person (whether a scientist or not a scientist) who affirms the existence of evolutionary processes and accepts the Theory of Evolution as the best scientific explanation for our observations of evolutionary processes? Suggestions?
Checking Merriam Websters dictionary for “believe” I come up with:
a : to have a firm or wholehearted religious conviction or persuasion : to regard the existence of God as a fact Do you believe? —usually used with in believe in the Scriptures
b : to accept something as true, genuine, or real ideals we believe in believes in ghosts
: to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something believe in exercise
: to hold an opinion
So I can sympathize with @Barry here. Adding the “-ism” to the end of a word typically connotes something a little stronger than that you just merely have accepted something but that perhaps it has even taken on a little more of an ideological passion for you as well. Given the determination of some anti-evolutionists and their anti-religious allies to keep the waters muddied by conflating Evolutionism with mere scientific evolution, some reactivity against this obstinate confusion seems warranted by evolution-accepting creationists.
I don’t think you will be successful finding any popular new words for such a person because it’s the person (and their held concepts) that so many have a problem with, not the label of popular choice that gets slapped on. So whatever new label you fuss over and gussy up, the detractors will start in with their “lipstick on a pig” objections as soon as they catch on to it. “Theistic evolutionist” has been tried – as have “evolutionary creationist” and others I’m sure. In the end, you just have to clarify for people exactly what you believe if they really want to know.
The trouble comes when the young earth crowd uses definition 1 with the evolutionary creationists who are using definition 2 or 3 in the discussion about evolution.
As to all the other terms, I sort of wish we used integrative theology, signifying the integration of both books of revelation into one theology, though I really cringe at integrative medicine, which sort of spoils the word for me.
It is worth mentioning that lexicographers have traditionally numbered and ordered their definitions under a given word/lemma based on chronology of appearance in the language—not the descending frequency of the most common definitions/usages. However, I’m not entirely certain that all dictionaries adhere to that convention as strictly as the scholarly lexicons. Some appear to assign the most common definition first in the numbered list of definitions even if that order is contrary to the chronology of first appearance.
It is also worth noting that many people have never examined the evidence supporting evolutionary theory—both many people who affirm evolution and many people who deny evolution—and so it can truly be said that their opinion is based largely on a decision to trust or not trust the scientists (and other authorities in their lives.) So there are plenty of people on both sides of the divide who have no grasp of the evidence which might support the opinion they’ve chosen to believe.
I flatter myself in thinking that I am fairly and broadly informed on this topic and yet I have never traveled to the grand canyon to examine rock layers for myself or gone into a lab to verify Dr. Venema’s claims about genetics (the details of which are far beyond me anyway). So in the end I too am trusting that scientists are telling me the truth and posting real photographs and real information for viewers like myself. Granted – the likelihood that they are all in a vast conspiracy to deceive all the rest of us (as some YECs get excited imagining) is vanishingly unlikely. Still, since I have never directly examined evidence for myself am I merely a believer? I would like to think I am a critical and educated appraiser of evidence who stays cognizant of who my sources are.
It seems to me that there may be a continuum between the stark choices of 1. belief and 2. solidly evidence-based acceptance.
And we tend to take for granted that continuum with so many other topics. For many of us, the non-professional’s decisions about evolution are not really that much different. (We all depend upon a combination of our own analysis of the evidence for various ideas as well as rely upon experts.)