Creation­ism sup­port drops for hope­ful rea­son

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Tom Krat­ten­maker Tom Krat­ten­maker is a mem­ber of USA TO­DAY’s Board of Con­trib­u­tors and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor at Yale Divin­ity School. His lat­est book is Con­fes­sions of a Sec­u­lar Je­sus Fol­lower.

Fun­da­men­tal­ists threat­ened to make a last stand for God on Fri­day when a statue of Clarence Dar­row is ded­i­cated on the Day­ton, Tenn., court­house lawn. There’s al­ready a like­ness of Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan, Dar­row’s anti- evo­lu­tion ad­ver­sary in Day­ton’s his­toric Scopes Mon­key Trial of 1925.

It will take a lot more than a protest, though, to stop Amer­i­cans’ grow­ing ac­cep­tance of evo­lu­tion and ap­par­ent shift away from the strict cre­ation­ist view. New polling data show a no­table de­cline in the per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans — in­clud­ing Chris­tians — who hold to the “Young Earth” view that hu­mankind was cre­ated in the past 10,000 years and evo­lu­tion played no part.

The por­tion of the Amer­i­can pub­lic tak­ing this po­si­tion now stands at a new low of 38%, Gallup re­ported in May, down from 46% in 2012. Fifty- seven per­cent ac­cept the va­lid­ity of the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that hu­man be­ings evolved from less ad­vanced forms of life over mil­lions of years.

Has athe­ism taken over so thor­oughly? No, and that’s why this ap­par­ent break in the creation­ism- vs.- evo­lu­tion stale­mate is sig­nif­i­cant and even in­struc­tive to those seek­ing so­lu­tions to other in­tractable pub­lic ar­gu­ments.

The big­gest fac­tor is a jump in Chris­tians who are rec­on­cil­ing faith and evo­lu­tion. They are com­ing to see evo­lu­tion as God’s way of cre­at­ing life on Earth and con­tin­u­ing to shape it to­day.

Creation­ists will be­lieve what they want to be­lieve. But they should know the con­se­quences. Con­tin­ued fight­ing to pro­mote creation­ism is hurt­ing re­li­gion’s cred­i­bil­ity in an age when sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy are per­ceived as re­li­able sources of truth and pos­i­tive con­trib­u­tors to so­ci­ety. Anec­do­tal and polling ev­i­dence im­pli­cate re­li­gion’s anti- sci­ence rep­u­ta­tion in the drift away from church in­volve­ment — es­pe­cially among younger adults, nearly 40% of whom have left or­ga­nized re­li­gion be­hind.

The per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans tak­ing the strict evo­lu­tion view has grown sig­nif­i­cantly since the 1980s, from 9% to 19% in the lat­est Gallup sur­vey. One- time creation­ists, mean­while, are mov­ing to the “both/ and” po­si­tion. About 30% chose the hy­brid view in 2014, com­pared with 38% now.

Th­ese tea leaves tell us that more are opt­ing for a third way: Ac­cept­ing the over­whelm­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence for evo­lu­tion while see­ing a di­vine role in the process. “Di­vine evo­lu­tion” is a term some use for it.

If we were to ap­ply this ap­proach to other stale­mated ar­gu­ments and false bi­na­ries, what other pos­si­bil­i­ties might emerge? Can’t we sup­port Black Lives Mat­ter and po­lice of­fi­cers who serve con­sci­en­tiously? Can’t we sup­port the le­gal avail­abil­ity of abor­tion and strate­gies that would re­duce its in­ci­dence? In the on­go­ing tus­sle over health care, can’t we en­vi­sion a sys­tem that com­bines the best pri­vate and gov­ern­ment so­lu­tions?

For now, some­thing to ap­pre­ci­ate: Grow­ing pub­lic re­jec­tion of an un­help­ful creation­ism- vs.- evo­lu­tion fight that does no fa­vors for ei­ther re­li­gion or sci­ence.

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