USA TODAY International Edition
Creationism support drops for hopeful reason
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.