Beliefs About Evolution, Stem Cells, and Cloning

The latest poll on these topics comes from the 2010 Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey, which asked more than 1,000 people which of three statements is closest to their views on the origin of biological life (as the National Center for Science Education points out, the wording of the statements is similar but not identical to the standard Gallup choices). The results show that 43 percent of respondents believe “God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time,” 24 percent think “biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process,” and 18 percent think “biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God did not guide this process.”
It should come as no shock that:

Those who say the Bible is the actual word of God are more likely than others to adopt a creation perspective about the origins of life and report that the theory of evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs. For example, 69 percent of those who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God hold a creation perspective on the origins of life. Among those who believe that the Bible is God’s word but not everything in it should be interpreted literally, 35 percent hold a creation perspective, 42 percent say life evolved with God’s guidance during the process, and 11 percent hold a natural selection perspective. A majority (56 percent) of those who believe the Bible is written by men adopt a natural selection perspective, 18 percent say life evolved with God’s guidance during the process, and 12 percent say God directly created life in its present form.

When asked how much they’ve heard about evolution, 76 percent of respondents said “a lot” or “some,” while 23 percent said “not too much” or “nothing.” More than half—53 percent—said they thought the evidence on evolution is widely accepted within the scientific community, while 31 percent said they thought many scientists have serious doubts about it—and their view on this matter appears to be connected to their personal views on evolution.

Overall, 42 percent said the theory of evolution conflicted with their own religious beliefs, while 43 percent said evolution and their religious beliefs are mostly compatible.
The majority of respondents—71 percent—still favor stem cell research that doesn’t involve human embryos, though 62 percent are either strongly or somewhat in favor of embryonic stem cell research (a number that’s gone up a bit in the last couple of years)—and those who say they’re clear on the differences between the types of stem cells are more likely to favor this kind of research.

And a majority—58 percent—strongly oppose human cloning, yet 55 percent favor therapeutic cloning (a number that has slowly been on the rise).
When it comes to science more generally, 83 percent think new developments have helped make society better, while just 8 percent think scientific developments haven’t helped society; yet 58 percent still believe that “scientific research these days doesn’t pay enough attention to the moral values of society.”

Category: Polls

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5 Responses

  1. Reinard says:

    Those numbers are rather sad. Imagine any other well-accepted scientific theory in the place of evolution there. If only 42% of American believed in the atomic theory or gravity we would be asking why our science education system has failed us so much.

  2. James says:

    I am a Christian and I believe in evolution. I am one of the ones that believe that the ‘theory’ of evolution sounds possible — with the intervention of God.

    I don’t understand why in the Christian community God and Evolution seem to be two antithetical topics. I think that mostly has to do with culture. Who are we to say as humans definitively HOW the earth was created. We can use the story of creation from the Bible — but we weren’t there. And perhaps the ‘day’ timeframe in Genesis during creation is equivalent to a million years in human time. And God’s process of creation involved millions of years of evolution of different species. Hmmmm, something to think about.

  3. Steven says:

    I must say that some of results revealed above some-what disturb me. I am am Athiest, a humanist and a realist. I live in the United Kingdom and believe the United States is seriously behind the times when teatching evolution and doing it correctly. I really can’t believe that so many educated people still believe in a God or some kind of higher power. We belong in an amazing time, an amazing period in our Solar System, in our Gallaxy, in our Universe. The story of how life came about is absoloutly amazing, how the planets were formed and are still evolving. It is truely more amazing than the out dated Bible. I mean, people thought the sun revolved around the Earth, that the Earth was flat. It is rediculous that people still believe in what is written in the Bible and it appears more and more people in America do so and reject scientific fact of how we as a life form and how us as part of an amazing bigger Univrse have evolved.

  4. Surveys about evolution are misleading and invalid because they never define what they mean by the term evolution. In common usage,”evolution” can refer either to biological change over time (a demonstrable fact), or to biological change as explained by Darwin(change plus theory).

    As a further source of confusion, biologists now reject the terms “Darwinism” and “neo-Darwinism” and tell us they have made a lot of progress in recent years. But asked what is the new theory, they have no name for it, and one cannot pin them down as to what it amounts to.

    “The End of Darwinism” quotes the late Ernst Mayr, a founder of neo-Darwinism. as saying that Darwinism actually is a “research program.”

  5. Emily says:

    Those numbers are rather sad. Imagine any other well-accepted scientific theory in the place of evolution there. If only 42% of American believed in the atomic theory or gravity we would be asking why our science education system has failed us so much.

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