Surveys Find That Many Christians Affirm Evolution if Researchers Say God Had a Role in It

Most Christians today agree that human evolution is real—and that God had a hand in it. The findings are part of a new study released this month by the Pew Research Center, which surveyed more than 2,500 Americans.

Fifty-eight percent of white evangelical Protestants and 66 percent of black Protestants selected “Humans have evolved over time due to processes that were guided or allowed by God” when asked, “Which statement comes closest to your view?”

Only four percent of white evangelical Protestants and six percent of black Protestants said that natural selection is real but God had no role. The remaining 38 percent of white Protestants and 27 percent of black Protestants said humans have always existed in their present form.

But when asked the same question differently, the results varied. When forced to choose between evolution or creationism, 66 percent of white evangelical Protestants select the creationist stance. Fifty-nine percent of black Protestants chose creationism too.

According to Pew, the results show that, perhaps, we have been posing the evolution question all wrong. When given the opportunity to say that God played a role in evolution, many Christians will reject the classic creationist viewpoint. Pew adds that people should not be forced to “choose between science and religion” but encouraged to share their beliefs on both science and God’s role in it.

Similarly, in a 2013 study by Jonathan Hill, a sociology professor at Calvin College, a third of creationists said that being correct about the creationism theory wasn’t important.

“The way you ask someone about human origins will play a substantial role in the type of response you receive,” said Hill in an interview responding to the Pew study. “Querying the public about origins is not the same as asking their opinion on photosynthesis. … It’s safe to assume that much of the American public, religious or not, does not have detailed knowledge about evolution or the mechanisms which drive it. So, when people approach these questions on surveys they are signaling more about their own moral position and group identity, rather than trying to find the view which best fits with established prior beliefs.”

Research in the 2017 book Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Thinkshows similar results. The book is based on extensive surveys and interviews, which divulge the variety of views on how life on Earth began—and how, for many, the line between evolution and creationism is blurred.

Along with Hill’s research, the book—and now the Pew study—give a fuller picture than the Gallup poll numbers released in 2017, which concluded that 50 percent of Protestants and other Christians hold a creationist view of origins, believing that God created humans in their current form less than 10,000 years ago.

In Religion vs. Science, Elaine Ecklund, at Rice University, and Chris Scheitle, at West Virginia University, add to the body of work indicating that the issues of creationism and evolution are far more complex than a single survey question and that the divides on creation aren’t as deep as we once thought.

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Source: Christianity Today