You are here

Opinions on evolution from ten countries

A recent international survey (PDF) conducted by the British Council investigated awareness of Darwin, acceptance of evolution, and attitudes toward evolution and faith. In a June 30, 2009, press release, Fern Elsdon-Baker, the head of the British Council's Darwin Now program, commented (PDF), "The international Darwin survey has thrown up some very interesting results, especially as it includes data from countries not previously covered before. The most encouraging aspect of the survey shows that whilst there are diverse views on Darwin’s theory of evolution, there appears to a broad acceptance that science and faith do not have to be in conflict. Whilst the results show that there is some way to go in communicating the evidence of evolutionary theory to wider audiences, it is evident that there is clear space for dialogue on this sometimes complex area of debate."

The survey was conducted in April and May 2009 in ten countries: Argentina, China, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and the United States. For the question "Have you heard of Charles Darwin?" Russia led the list with 93% of respondents saying yes, with Great Britain and Mexico tied for second at 91%, and China a close third at 90%; the United States was fifth at 84%. For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that it is possible to believe in a God and still hold the view that life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection?" India led the list with 85% of respondents agreeing, with Mexico second at 65% and Argentina third at 62%; the United States was fifth at 53%, just behind Great Britain, Russia, and South Africa, which tied for fourth at 54%.

For the question "To what extent do you agree or disagree that enough scientific evidence exists to support Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution [sic]?" — posed to respondents who had heard of Charles Darwin and knew something about the theory of evolution — India led the list with 77% of respondents agreeing, with China second at 72% and Mexico second at 65%. The United States was ninth at 41%, just behind South Africa at 42% and well ahead of Egypt at 25%. In keeping with reports on previous international surveys on public attitudes toward evolution, such as Miller, Scott, and Okamoto's article in Science in 2006, the United States was also conspicuous for the level of disagreement with the theory of evolution: 30%, second only to Egypt's 63%. Only 29% of respondents in the United States indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed or didn't know.

Respondents were also asked which of the following was closest to their own view: "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection, in which no God played a part"; "life on earth, including human life, evolved over time in a process guided by a God"; and "life on earth, including human life, was created by a God and has always existed in its current form." (Respondents were also offered the response, "I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list.") The first view was preferred in China by 67% of the respondents, in Mexico, Great Britain, and Spain by 38%, in Argentina by 37%, and in Russia by 32%; the third was preferred in Egypt by 50% of the respondents, and in India, South Africa, and the United States by 43%. In no country was the second view held by a plurality of respondents.