You are here

New survey results on evolution

Included in the Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey for 2010 were a number of questions about evolution, religion, and scientific consensus — and as usual there were few surprises in the results (PDF, pp. 9-11).

Asked "[w]hich of these statements comes closest to your views on the origin of biological life," 43% of respondents selected "God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time," 24% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process," and 18% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process." (The remaining 16% of respondents selected none of these choices, said that they did not know, or refused to answer the question.) Note that the wording of these choices is similar, but not identical, to the standard Gallup choices.

Respondents were also asked "How much have you heard or read about the theory of evolution"; 44% of respondents selected "a lot"; 32% selected "some"; 23% selected "not too much" or "nothing." Asked "would you say the theory of evolution conflicts with your own religious beliefs, or is mostly compatible with your own religious beliefs," respondents were almost evenly split, with 42% reporting conflict and 43% reporting compatibility. Unsurprisingly, "[t]hose 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."

Asked "do you think the evidence on evolution is widely accepted within the scientific community, or do many scientists have serious doubts about it," 53% of respondents indicated that they thought that it was widely accepted and 31% indicated that they thought that many scientists have serious doubts about it. The report noted that "[t]hose who report being more informed about scientific and medical discoveries are more likely than those who report being less informed to view the theory of evolution as widely accepted in the scientific community," and emphasized that evolution is indeed widely accepted in the scientific community.

The results are broadly consistent with results from a previous VCU Life Sciences survey (PDF, pp. 8-9) from 2005, in which 42% of respondents preferred "God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time," 26% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process," and 17% selected "biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process." In that survey, the second ("God guided this process") option was misdescribed as "intelligent design"; the 2010 report describes the option as "compatible with an 'intelligent design' or a 'theistic evolution' view."

The survey, conducted for VCU Life Sciences by the VCU Center for Public Policy, was conducted by landline and cell telephone with 1001 adults nationwide, from May 12 to May 18, 2010. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.