Monday, February 16, 2009

Pew Research on Evolution and Religion

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life recently published an interesting article on the public attitudes towards evolution among various religious groups. Interestingly, the religion with the greatest acceptance of evolution was Buddhism at 81%. Unitarian Universalism was not listed in the groups of religions, but I suspect they may be even higher because of the emphasis they put on science and reason. The lowest group listed? Jehovah's Witnesses at 8%. The article also listed a number of other useful links to related resources.

People often ask "Is evolution a theory or a fact?" It's confusing because it's actually both. It is considered to be an observed fact from the fossil evidence that life started out as a comparatively small number of simpler forms, and over time gradually evolved into a larger number of forms including some of which are very complex. There have now been a number of cases where the evolution of new species in nature have actually been observed over the course of many decades.

However, the explanation of how this happens, natural selection operating on random genetic changes, is the theory part of evolution. This theory is very well supported by the evidence and is about as well confirmed as the theory of gravity. Yet it continues to generate a great deal of conflict in the public sector because of it's theological implications. Unfortunately, I don't see this conflict being reduced anytime in the near future. According to the Pew research, only 48% of the US population accepts evolution as the most likely explanation of the origins of life on earth. Other polls suggest that this number has actually been declining over the last two decades or so. This is an indication of how much trouble people will have adjusting to the rapidly changing understanding of the world brought on by the exponential growth in scientific knowledge and technology.

No comments: