Other first-world countries often look down their nose at the United States of America for a perception of extreme conservatism and lack of cosmopolitan education — an idea that is perhaps no more forcibly underlined than in the fact that the U.S. is one of few such countries where a majority of people still do not accept evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of life.
That idea appears to be changing according to recent data released by the Pew Research Center. According to the most current survey, around 73 percent of young people now believe that species evolved over time as opposed to beginning in their actual state at the dawn of time.
Young people aren’t the only ones drifting away from an opposition to evolution. In every age group, a majority of people said that they believed the genetic makeup of species had undergone change. In the 65 and older range, which had the smallest margin, 54 percent agreed that evolution had taken place.
Of course, the different segments of the population professing belief in evolution also expose several other interesting trends. Evangelical Christians are the least likely of any group to agree with evolution, at nearly 30 percentage points lower than the average. Protestants and other Christians are similarly likely to reject evolution. Catholics, however, tend to be only slightly more likely than the non-religious to reject that humans have undergone a genetic change over time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, belief in evolution also increases alongside education. Those with a science degree have a 76 percent rate of acceptance of evolution. Those with a post-graduate degree have the highest number of all categories: 81 percent profess belief in evolution.
When high school education is the height of one’s study, that number reaches some of the lowest of the survey. Only 56 percent of people with no college education whatsoever believe in evolution. Eugenie Scott, co-founder of the National Center for Science Education, told Slate that this could very well be do to some teachers, especially in conservative strongholds, neglecting to pay much attention at all to evolution — or even skipping over it entirely.
“The biggest problem we’ve had is teachers who self-censor. They’re responding to this very pervasive ‘There’s something wrong with evolution’ mentality. There are too many teachers around the country who anticipate that they’re going to get pushback if they teach the e-word, so they skip that section of the textbook. ‘Sorry kids, we don’t have time to cover everything—let’s go on to photosynthesis.’ “
Evolution by means of natural selection was first put forth as a theory by Charles Darwin in his 1959 book On the Origin of Species. It remained controversial in the United States and around the world for a significant amount of time afterward. In 1925, that debate came to a head in the U.S. with the Scopes Trial, which was technically lost by the substitute teacher who reportedly taught education in the classroom.
Since then, there has been a significant battle between evolution advocates and those who promote creationism as the correct explanation for the origin of life. Of course, America isn’t the only country where there has been a backlash against evolution. Scotland was one such country where creationists have continued their fight, previously reported Inquisitr.
[Image via NASA and Hulton Archive]