Credulous Americans? More Americans Believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution than in Creationism

January 18, 2009

It should be no surprise that a vast majority of Americans believe in God, and that most believe the claims of Christianity, such as that people can survive death to go to heaven, or that Jesus of Nazareth is God or the Son of God, born of a virgin, and was resurrected from the dead. It may be more surprising to find out that large minorities of Americans believe in paranormal or pseudoscientific claims.

A new nationwide survey of conducted in November of 2008 by Harris Interactive shows just how credulous the American public really is. There was some good news for secularists and advocates of science and reason, but not all the news was good:

  •   80% of adult Americans believe God exists (the same amount as the Harris Poll’s last survey on these questions in 2005).
  •   75% believe in miracles
  •   73% in heaven
  •   71% in angels
  •   71% that Jesus is God or the Son of God
  •   70% the resurrection of Jesus
  •   68% that the soul survives death of the body
  •   62% in hell
  •   61% in the Virgin birth of Jesus by Mary
  •   59% in the literal devil

From my vantage, the good news in the latest survey includes that more people believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (47%) than in creationism (40%) and that over a third of Americans (36%) report that they attend religious services less than once a year, or never at all (18% for each category).

Fully 32% of Americans consider themselves “not very or not at all religious,” even though I admit some confusion at the fact that some evangelical Christians are increasingly promoting “

Christianity without the religion

,” including leaders of the church I belonged to in my youth, so I would be hesitant to read too much into the polling data on this point. Being “not very or not at all religious” certainly doesn’t make one a secularist, atheist or rationalist. But I do note that the number of “not at all religious” is up a few percentage points, compared to 2007.

Regarding paranormal and pseudoscientific belief: 44% believe in ghosts, 36% in UFOs, 31% in astrology, and 24% in reincarnation, that they once existed as someone else. I assume that the belief in witches implies belief that witches possess supernatural abilities, as opposed to merely a belief that there are people who adhere to the Wiccan religion.

More details on the results of the Harris Poll can be found